Last week I blogged on Leading a Great Meeting. Giving a successful presentation can be part of this. As you continue your leadership journey, it is likely you will give more presentations and each one puts your leadership on display.

At first, your audience is the people you work with, whether it’s a lesson you are delivering, speaking to grade, or working with subject level teachers. Over time, your audience will grow, and you won’t know everyone in attendance. Beyond the 5 “P’s” from last week’s blog (to ensure the content, structure, and format will be powerful), you need to look professional. Like it or not, as soon as we step up to make the presentation, the audience will judge us.

Participants make assessments about our knowledge even before we speak. How can we have our audience see us in the best possible light? Although it may sound superficial, dress makes a statement that sets the tone for how we and our message are perceived.

If this is something you’re unsure about, Nick Morgan offers these five tips in What Should a Speaker Wear in 2023?:

  1. Dress slightly better than the audience – If you have ever attended a conference, you may have observed the vendor representatives dress better than attendees. They are making a sales pitch and are dressing to show competence. So are you when you make a presentation.
  2. Dress to fulfill your brand – This is a bit tricky, and you may not want to concern yourself about this tip. The last thing you want to look like is the stereotypical librarian. Think about your audience, what they might expect, and what might make the strongest impression. For example, if your expertise is around building advocates, an appropriate pin might work.
  3. Dress to feel wonderful – Wearing a great outfit changes how we feel and, by extension, how we present ourselves. Select clothes that are not only appropriate but that make you feel terrific and you will send a more upbeat and approachable vibe. Remember to be aware of your surroundings. If you are presenting on a large platform, Stone cautions you to consider whether the lights might make an article of clothing more transparent.
  4. Dress to look good against the backdrop –If possible, find out in advance what you will be standing in front of. If it’s a black background, you don’t want to be wearing black. And if you’re working in front of a green screen for some reason… remember not to wear green! Also remember, many presentations are recorded. When people are watching that later, you want them to be able to see you.
  5. Dress for the moment – After so many Zoom meetings where everyone became more casual in their dress, Stone believes there will be a move toward elegance. Whether or not that prediction is correct, this is a great time to wear a presentation piece of jewelry if you are a woman (not distracting but noticeable) or a bold tie if you are a man. Enjoy the chance to stand out.

My own recommendation is to take this in the spirit of fun. You want to be bringing new possibilities to the audience. If you choose your presentation wardrobe as an exciting part or to reflect you, your joy in the moment will be communicated. Making presentations can be out of your comfort zone. Dressing in a way that makes you feel comfortable and empowered can be a great first step when taking this leadership move.


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