Conference Room Chic: How to Dress for a Work Presentation

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If you’ve ever had the front-of-the-room scaries, you probably aren’t surprised to learn that as much as 75 percent of the population has a fear of public speaking (glossophobia). So, more than likely, if you’ve been tasked with a presentation or pitch at work, you’re probably experiencing some very real panic. But one of the best ways to crush any big presentation is to get prepared and do everything you can to boost your self-confidence on the day of. 

In this guide, we’ll cover how to dress for a work presentation for two important purposes: 1. So you feel amazing about yourself when you step in front of a crowd; and 2. So you aren’t distracted by your outfit and you don’t feel uncomfortable while you’re in the middle of a potentially important moment in your career. You may not have perfect eye contact or hit every point like you practiced, but you’ll definitely look and feel put together when you follow these tips.

  • Go for ‘Traditional’ Workday Attire with a Twist—Unless your company—and the clients or prospects to whom you’re presenting—has a very explicit casual dress code, take this as an opportunity to dress in more traditional nine-to-five garb. Some ideas include:
    • A Matching Pantsuit—Gone are the days of stiff woolen pantsuits and ill-fitting blazers. These days, the pantsuit is a chic, power-dressing staple that can be worn in a number of ways that shows confidence and personality. To give yours a bit of pizzazz, wear it with some polished sneakers or bright, strappy heels.
    • A Pencil Skirt with a Button-Up—A pencil skirt is an easy way to feel fabulous and be taken seriously at the same time. If you’re anything like us, you may fear the dreaded too-tight pencil skirt look, but you can easily smooth things out with the right piece of shapewear. Wear a pair of comfortable shaper panties for some serious smoothness in the butt and thigh region.
    • High-Waisted Trousers with a Silk Blouse—The contemporary alternative to the classic pencil skirt, high-waisted work pants flatter the figure and give a modern, tailored look that makes you feel like a boss. Go for a pair of perfectly polished pants in a classic workwear print (think: houndstooth or check) and give it a soft, feminine finish with a silky blouse.
    • A Workwear Dress and Tights—You know that little black suiting dress you’ve been eyeing? Buy it! It was made for situations like this. A properly fitting suiting dress serves as the perfect base layer for a cute blazer or structured cardigan. If you don’t want to abandon your personal sense of style, consider tossing in some fun tights or a statement belt to liven things up.

  • Wear Sensible Heels—As much as a solid black power pump does for your confidence and your look, it’s not the most comfortable thing to stand in for a half hour-plus while you’re presenting. If you want to maintain that special feeling that only a pair of heels can provide, consider going with a kitten heel or a pair of chic, heeled booties. This will give you the extra height without sacrificing comfort.
  • Wear a Dark-Colored Top—Unfortunately, one of the most common side effects of nervousness while presenting is excessive sweating, and nothing could be more embarrassing than standing up in a room full of people (especially higher-ups or execs of your company) with huge pit stains. One of the best ways to conceal excessive sweat is to wear a dark-colored shirt in black, navy or brown. If you’re a heavy sweater, it’s best to stick to fabrics that absorb and release moisture, such as cotton or linen, rather than anything silky.
  • Wear Layers—Anytime you want to dress comfortably, layers are a good option. Not only will a nice cardigan or blazer help conceal any unexpected armpit stains, but it will also help contribute to a put-together, well-coordinated outfit. At the same time, layers let you completely control your temperature so you’re always comfortable. It’s a good idea to select top layers that are tailored rather than baggy—skip the boyfriend fit!—in professional situations.
  • Wear Your Hair Up—While wearing your hair down is a total boss move in its own right, wearing your hair in a loose ponytail or a professional-looking bun is an amazing way to ensure that you feel comfortable and stay focused while you’re presenting. Hair in your face is the ultimate distraction, so it’s not worth risking if you’re facing a particularly big presentation. 

Dress to Impress

At the end of the day, while it’s important to think about what your outfit signals to others, the goal of outfit planning before a big presentation is to ensure that you feel completely comfortable. Staying focused on your talking points and delivering the exact message you came to deliver is a whole lot easier when you feel good about what you’re wearing and not fussing with a strap or waistline.

There’s a reason why the phrase dress to impress is so common, and it’s not just because people will think favorably of you if you look nice. It’s also because how you dress affects the way you feel. According to research, your clothes can actually change the way you perform, making you feel more self-empowered and creative. Taking the time to formulate the perfect presentation outfit may be just what you need to take your work performance to the next level!

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