As my friend once remarked, “Walk with a purpose and carry stuff; you’ll be able to get in anywhere.”
My first year in business school, I quickly learned the importance of presentation. We have a chance to win an audience before speaking a word, simply by looking professional. On the other hand, we can lose an audience just as quickly with a sloppy appearance. Truly remarkable content will, of course, speak for itself. If your presentation is good enough, you may be able to overcome a shoddy presentation. But the odds will always be stacked in your favor if you look like you know what you are doing. Unless the world already knows that you are the next Steve Jobs, you may want to help them see it by showing them a calm, collected, professional persona. Here are five quick tips that will help you make sure that your content gets the hearing it deserves:
1. Never under-dress. If the dress code says “business casual,” don’t wear shorts and flip-flops! Casual ≠ BUSINESS casual. For ladies, “business professional” can be the most difficult dress code to interpret, but a safe bet is to dress a half-step above what you think will be appropriate. Unless the event is formal, though, you will probably want to avoid a full-length ball gown!
2. Iron your clothes. A smooth shirt and pressed pants do wonders for helping you appear put-together.
3. Wear basic colors rather than bright, flashy patterns. Chevron, neon, and v-necks are very in right now, and I am not saying that it doesn’t have a place. But if your audience leaves thinking, “She was so trendy!” or “He really has a unique style,” they may remember your pants more than they remember your presentation.
4. Don’t let silence or a distracted audience send you into a panic. This may not seem like a presentation tip, but it is so important! When you are first introduced to a group, you may experience either of these two extremes. Feel free to take a minute to gather your thoughts. As you stand calmly before them, the group will know that you are confident in what you have to say. If your nerves start to get to you, it will not hurt to breathe for 5 seconds before continuing your presentation.
5. Know your technology (but don’t trust it completely). If you will be using a computer or a slide projector or a tablet or . . . We almost all use some sort of media device in presentations anymore. If at all possible, be sure that you test your technology before it is your turn to present. Do you need a different cable to connect your Mac to the venue’s projector? Is there a password for the internet connection you will need to show the video you produced? And if the technology simply fails you, remember tip #4 and keep going without it.
What are some ways that you keep up a professional appearance?