Dressed for presentation success?

Last week, a trainee from “Presentation Skills” sent me an email – I thought I’d share my answer here.

If you have comments, please add them.


The question

After the course I was discussing with a friend a mine and it ended up in a statement/question that needs to be cleared out by a specialist. One of them pretends that, while presenting in a suit in front of an audience, it should be better that the sleeves of the skirt are longer than the vest so that the sleeves are well visible. This should express an aggressive, positive and confident body language. There is even a rather famous presenter on the Dutch television that should buy his vests 1 size smaller to emphasise this effect even more.


What do you think about this?


My answer

First of all, I am not an expert on dress-sense – my wife would argue that I have no style 🙂

I therefore cannot make any comment on the specific effects that specific clothing has on the impact of a presentation.


What I can say is:

  • 93% of what is understood by other people is more than words – this includes body-language and all sorts of other things (like culture, convictions etc..). Therefore, it is clear for me that the perception of one’s clothing can definately have an impact on how the other person processes information.
  • I think it takes more than clothes to come across as aggressive and confident
  • Aggressive doesn’t sound like a good thing to me
  • I think it would be possible to wear all sorts of clothes that are supposed to look like XYZ and not have the other body-language and behaviours to really create XYZ
  • I’m sure Tom Cruise wears high-heels to make himself look taller 🙂 and more “powerful”
  • Some people position themselves as experts in colour/clothing and will tell you which colours best make you look X, Y, Z


What I mostly think about clothing and presentations is that you need to match the style to the audience you are presenting to. If I were to come to training dressed extremely differently to you guys, it would have an impact. I also note that some people come to my trainings looking “really smart” with expensive clothes from designer labels. The fact that I think they “look smart” probably says more about me than it does about them. But its worth thinking about…


That’s the best I can answer.


Focus on behaviour and not clothes. Match clothes to the audience style if you want to. Do that right and your presentation will look confident and strong.


Hope this helps!



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Published by Dan Steer

For the last 17 years, I have been helping businesses and individuals to achieve their goals through delivery of tailor-made learning and development initiatives. Most of the time, I deliver training, coach individuals, facilitate brainstorming sessions, round-table meetings and workshops. As a consultant, I help my clients to promote and profit from the infinite learning opportunities within and without their own organisation, drawing on my L+D management experience, strategic approach and creativity, As a speaker, I inspire through story, humour and pertinent little bits of theory. I believe that the world would be a better place if people were happily working on their mission with competence and alignment to personal values. As a freelance worker since 2008, I have helped more than 11000 individuals to improve their presentation, communication, commercial, leadership and negotiation skills. I confront people with their own behaviour and convictions, facilitating and giving pertinent feedback and clear ideas on where to continue good work and improve. I seek to satisfy my clients with creative and to-the-point solutions… …and I make music, but no-one pays me much for it yet :-) First single here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0ShlY95X4E

Join the Conversation


  1. I would add:
    Wear something you feel comfortable in. New shoes that hurt my feet might look wonderful, but if the pain distracts me, it’s probably not such a good idea to wear them for my presentation.
    And if I feel self-conscious about this ‘new look’, this fashionable (pretty but not really ‘me’) shirt / skirt / … I am focussing on “me” and not on “the audience”.

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