If your business presentations are falling flat, then you may be ready for an image update. The term “business casual” has taken on new meaning with virtual communications. Originally, this term was defined as a sports jacket and pants with an open-neck shirt for men. For women, it was a crisp, professional looking blouse with pants or a skirt, topped with a jacket.
But this simple recipe for achieving a casual, yet professional, look has degenerated as the business world has become more informal. It used to be casual Fridays. Now it’s virtually casual all the time.
Some professionals have forgotten how to dress for business. It’s a cliché – but clichés are truths told many times over – you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
No Bare Bellies
We’ve often been surprised during presentation training or media training sessions when a woman is wearing a blouse that is too revealing, a mini dress or flip-flops. Then there are those executives who wear shoes that are scuffed with run down heels and a hole in the sole.
Whether at a meeting in your office, or delivering a presentation to a large group, or giving a face-to-face interview, you’ve always got to be “on.” Your image follows you wherever you go. So be sure you are always looking your best just in case you bump into a client in the street or at an association meeting.
Little Touches Mean a Lot
Not everyone has the time or resources for a total image makeover. But there are many little touches that will improve your image and make you feel better about yourself.
- Professional accessories. If you’re carrying an old and scratched brief case or tote, invest in a new one that is more in keeping with your executive image. Make sure the business cards you give out are easily accessible, clean and not creased at the edges. Wear jewelry that enhances your appearance. Long, dangling earrings and charm bracelets are currently in style – but not for presentations.
- Personal grooming. Your hair and makeup reveal a lot about you. Does your hair look as if you just stepped out of a wind tunnel? Is it in your eyes? Not good. Are your nails clipped and clean? They should be, always. Look in the mirror before your next business presentation. Women need to check their makeup. Less is better. Leave the dark eye shadow in your makeup case. Men need to check that there are no food stains on their tie. If you look like you need a shave by mid-morning, consider carrying a razor with you and using it right before your meeting or interview. The scruffy look may work for the latest rock star, but doesn’t belong in the office.
- A professional wardrobe. Invest in separates that can be mixed and matched. Many professionals pare their wardrobes to a handful of key pieces – usually several jackets, dresses/skirts or pants – which they artfully rotate creating an infinite variety of looks with the help of well-chosen accessories. Many department stores offer personal shoppers at no extra charge who can help you to assemble a wardrobe that reflects your personal style.
We are not suggesting that you turn yourself into a plain Jane or John. You can make a memorable fashion statement about yourself without it being a distraction. Social media maven Mari Smith is known for wearing turquoise. Hillary Clinton is identified with her well-tailored pants suits. Michele Obama popularized sleeveless dresses.
The important thing is to develop your own personal style and stick with it. You will feel better about yourself and your presentations.