A recent study by an American University shows that 55 percent of our total message in face-to-face interactions is communicated through body language. A big part of body language is how you dress.

Listeners form an initial impression about you within the first seven seconds of meeting you. They decide whether they like you, trust you, and want to do business with you. We’ll discuss non-verbal communication as it pertains to presentational style in more detail in subsequent articles. For now, we’ll concentrate on attire.

In this era of business casual office attire, the lines are blurred as to what is appropriate dress for a presenter. As a general rule of thumb, you should dress slightly better than your audience. For example: if you are presenting to a board of directors, you’ll want to dress in your best business suit. If you’re presenting to a middle manager and the office dress is traditional business attire, again, you’ll want to pull out the suit. If you’re presenting to a mid- or upper-level manager in a business-casual environment, you may want to wear a sport coat and a shirt with a collar. For women, a pantsuit or dressy slacks and a sport coat work well in business-casual environments.

Regardless of the environment, there are some general rules:

1) Conservative dress and solid colors are always winners in the business arena. Of course, if you’re presenting to a highly creative group (such as ad creative directors), it would be appropriate to go a little out of the box. In general, keep it conservative. Remember: People will always forgive you for dressing too conservatively, but they may not always forgive you if you don’t dress conservatively enough!

2) Keep jewelry to a minimum. Excessive or large jewelry is usually more of a distraction

than a complement to your clothing.

3) Neatness counts! Regardless of what type of clothing you wear, always make certain that

it is cleaned and pressed. This sends a subliminal message to the audience that you

have a strong attention to detail.

There is no such thing as neutral clothing. Everything you put on represents a decision

you have made and says something about you. Good manners require appropriate attire.