Pitch perfect: 5 tips to dress for success

Picking a business outfit which radiates power and success during business pitches and presentations are hard. Here are our 5 top tips.

When you walk into a room and meet a new group of people, first impressions really count. We decide whether we trust and respect someone within seven seconds, says Harvard professor Amy Cuddy in her book Presence. So, when you walk into a room to deliver that all important pitch, the success and failure of your project is on the line straight away.

While there is plenty you can do to deliver a successful presentation, dressing for the occasion can have an immediate impact on your audience. With this in mind, we’re going to take a look at five tips for putting together the perfect presentation outfit.

Dress for success: simple and understated

When you are speaking to strangers, especially in a business setting, it can be tricky to choose the right outfit. Thankfully, you can eliminate much of the decision-making process by putting together a wardrobe of simple, understated clothes that can work well together in almost any combination. By choosing something along these lines, you will be able to communicate your pitch’s message without distracting from it.

It’s always better to invest in a few tailored pieces, rather than a whole range of cheaper clothes that won’t fit you as well. Classic dresses and pantsuits are always a safe choice for a business setting, especially in conservative colours like dark grey, navy, and black. Sticking to solid blocks of colour over patterns is also a sensible decision. Go for a natural material, like wool or wool blend, as they will be a lot more comfortable than synthetic fabrics like rayon and polyester.

If you’re in need of some inspiration, take a look at the Telegraph’s 18 pieces to update your work wardrobe for a round-up of clothes you can shop for to kick start your capsule collection.

Know your audience before you accessorise

Before your pitch, be sure to do some background research about who you will be presenting to, as this can inform your accessory choices. For example, if you’re meeting with a brand that is quite conservative, you won’t want to wear bold jewellery or carry a brightly coloured clutch, as this can sow seeds of doubt if there is a hint you might not be the right match. That being said, there’s no reason why you can’t opt for some brighter accessories in an elegant design, as a pop of colour can work really well in bringing your outfit together.

The fashion experts at LiveAbout suggest a few go-to items in their list of business essentials, including a classic dress watch, a stylish silk scarf, and elegant pearl earrings. These are just a few examples of accessories that work well in a business setting, but it’s worth building up a small collection of them so you can always choose something in a pinch.

Go without your favourite scent

Wearing a fragrance around the office is always a little risky, as you never know when it might set off the allergies of a colleague. This counts double when you’re delivering a pitch — especially if you are doing so in a small, confined room or space — as the last thing you want is someone you’re presenting to breaking out in a fit of sneezes and distracting from your key message. If you just don’t feel right without your perfume, opt for a gentle scent and only apply it in small quantities.

Choose shoes that you feel good in

Though you may be tempted to think so, you don’t have to wear killer heels to appear confident during your pitch. There are plenty of footwear choices that can work well with business attire, and it’s not always the showiest that work the best.

We spoke to Darren Spurling from the designer footwear brand Terry de Havilland, who says, “First and foremost, you should choose footwear that you feel comfortable in. If you’re relaxed and yourself when you’re pitching, you’ll project much more confidence than any shoes can deliver. Whether you favour a pair of closed-toe pumps or some smart flats, pick the one’s that you feel great wearing.”

Play it safe with your nails

Watch any politician or public speaker and you’ll notice how much they use their hands to communicate. In fact, Science of People analysed hours of TED Talks and found that the most popular presenters used an average of 465 hand gestures, compared with 272 for the less popular talks. If you want your pitch to be the most impactful it can be, you’re going to have to use your hands, which means your nails need to be in great condition too.

Take the time to make sure that your nails are clean, trimmed, and filed before your big pitch. Stay away from having noticeably long nails and avoid brash shades of nail polish, as they may distract from your presentation if you use your hands a lot. Another big no-no for business attire are nail jewels or art, as they will simply work against the professional persona you’re trying to project.

Take our five top tips on board and you will be ready to deliver a killer pitch while looking the part. You’ll also be one step closer to landing the investment or backing that you need for your project. Good luck!

Owen Gough

Owen Gough

Owen Gough is a reporter for SmallBusiness.co.uk. He has a background in small business marketing strategies and is responsible for writing content on subjects ranging from small business finance to technology...

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