18 November 2009

The Zen of Presentations, Part 29: The shirt on your back

Steve Jobs is good at presentations. Garr Reynolds has written about this a lot over on his Presentation Zen blog. Now, a whole new book has been written about him. This slideshow says:

Steve Jobs can wear a black mock turtleneck, blue jeans, and running shoes because, quite simply, he has earned the right to dress anyway he wants. For most communicators, it’s best to dress a little better than everyone in your audience.

I can’t help but find the rationalization funny. Author Carmine Gallo spends the book looking at what makes one person a great speaker, but shies away from the possibility that maybe he is great partly because of how he dresses, not in spite of how he dresses.

Maybe people are responding to seeing someone they can relate to. Maybe people are responding to someone who is not relying on artifice. Maybe people are responding to seeing someone who is genuine.

Audiences crave authenticity. It’s a driver behind the success of so-called “reality” shows or YouTube videos: people are looking for the unscripted, the immediate.

With too many presenters, you can tell their dress for their presentation is an act. A total put on. A sham. It’s not real, it’s not who they are, and they’re not comfortable.

Soon after, I spotted this post by Kathy Reiffenstein on what to wear during a presentation. This also struck me as greatly over-stressing formality and business wear, but I appreciated Chris Atherton’s response to it:

Love how much of this is really about attention (yours and audience's).

Right. Be worried not so much about how you look as whether that look will distract you or the audience.

I spelled out my own take over on dressing for presentations on Better Posters.

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