FOR MEN and women, your image in presentations is vital to get right, not only to make a good first impression, but also to help keep an audience focused. So what should you wear?

You want to feel comfortable – your clothing should be the last thing on your mind while you’re speaking, so start thinking about it well in advance. You need to look authoritative, so I recommend that you’re always at least a notch smarter than your audience. This will generally mean wearing your best suit, or maybe a professional looking dress and jacket (skirts are more powerful than trousers, girls). Check well in advance that it’s clean, pressed well and there are no buttons missing or hanging hems – don’t leave this task to the morning of the presentation. Choose a crisp shirt in a colour that suits you, and likewise your tie (check for stains).

When deciding on which tie, or which dress and jacket, think of your audience. Who are they? How old are they? What’s the ratio of men to women? Think how you would like to be perceived by your audience, as opposed to what you fancy wearing. Consider also the likely temperature of the room – nerves can make you sweat anyway, but being cold makes your mouth seize up.

If it’s a big presentation, then I recommend you wear something bright and plain; a large audience may not be able to see your features, so give them something bright to focus on, like your tie or a red top. When they’re looking at you the chances are they’re listening, so make it easy for them. For women this Jaeger suit (£598, is a colourful yet subtle red, in an interesting and professional style. Avoid striking patterns, which can be distracting.

Above all keep your outfit simple, professional and flattering – remember you don’t want your audience to even notice your clothes; it’s you, your message and how you get it across that counts.

Sara Hollamby is a business image consultant with email: