Webinars are one of the best ways for an entrepreneur to gain traction with an audience. They’re a platform on which a business person can lay their cards on the table. They’re live. They’re interactive. By choosing to host a webinar, you choose to let potential customers know exactly who you are. And showing customers who you are starts with putting your best foot forward. It starts with your appearance.
Appearances matter! Of course the substance of your business and the value of your product are what matter most, but it’s your job to convince customers to discover those things. By making a great impression, you make it possible for customers to find out what’s behind it. By nailing the image, you open the door to the substance. That’s why your appearance— including your clothing— isn’t just some superficial concern.
There’s no “right” outfit for a webinar. Unlike traditional business, modern entrepreneurship doesn’t really have an established dress code. Webinars aren’t corporate board meetings; they can be done from home. They’re as formal or informal as the host decides they are. You don’t have to adhere to anyone else’s standard of dress, but you have to show respect for your audience. You have to be serious and credible, but you also have to be yourself.
Create The Right Energy
I’m no stranger to webinars. I’ve hosted several, and my partner and I founded our sister company, WebinarNinja, to try to make the most host-friendly platform possible (check out our free course at webinarninja.co/course). I’ve studied with public speaking experts Michael and Amy Port of heroicpublicspeaking.com to improve my own webinars. I’ve been in front of the camera over and over, and in that time I’ve learned a thing or two about performance and presentation.
So much goes into creating a dynamic energy for a webinar. While some might prefer to host a webinar seated, the first rule of good public speaking is to stand up! When standing, your whole energy is altered. Your breath is able to flow more freely, and your voice is able to sound more energetic and authoritative. You’re able to move. You’re guaranteed to be more engaging, even if you’re speaking off camera.
For that reason, it’s important to dress in a way that takes your whole person into account. As tempting as the idea of working without pants is, you’ve got to dress as though your audience will see all of you— even if they won’t. You’ve got to dress in a way that looks sharp, but also allows for dynamic movement, even if it’s only hand gestures. Your outfit has to be the total package, not just focused on the parts you expect to be filmed.
Dressing For Yourself And Your Audience
The unavoidable fact is that people notice what you’re wearing. Subconscious decisions and judgments are made in milliseconds, even by the least superficial of people. In business, first impressions are truly crucial. For that reason, it’s vital to find the sweet spot between over-dressing (as in too formally or even pretentiously) and under-dressing (in a way that signals a lack of effort or polish).
Of course there’s no standard outfit for webinars. Different businesses with different leaders call for different styles. What you decide to wear will depend on who you are, what you’re selling, and to whom you’re selling it. If you’re offering fitness instruction or equipment, a 3-piece suit probably isn’t appropriate. If you’re offering financial management services, workout gear will send the wrong message. The goal of your outfit shouldn’t be to fool your audience into thinking you’re someone you’re not. It should be to present the best (clean, well-groomed) version of yourself possible.
The right outfit comes down to two “C’s:” comfortable and confident. Whatever you wear has to make you feel both. If you’re a jeans and t-shirt person, you may be uncomfortable in even the most impeccable, expensive, beautiful suit. That discomfort will overshadow what you’re wearing, however nice it is. Instead, try upgrading your jeans to a pair that’s dark and fitted, switching out the sneakers for dress shoes, and throwing a blazer over the t-shirt. That kind of subtle adjustment looks serious without looking like a sartorial lie.
The more your outfit reflects who you really are and what your company represents, the more credible you’ll be. Think of those go-to pieces in your closet, the ones that you feel most yourself in. Think of what you wear when you’re doing the work that you enjoy most in your business. While those exact items might not be appropriate for a webinar, some version of them may be.
Of course, you’ve also got to appeal to your audience. If you’re not completely sure how “dressed up” you should be, overdressing is definitely preferable to underdressing. When in doubt, business casual splits the difference well for most occasions. Looking like you’ve put a little too much effort into your outfit isn’t ideal, but looking like you don’t care enough is the greater of two evils.
Nail The Details
While there’s no specific prescription for the right outfit, the guidelines outlined here should make your decisions easier. Beyond that, don’t forget to set the stage.
Make sure that wherever you film, the background isn’t distracting. When in doubt, go for a clean, blank wall. Make sure you’re filling the frame so that there’s not too much space above the head, but don’t zoom in too close (I tend to keep everything from mid-torso up in the shot). Make sure the lighting is coming from in front of and slightly above you; natural lighting is best. If any of these details are off, it can be so distracting that your outfit doesn’t matter!
Presenting yourself thoughtfully isn’t an act of manipulation. It’s an act of salesmanship. Here at The $100 MBA, we believe that great salesmanship comes down to telling the truth— about who you are, what you’re selling, and how valuable you can be to your audience. What you wear should reflect that just as much as what you say.
And seriously…wear pants.