Don't forget your skin tone - it affects the kind of clothing colours that will work for you on the screen.

Don’t forget your skin tone – it affects the kind of clothing colours that will work for you on the screen.

The difference between the human eye and the camera lens:

Actually it is the brain behind the eye which makes all the difference. Both the eye and the camera lens have automatic functions which require no ‘manual’ controls. Of course, the camera lens can be set to full manual mode, but in real life situations, once the white balance is set, the camera operator often relies on automatic focus and exposure. The human eye will automatically focus on what you are looking at, and adjust the exposure accordingly, all without any conscious input on your behalf.

Again, in real life, things can happen pretty fast. The brain must deal with a massive amount of information, and reject most of it as unimportant. The brain must also ‘guess’ or interpret a great deal of this visual information, based on past experience, previous similar images etc etc etc. My point is that the brain doesn’t seem to see things exactly as they come through the eyes. It works on impressions and memories, a kind of ‘looks like’ software is running in the background.

Finally, have you ever taken a photograph of what appeared to be a fabulous landscape, with rolling hills, sunlit slopes and cute cottages? So, when you checked out the image later on your computer, did it look the same? Probably not. The camera sensor sees what it sees and records it pretty faithfully – you do not. You look at this breathtaking panorama and unconsciously zoom in on the cottages, using your brain’s 3D software to note differences in the height and depth of the hills behind. The camera’s image can seem pretty flat in comparison.

So, what does this have to do with giving presentations? The main issue here is impressions. Ask a member of the audience later what exactly you were wearing, and they may not be able to give a full answer. However, they did form an impression based on their interpretation of visual data. They would be able to answer whether you looked smart, or not. They are much more likely to remember some imperfection in this image, such as ill-matched clothes, dirty shoes, whether a man had fashionable designer-stubble, or whether he just appeared unshaven.

They are more likely to remember if you were badly lit, or silhouetted against half-open venetian blinds, than if all the lighting and backgrounds were perfect. Strangely enough, we don’t notice so much when everything is as it should be, we are too busy focussing on the action. It’s like watching a TV programme or movie – when everything is done right, we just enjoy it and spread the good news to our friends. When some imperfection in the plot, scenery, props or acting spoils this enjoyment, that is the news that gets spread around. So, be a professional, get it right!

You will be wearing your ‘uniform’ – a collection of clothes which say who you are and give credibility to your message. Imagine yourself sitting in the audience watching yourself. Are your clothes giving off the right message?

As your presentation is going to be televised or filmed, then you will need to consider some special points as, for example, stripes and bright red cloth can come out really badly on TV. Of course, it really depends on what you are presenting, but these 10 points apply to all. If the film crew is professional, they will give you advice on this, but if you turn up in the wrong clothes, it may just be too late to change certain things.
1. White is too bright for TV. It presents a challenge for the camera operator as regards his white balance.

2. Black is just too dark. It reflects little or no light – which is why it appears black of course. Again, black makes life more difficult for the camera operator, and makes the wearer rather invisible. However, as is shown by the picture of the presenter above, black can work with darker skin tones, especially with just a splash of white collar.

3. Reds are garish and, on a TV screen, tend to glow unpleasantly.

4. Blue and pastel shades are best.

5. Checks and stripes (particularly horizontal) confuse the auto focus on automated cameras.

6. Jewelry – small is tasteful, large can be distracting. Bracelets or complex earrings which jingle will be picked up beautifully by the microphone, and you might sound like a Morris dancer or a Christmas reindeer. It does, of course, depend on the subject of your presentation, but perhaps you’d prefer the audience to be concentrating on your face and message, rather than the beautiful pendant resting in your cleavage.

7. Iron it – safety-pin it – zip it! Your presentation is going to be recorded and perhaps shown over and over again. It’s particularly important that some imperfection in your dress (or do they call it ‘wardrobe oops’ these days) is not the thing that makes you a household celebrity on the Internet. If you have an unreliable zip on your trousers, pin it up, just to be safe. Iron that shirt, press those trousers, shine those shoes!

8. Gentlemen, pay attention to your trousers. Those of the suit variety can look really weird when you sit down and cross your legs – and even worse with a low camera angle. The turn-ups which were hanging at just the right height when you were standing are now halfway up your calves, exposing socks and hairy legs. Women seem to pay more attention to such detail, typically wearing tights or having bare (and probably less hairy and more attractive) legs.

9. Short skirts may detract from your message, depending on what the message is, and depending on the quality of the TV programme (perhaps the camera operator has instructions to lower his angle to increase ratings).

10. Logos – various company and clothing brand logos may be seen as advertising, and therefore may not be permitted on certain channels.

For much more on the subject of presentations, click HERE.