But seriously, what do you wear?
I gave some basic guidelines last week about attire and public speaking. But how specifically do you dress for success with your audience? Here are some guidelines that apply to men and women both. I’ll come back with tips for each later this week:
- Wear dark or dark-ish colored suits — charcoal, brown, olive, dark blue or even black. If you want to go the extra mile, find out what colors work best with your skin tones and hair. For example, I use professional costumers for the entertainment industry to periodically choose my suits and keep me on track with complimentary colors. I used to wear a lot of black suits, but now that I have an expert weighing in, I wear brown or gray suits with blue pinstripes. The shirts that I wear with my suits are always blue, coral or pink. And when I look at video from various speeches, I can tell that these combinations work better than my standard black suit with white shirt.
- Wear a colored shirt under your suit. You want the color on the inside (the shirt), not the outside (the suit). The color draws people’s eyes towards your face – which is where your message is coming from!
- Think neat, unobtrusive, classic — with your clothing, your hair and whatever jewelry or accessories go with it. Don’t get sloppy and watch out for coming off too flashy or too “glam.” There’s a time to make those kinds of individual statements, but remember that you want people to listen to what you say. If they’re caught up in your $9000 wristwatch or the 14 bracelets you keep pushing up, you might have lost them.
Extra tip: Give a thought to how you approach the podium, dias, front of room, etc. You want to be poised, confident, calm and, most importantly, have good posture. Remember to smile. And make sure you have what you need out, organized and ready to use. If you spend minutes messing around with papers and cards before you even look up, that first impression has probably already been made and it’s not going to be a great one. The audience may eventually forgive such sloppiness, if you are really really good, but why start off with something to overcome?