TIPS + TRICKS

8 tips to improve your visual presence

How to dress when speaking in public forums

As a public speaker, first impressions matter.

Your choice of clothing often speaks volumes about you and your personality.  It is one of the most powerful ways of making an impression without even uttering a word.

Looking professional, well-groomed and making a stellar impression is just as important as any other aspect of public speaking. It is a great way to make a lasting impression and to stand out from the crowd.

public speaking attire

You may be an excellent public speaker with extremely creative content but if you aren’t dressed accordingly, people will easily doubt you. That can be unnerving for you and for them! You are your best advertisement and how you present yourself visually to others makes all the difference.

Now, don’t get us wrong here – quality content presented in an impressive way is vital. It’s just not the only key to success.  Your goal as a speaker is to connect with your audience and to engage with them in the most memorable way. And this can only happen when you genuinely feel comfortable and confident with your personal presentation.  So dress right for the occasion!

There are several aspects that you need to keep in mind when choosing your attire.

1) Know the venue and dress accordingly

First things first, always get a good understanding of the venue where you are expected to speak. Will it be an open auditorium or will it be a small hotel meeting room? Being comfortable is important – if it’s an open area make sure that you layer appropriately. Trust me, when you’re cold, people will hear it in your voice. On the other hand if the venue is more of a cozy, closed area then opt for something fitted but comfortable.

Realize that when you’re speaking, you’re representing the hosts, the venue and a whole lot of people there. Speaking at a fifties themed wedding? Looks like you’re going to be a fifties themed speaker then.

2) Get a feel of the stage before the event

Ensure that you completely understand the set-up of the stage. Know exactly whether you would be standing behind a podium to deliver your talk or would directly face the audience. Will you be sitting down (beware the dreaded barstool in a dress if you are female) or will there be a live video screen behind you?

Also, inquire about the kind of microphone you will be using. If you’re getting a clip-on it’s important to have a place to clip it – like a collared shirt. How big is the stage going to be and will you be getting a display monitor?

It is important to know all of the above so that you can choose clothing options that will be comfortable and ready.  Bonus if you figure out a color that would make you stand out against any visuals on the stage!

3) Understand your audience

Before putting together any attire for the event it is important that you, the speaker, get a general understanding of your audience. Clothes can build rapport and often times play an important role in making a first impression. Dressing appropriately for the occasion goes a long way in keeping the audience interested and engaged in what you have to say. So make sure that you know more about your audience.

Another thing to keep in mind while picking out your clothes is that it should be appropriate to the topic that you have chosen to speak on. For example, if you are about to give a budget presentation at your manager’s office, wearing a pair of flip flops might not be the best idea. It would be difficult for your audience to relate to the topic and form deeper connections with what you have to say about them.  But, on the flip side, if you are speaking to a room of teenagers they may find you more relatable in casual jeans.

4) Harness the power of colors

Did you know that colors can actually affect our mood? Colors are far more powerful than we realize.

As someone who’s about to address a crowd, it is important that you understand how colors affect the human mind and emotion. This knowledge can come in handy when choosing between shirts or picking out the perfect dress.

Using elegant colors instead of the plain black and white with a tiny color accent can instantly set the mood and give a positive tone to the talk. You want your ensemble to look crisp and fresh but not too flashy. Blues and greens work well in almost all professional speaking engagements. Choose happy and flattering colors that help you feel your best.

5) Always opt for well-tailored clothes

You could spend a fortune on your clothes but if they don’t fit you well, they are of no use.

An outfit that doesn’t fit will always make you feel unsure and conscious. You’ll keep fidgeting and adjusting your clothes, which is never a good idea during a speaking commitment! A well-tailored ensemble will instantly make you look effortlessly stylish.

6) Make comfort your priority

You may be dressed in an expensive suit or dress but if you are not comfortable wearing it, it will undoubtedly be visible on stage. You’ve put together the best speaking material and are getting ready to go on stage but the shoulders of your blazer feel tight or the length of your skirt is bothering you. Would you be able to give your 100%? Sadly no.

When we are physically comfortable, we feel confident and are in a position to perform better. Focused presenting will make sure your audience retains your message. So always keep comfort above fashion.

7) Accessorize it right

Accessories play a crucial role in making or breaking the look. When done right, it can transform any plain looking outfit. Choose one statement piece and let that upgrade your outfit.

Men can opt for either a classy watch or a smart pair of cufflinks. Women, on the other hand, can either go in for a statement neck piece or a classy belt. When it comes to accessorizing, less is always more.

Another important thing to remember is that you really should avoid wearing noisy jewelry, especially when wearing a microphone. Not only will it be a distraction for you but the audience might even pick up on it.

8) Shun the boring

Clothes are a fun way to express yourself.

Looking good can not only make you feel self-assured and excited but it can also make your audience more receptive and involved. Yes it’s important to be relevant to your personal style and your choice of clothing should be event appropriate… but that does not mean that it should be boring. So, get slightly out of your comfort zone and experiment with different trends and styles.

We all know the saying, you never get a second chance to make a first impression

Bringing your A game and preparing an impressive talk is only part of the success story – the other part is simply dressing right.

So, choose your outfits wisely, wear your enthusiasm on your sleeve and become the success story that you were meant to become.


Also published on Medium.