One of the best pieces of advice I give to my clients when teaching presentation skills is to always be prepared for the unexpected and that goes for your clothing as well as your visual image. Without a doubt, what you are saying and how you are saying are the most important aspects of your presentation; however, your visual impact can either add to your image or detract.
A few years ago I was invited to speak to some business executives about voice and presentation skills and while driving to my destination, I spilled coffee on my suit. It was obvious, disconcerting, and not something I could fix before my presentation. Anxious about the stains, I opened my delivery with a humorous account of how I had spilled my coffee while trying to negotiate the rush hour traffic. Thankfully, it worked and I could then relax and deliver my presentation without worrying about my appearance. By mentioning the coffee incident immediately after being introduced, I was able to change their focus from the stains on my clothing to the more important message I was delivering.
Traveling with an extra shirt or tie or an extra pair of hosiery is certainly in your best interest; but, aside from the ‘accidents’ that can occur before you are scheduled to speak, how should you dress for your engagement?
Unless you are a comedian, it is best to avoid garish or loud, revealing or disclosing attire. You want your audience’s attention on you, the professional, which means dressing in a manner with which your audience can identify. If your pants are hanging down to your knees and you are speaking to persuade a group of 50-year-olds to your way of thinking, they will not ‘hear’ your ideas, as great or novel as they may be, if they are staring at how ridiculous you look. If, on the other hand, most of your breasts are on display, you will never persuade your female audience to take you seriously unless you are selling beauty products.
When you are scheduled to speak, the best advice is to dress as if you were going to a job interview in which you want to look competent, authoritative and confident. Public speaking is difficult enough – success in this field is much less likely with a tasteless or unkempt appearance.
The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels is President of Voice Dynamic as well as Selfgrowth's Official Guide to Public Speaking. Holding private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills, she also offers Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement.
For more information on voice and presentation skills, click here for her 4-minute presentation, The 5 Characteristics of Dynamic Public Speakers