The XYZ Company is ecstatic that you agreed to deliver a positive and uplifting speech to the regional sales team, and the venue is auditorium seating. Expected attendance is 40-50 sales associates. You planned, practiced, done research, and revised your presentation. You are ready for the stage. Then it hit you, a voice asking, “What should I wear while delivering the speech?”
I have written speeches for a multitude of individuals to be delivered at various venues, and there’s one underlying theme: Dress for the occasion and a tad better than the audience. Here are suggestions to help you decide what to wear for your next public speaking engagement.
- What’s the occasion and venue? Are you expected to speak from a stage? Will you be talking outdoors? Is it a panel discussion? Research the organization that invited you, as well as the venue. Knowing the answers to these and other questions will go a long way in determining your public speaking attire.
- Dress for ease of movement. Don’t wear clothes that are too restrictive, too tight-fitting. You will move onto, around, and off the stage. Therefore, comfort is paramount. On the other hand, avoid baggy, extremely loose-fitting attire
- Remember your brand and your image. If you are known as a wearer of sport coats, positively portray that public image, i.e., no outlandish nor tie-dye colors.
- Dress to feel great. Have a positive, can-do attitude while on stage, it is picked up by the audience. Therefore, be comfortable in your clothes as well as in your skin. You know the clothes that cause the feeling of greatness, that feeling of conquering the demons. Make use of those items.
- Shoes should be in good condition, and if they’re leather, use shoe polish or an instant shine product on your footwear. If the occasion and venue are exceedingly casual, wearing tennis shoes or casual leather shoes is permissible.
- Dress your age. In other words, if you’re an older and mature speaker, don’t wear ripped or distressed jeans. Mature ladies, no mini-skirts or other clothing too revealing. Older guys, no tight, form-fitting pants. Your audience might be high school or college students. However, they want to hear what you have to say, not see someone trying to relate by way of clothing.
- Accessories. My jewelry, while speaking on stage, is a wristwatch and a lapel pin on my jacket. If I wear a French cuff dress shirt, I include cuff links, of course. But that is the sum of my jewelry wearing. Feel free to wear a necklace, a bracelet, your wedding/engagement ring. Ladies, stylish earrings in good taste and small size, are appropriate. Be mindful of the earring size, nothing flashy. Overall, both men and women should not wear jewelry or item of clothing that will detract from your verbal message.
One last statement on the subject of casual dress while presenting, as author Nick Morgan stated, “the upscale casual outfit will work for many a speech and conference that takes place in a resort location with an audience adorned in a variety of styles, with an emphasis on the casual and comfortable. A sport coat, dress shirt, no tie, and expensive jeans or trousers for men, and the moral equivalent for women.” Well said.
Demographics are essential when deciding public speaking attire. Consider the audience’s education, age, occupation, gender, industry. A state teachers association carries a different expectation than a bankers association. Also, is there an event theme? If so, incorporate it into your stage clothing, i.e., lapel pin or broach. A good example: if the meeting subject is “Improving the United States & China Relations,” you could wear a lapel pin depicting the American and Chinese flags, a Panda bear pin, or similar items.
May the suggestions, ideas, and encouragement herein prove useful. I wish you the very best on stage as all eyes and ears will be on your presentation, and what you are wearing.