I have a confession, and please don’t judge me for it: sometimes when I’m asked to give a speech or deliver a workshop my first thought is ‘What do I wear??’ OK, maybe it’s not my very first thought, but it’s up there. When you’re speaking to a group or giving an interview all eyes are on you so you want to look your best. But what does that mean? Should you wear a black suit with a crisp, white button-down shirt? Do you rock that LBD or an evening gown? Tie or no tie? Heels or flats? Wearing the right outfit not only creates the first impression with your audience, but it can also make you feel more comfortable when everyone is looking at you. Here are my tips for what to wear (and what not to wear).
Dress for Comfort – Within Reason. Choose something that makes you physically comfortable, but is still professional. I really hope this goes without saying but sweatpants or yoga pants are NOT appropriate for any presentation or speaking engagement. Even if you are a fitness instructor, when speaking at a conference or other professional event, dress up. If you’re just not a skirt or dress kind of gal, opt for dress pants or slacks instead. And despite the summer heat shorts are never OK, but dressy capris are fine.
Dress to Avoid Fidgeting. Avoid clothing or accessories at which you’re tugging, readjusting, or fidgeting. I have a gorgeous scarf-kimono that I love, but when I lift my arms in front of me it bunches and gets caught. Of course I wear it, but not when I’ll be standing in front of an audience. Also, make sure your hemline isn’t too short and your neckline isn’t too low otherwise you’ll be tugging at them and distracting people.
Wear the Colours, Don’t Let the Colours Wear You. Despite the notion that black or navy blue are “corporate” colours, you don’t have to dress in dark tones. What you wear creates an impression before you ever begin to speak, and if you are a bright, cheerful person then wear bright, cheerful colours. Leave the head-to-toe neon outfit at home though; stick with 1 base colour and work it through your outfit. Gentlemen, feel free to wear a coloured shirt or tie with your slacks or suit, or wear both a shirt and tie in complimentary colours. Ladies, if opting for a neutral tone dress, liven it up with some colourful accessories, or wear that patterned dress with neutral jewelry. Whatever you do make sure your outfit doesn’t have more to say than you do!
One-Up the Event. Think about what members of your audience might be wearing and dress one level above that. Dressing too formal with a casual audience could make people less likely to relate to you if they feel like you’re not on the same level as they are. If you’re speaking to a corporate audience, opt for the suit or modest dress. If you’re speaking to a group of youth or the general public a business-casual look is often suitable.
NO LEGGINGS. I’m sorry ladies, but this needs to be a category all its own. Despite their incredible comfort, leggings are not suitable for giving a presentation. The same goes for jeggings; if you are presenting in a casual environment and are opting for denim, go for a straight leg or boot-cut, both of which are suitable for a Smart Casual look.
Still struggling with what to wear? I can help you decide on the perfect outfit for your particular event: find me on Facebook and Twitter, send me an email, or give me a call! Or check out my Pinterest board for outfit ideas.
And remember: a presentation is simply a large conversation!