If you’re a public speaker or you have an event coming up that you need to look good for, then you are in the right place. Some people would rather die than speak in public. Your adrenaline is pumping. You’re like thinking about how people are looking at you. You’re wondering how your words are going to come across or if you’ll remember everything you have to say.
Public speaking can be really frightful, but if you practice, practice, practice and nail your speech, the only thing that you need to be concerned about is your wardrobe.
Inquire about dress-code
You need to inquire about the audiences dress code.
Imagine that you are asked to speak at a black-tie event, you don’t want to dress business casual. But what if you were speaking at a high school leadership development event? You wouldn’t want to be overly professional. You’d want to tone it down a bit.
So the best rule of thumb is to always inquire with the event organizer and find out what the dress code actually is. You can either choose to match that or you can go just to step or two above it. Either way is totally fine, just as long as you’re staying on brand and staying true to who you are without overdoing it or underdoing it, you’re going to look great.
A little bonus tip here is to check out Grant Baldwin. He is an amazing public speaker, coach and he has a wonderful podcast called the Speaker Lab and you can find his wardrobe tips there as well.
Moving onto the next topic, which is clothing. What should you actually wear? Many of these tips are going to apply to both men and women and I’ll be sure to delineate when it’s a men’s tip versus a women’s tip. Consider working with a personal stylist like me or someone else that can help refine your look before you decide to get on stage.
Clothing do’s and don’ts
In most cases, you want to stick to business casual and solid colors.
Stay away from anything that is too small, large, restrictive, or uncomfortable in any way.
Both men and women can wear slacks, dark-wash jeans depending on the event, or corduroys and women.
Ladies, you can wear a really nice pair of high waisted black slacks, as well as dresses and skirts as long as they are at or below the knee. Remember, if you are on stage speaking, your audience is going to be below you, so you don’t want them to be able to see up into anything that would be questionable and give them more to talk about then than just your talk.
Prints and patterns are okay, but if there’s video involved, you want to make sure that your clothing items won’t be distracting for the camera or for the audience. You want what you’re wearing to elevate your brand, but you definitely don’t want it to interfere with your brand or to speak over you. You want your message to be the thing that people here, right? One of the best ways to build rapport with people is to be liked by them so make sure that your look is professional, stylish, and flattering.
Stay away from any kind of logos or brands, words or texts that the audience can read.
You want your audience to be listening to you, focused on what you’re saying, and not thinking (even subconsciously) about another brand.
Avoid wearing ultracasual clothing or shoes. For example, deconstructed jeans that have rips, patches, or intense stone washing. Also, shy away from bejeweled jeans or anything apparel that has a lot of flashy detail. Save the flip-flops and sandals for the beach.
Avoid accessories that interfere with the mic
Now let’s talk about accessories. Accessories or one of those things that can elevate your wardrobe normally in day-to-day wear, but when it comes to public speaking, I would say they’re an absolute no. You don’t want anything to interfere with your talk.
Make sure that depending on where your microphone is, whether that is something that you’re wearing on your head or whether it’s a lavalier mic that you pin to your blouse, that nothing is going to be interfering with that mic sound at all. The audience wants you to succeed and so you need to do your best to show up and be a success for them. Make sure that you’re speaking with the event coordinator to understand how they do things.
Coordinate with the stage art
Let’s talk about the stage. You can also inquire with the event coordinator to find out what the stage art is, if there’s going to be a backdrop, background or a certain kind of lighting that you need to know about.
Think about the colors that look best on you and how that would work or not work with the lighting and stage art. Can you be seen clearly? Do you pop on stage or fall into the background? Does your outfit clash or compliment the entire atmosphere?
And a quick tip, if you typically wear a hat as a part of your look, consider how that will cast a shadow on you.
The last thing I want to happen to you is a footwear malfunction. Don’t wear shoes that are uncomfortable. Don’t wear shoes that are slippery on the bottom. You know you want to stay away from things that have that extra slip. Ladies, stay away from shoes that are pitched too far forward or that have a super high heel. Please just do yourself a favor and invest in a great pair of shoes that are not only comfortable but very stylish.
Men, avoid shoes with a square toe, shoes that aren’t broken in properly or that squeak when you walk or move. Rather than wearing shoes with laces, opt for slip-on shoes or boots that zip up. Laces aren’t totally off limits but it’s one less thing to worry about going wrong.
Grooming and makeup
Now let’s talk about grooming and makeup. Yes, men, you can wear makeup. It’s totally okay to wear stage makeup.
Considering investing in some concealer. If you had a late night, didn’t travel or sleep well, you can apply some under the eyes and on any kind of blemishes that you might have.
If you’re bald, consider having a little bit of finishing powder to reduce the shine on your head, forehead, nose or any other place where you might be a little bit oily. Personally, I can get really oily and shiny and when I’m on camera and I don’t want a big white spot on my head from where the light is reflecting.
For you ladies, camera-ready makeup is one of the best things that you can do for stage makeup. Amy Landino has a great video about how to do your own camera-ready makeup that I recommend checking out. Makeup is just one of those ways that you can elevate your look and further connect with your audience.
A last little note about grooming is stick to your normal grooming routine. If you’re going to get a haircut, do it weeks before your event, not days before your event. If you happen to get a bad haircut, that will wreck your whole vibe. You’re going to feel awkward and uncomfortable the whole time. Make sure you don’t have hair that’s going to be falling in your face or coming out of an updo.
You want to eliminate all the things that could possibly go wrong.
Sit/screen test & Back up outfit
If you’re going to be on video or have photographs taken of you, I want you to try the outfit on so that you can see how it works out in real life. Do a screen/sit test.
Can you move your arms? Can you squat? Are there rips that accidentally happened? Any buttons that might pop off?
You want to make sure that your outfit looks good on camera as well because some things that look good in real life don’t look good on camera. If someone’s taking a picture of you from the side and you see it later, how does that actually look? That could be something to consider.
My final tip for you is to check the weather and to bring a backup outfit.
You take the time to craft this look, right? You go through all this trouble and then something happens to the look. Now a pro would tell you to have a backup outfit ready just in case you have a wardrobe malfunction, spill something on your outfit in the morning getting ready, or if you just change your mind. Have an alternative option so that all of your bases are covered.
All right those are my pro tips for how to look stylish and on brand when speaking in public. If you would love to work one on one with me, we can craft a wonderful look and wardrobe for your public speaking event coming up anytime this year. So feel free to reach out to me right here.