Looking Good For Lots Less
By James F. Brown
Mar 28, 2009 - 2:14:01 PM


— Dress Like A Fortune 500 CEO On A Mailroom Budget!



When speaking in public before an audience, it’s important to be seen clearly and easily. They need to relate to the speaker; it’s not enough just to hear a voice. Seeing is believing. Audibility and visibility go hand in hand to create credibility.

For large venues such as auditoriums, a quality microphone hooked into a good PA system is a necessity. But appearance is also crucial. How can that best be achieved?

First of all, a speaker needs to stand out from the background. That means dressing in colors different from what’s behind you. For example, if you’re in front of a dark blue curtain, a navy suit would be a very poor choice. Most of your body would blend into the background. Head and hands, especially in low light or from a distance, would appear disembodied and unconnected. This optical effect would distract the audience and diminish whatever message you’re trying to convey.

One way to prevent background blending is checking out the venue ahead of time. Note the lighting that will be used during your speech. If it’s low and diffuse, a bright spotlight will illuminate you, creating a 3D effect that separates you from the background. Inspect the background and plan your dress accordingly. It may also be possible to choose a background that enhances your visibility. And will you be behind a lectern or onstage without one? That, too, is a choice that can be decided prior to your speech.

Unfortunately, advance checkouts aren’t always possible. One solution is to bring two different outfits to the engagement. I recommend a navy blue and a medium grey. Wear the outfit that makes you stand out from the background best.

Another technique for standing out is to coordinate an outfit that has high contrast with a single vivid pop of color. Avoid shades of one color. A blue suit, blue shirt, and blue tie will make you look like an amorphous blue blob. It will be difficult to see you as a sharply defined human being. Instead, wear a navy suit, white shirt, and a red or yellow tie. This high contrast outfit will make it easier to see you.

As a general rule, whenever speaking before the public, dress in darker power colors such as navy, charcoal and dark grey. This increases your aura of authority and expertise. However, there may be times when you need to appear friendly and open. Lighter colors such as beige, stone or light grey will soften your look and help achieve that. It’s important to decide the “look” you need to project during your speech and adjust your wardrobe accordingly.

Last, pay attention to details. Make sure your outfit conveys professionalism, is well coordinated, fits perfectly, and is immaculate. The clothes should be neat and unwrinkled; the shoes polished and well heeled. Standing out from the crowd, being in front of the crowd, is a key element in achieving success as a public speaker.


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