Public speaking is back, audiences are live, and in our highly visual times, your image and personal brand matter a whole lot when it comes to keeping your listeners and viewers engaged. And it’s not just about the people in front of you—you also have to think of the virtual audience, who are seeing you filtered through a camera lens and their screens.
So how do you find a look that flatters and sends the right message both in-person and on-screen? As Rumi says, “Appear as you are, be as you appear.” You want to develop a holistic and authentic way of presenting yourself that is all about you, no one else. I spoke with the Financial Times about how to develop a presentation look that conveys your intelligence from the inside out and avoids the one-size-fits-all pitfalls. [link “I spoke with the Financial Times” to article on Press page]
To begin with, I ask clients a list of questions about the talk. Who is moderating? Who are your peers and who is in the audience? What is the venue? What is the time of year? Will you be sitting or standing, interacting or just presenting? Is it being recorded?
When I coach clients on public speaking, I emphasize being comfortable and feeling natural in order to present yourself confidently. Not only do you want to find a look that fits who you are, with maybe a little edge to elevate you, but you also want to wear the clothes several times before you present in them to give yourself the confidence that your clothing won’t be a distraction for you or the audience.
Knowing the audience is critical to setting the right tone with your clothes, but differences can be subtle. Cases in point: Financial—more formal. Biotech—more dressed down. Venture capital, AI, operations—somewhere in-between. If you don’t know your audience, you might not keep their attention for long.
Above all, the key to the right sartorial choices for public speaking is expressing who you are. For men, a business-casual look might include a polo with an open blazer and jeans, or pants with a deconstructed jacket and button-down shirt in blue-and-white or with a textured pattern. Women rocking a pants suit communicate power, in control, and comfortable. Add a blouse with a bit of sheen to reflect light and rolled-up sleeves to look more approachable, and you’ll have them hanging on your every word.
Do you have a public speaking engagement coming up? I’m here to help!