Public Speaking – Dressing for a Speech
Preparation and delivery are two basic ingredients that are required to give a successful speech or presentation. During the preparation process, several important factors need to be considered. For example, what are your short or long term goals for the presentation and what communication techniques and tools should you utilize to help accomplish the goals?
In addition, what you wear for the event should be seriously deliberated during the preparation process. Details such as the size of the audience, the image you would like to project, and whether you will be videoed or photographed during the session need to be considered.
Neckwear: A carefully selected tie can help you keep the audience’s visual attention focused on “you”. The three best colors in my opinion are red, yellow and green. I prefer red for most speaking occasions. The brightness of the red may depend on the size of the group. The larger the audience the brighter the tie. Yellow is very good but you must be aware of the seasons. Certain yellow ties should be worn only in the spring and summer. My selection of green may amaze some individuals, however, I have discovered medium to bright green is a real attention “getter and keeper”. If you give a lot of presentations or speeches, alternate the colors of your neckwear. Various colors can also generate different impressions and attitudes. Darker colors are generally perceived to be more serious and sincere while brighter colors may broadcast a lighter feeling. If you are not familiar with your audience then choosing a more conservative color tone for your tie might be advisable.
Speaking of style, in selecting your neckwear do not choose patterns that are too busy or difficult to behold or photograph. I recommend ties that measure 3″ to 4″ in width and have small but distinguished patterns, solid colors, or organized stripes. The right neckwear will encourage the audience to focus on your face.
Suits: You are always going to be safe in a blue suit. Medium to dark navy blue are colors that are complementary for almost everyone, plus, they project an authoritative image. For photographs and video, I recommend a medium shade of blue. When photographed, it will appear a little darker than in actuality, however, not drab. Medium to dark gray would be my second choice, and dark brown my third selection. It is wise to compare your hair, facial complexion and skin coloring to various shades of gray and brown. Some hair colors, complexions and skin tones are not complementary to all shades of gray and brown. Blue is considered a more serious color. Some individuals prefer black suits. Black is ok. Tie accessories for a black suit can be a little more challenging. It is easy to make a black suit look out of place with the wrong accessories.
For speaking, pin stripes (not excessively bold) and solid suits are my favorites. Some plaids and small checks will qualify, but stay away from bold designs.
What about double breasted, two button, or three button suits? Should the garment be fitted or have a traditional drape? In most cases, the two and three button coats are the better choices. Remember, a great deal depends on your goals. If you are trying to sell or persuade people then it does not make sense to risk wearing clothing that may irritate or distract the audience. (The subject matter or verbal delivery might irritate or confuse them enough.) Fitted garments are proper as long as they are not extreme. A traditional draped coat is satisfactory unless you make it appear out of date. A classical European model or updated traditional cut are my choices.
Double breasted coats can be appropriate for numerous occasions. Tall individuals look better in double breasted coats than shorter people. As you might expect, double breasted coats look better on slimmer men than on heavier built gentlemen.
While giving a speech, an effective speaker does not want the audience “thinking or daydreaming” about his coat being too tight, or his suit’s design is wierd, or the color of the garment is not complementary. It is difficult enough to get people to pay attention to your message, so why wear something distracting?
Sport Coats: Beware! I would not wear a sport coat for any serious presentation or speech.. Even the traditional blue blazer may not paint the right image. Sport coats in general may generate too much of a casual feeling. However, there are instances where sport coats are permissible, such as certain talks given outside, festive type affairs, and perhaps weather restrictive events.
Shirts: When in doubt, wear a solid white, light blue, or ecru button cuff shirt. Darker blue, bold designs, and other creative colors are popular and fashionable, but I do not recommend them for most presentations or speeches. Blue shirts with white collars are acceptable. Small distinguished dressy patterns are allowed. Being videoed or photographed in dominant colored or bold design shirts can be risky. French cuffs are fine, but make sure you are not initiating the wrong image. Some people think French cuffs are a little stuffy and may promote aloofness.
Shoes: The first rule is make sure your shoes are shined. Scuffed shoes communicate sloppiness! Second rule is wear laced shoes with a suit unless you really understand the styles of loafers that are appropriate. If you prefer a loafer, but are unsure about the style, ask a professional clothing person in a quality store for suggestions. Finally, regarding your socks, they should be mid or over the calf in length, in a color matching your trousers. Socks for sports wear can represent an excellent fashion statement, however, I do not want the audience looking down at my feet if I move around while talking.