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Dressing for a Speaking Gig

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Dressing for a Speaking GigOnce upon a time, I became a Mary Kay consultant. Yes … a person who rarely wears makeup was selling makeup! But do you know what I remember most about that time in my life?

The insistence that a woman cannot look professional unless she’s wearing a dress.

Yep, you got it. They wanted me to believe that a nice pant suit or set of trousers and matching blazer could never look professional on a woman.

Boy, did that ever rankle me. And I pretty much ignored that rule and did my own thing anyway.

So why am I telling you this?

Because it illustrates a point.

There are always going to be people who think that there are specific ways you have to dress to be professional. But it just ain’t so … professional attire is more often than not dependent upon the situation.

The rule of thumb you should follow, like I mentioned in Monday’s video, is to be slightly better dressed than your audience.

A traditional navy suit is quite appropriate for a conservative corporate audience. But if you dressed that way for a more casual audience, say a group of artists or sports enthusiasts, you might end up coming off as hoity toity or snobbish.

Basically, you need to understand your audience. How do they dress? How do they expect someone of authority in their field to dress?

For example, if President Obama gave an important address in casual golf attire, would you think that appropriate? Of course not … that wouldn’t be presidential.

What if you went to a cooking demonstration and the presenter wore a three-peice suit? Wouldn’t that make you wonder about the speaker?

When choosing your attire for a speaking gig, you need to keep in mind four things:

1. What is your topic?
Your attire should be appropriate to what you will be talking about.

2. Who is your audience?
Your attire should be appropriate to your audience, being a notch or so “above” what they wear without alienating them.

3. What is your venue?
You need to be comfortable while on stage. If you will be standing outside on a dirt floor, high heels are probably a bad idea. Also, don’t wear clothes that make you feel self-conscious or uncomfortable. If its too tight or too loose, you’ll fidget and it will only make you appear nervous.

4. Who are you?
What you wear when giving a presentation also needs to be consistent with your brand. For example, Steve Jobs always wears the black turtleneck and a pair of jeans. Mari Smith always wears turquoise. Jim Edwards always wears a Hawaiian shirt. What will be your signature look?

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About the author

Carma Spence, The Own Your Awesome Mentor, is author of Public Speaking Super Powers. She is fiercely committed to guiding women to Owning their Awesome and turning it into a profitable business. She is masterful at helping her clients see what is possible for them and supporting them on the journey from where they are to where they want to be, releasing the Mind Goblins of self-doubt, self-sabotage and second-guessing that keep them stuck.

With 20+ years experience in marketing communications and public relations, natural intuitive skills and certification in using some of the most effective transformational coaching tools available, Carma’s mission and commitment is to unleash the inner power every woman entrepreneur possesses so they can boldly go out into the world, transforming the fabric of people’s lives in meaningful and positive ways.

You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Her website is CarmaSpence.com.