Once 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?