Stage and stairsAs a speaker you are the center of everyone’s attention. From the moment you arrive at the event you are on public display. You only have a few seconds to make a positive first impression, both by how you look and by how you conduct yourself.  Despite all the talk about not judging people by their appearance… well, people do judge.

When you, as a star speaker appear at an event you want to brand yourself as a professional, someone who is knowledgeable about the subject and about being a speaker.

The experienced speaker knows that 93% of what people perceive about you comes from your non-verbal communications.  A star speaker prepares and does their homework on what to wear to make the best impression.  (A 3-piece suit is not always the answer.)

Rule of Thumb:  Dress the way the audience does — one notch better.

In preparing to speak at a venue there is some key information you will want to gather before deciding what to wear.

Questions to ask about the engagement:

  • Will the listeners be men or women? If both, what percentage?
  • What is the dress code, the normal attire of the attendees?
  • Do the hosts have a dress code or preference of attire for speakers?
  • Will you be speaking indoors or outdoors?
  • What will the weather typically be like during that time?
  • Will there be spotlights or stage lighting?
  • Will you be up on a stage or at audience level?
  • Is there a particular color scheme or theme for the event?

Speaking manOnce you have this information in hand you can make an informed decision on what to wear. A star speaker usually goes a little over the dress code of the listeners, especially in a professional atmosphere or if the speaker is trying to establish themselves as an expert. You want to dress professionally but not so much that the audience won’t be able to identify with you.

Keep in mind that having a wardrobe malfunction can mean losing credibility and possibly customers. Hence, a big speaking engagement is probably not the time to try out a new look or ensemble.

Some Wardrobe Guides:

  • Wear colors that are flattering to you and help you look your best.  (Star Tip: Consider having your colors done by a wardrobe consultant)
  • Make sure the colors of your outfit don’t clash with those of the venue or company colors.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. If you aren’t comfortable in your clothing, this will come across to the listeners. (Star tip: Do a test run with colleagues, peers or others whose opinion you trust and value)
  • Keep in mind the gender of your listeners.
  • Wear layers and clothing that is appropriate for the season.
  • Ladies, wear makeup if you will be under strong lighting. (Star Tip: bring a travel makeup bag with you for touchups)
  • Check your appearance just before going in front of the audience. Especially check zippers and any buttons that might have come undone. If you don’t have a mirror, ask a trusted friend to let you know if anything is out of place.
  • Have at least three outfits you can choose from for speaking. (Star Tip: pack an extra outfit in a garment bag when you travel for the “just in case” situations)
  • For traveling speakers it is important to color coordinate your wardrobe so you can mix and match pieces to make packing easier.

Things to Avoid:

  • Wearing a new outfit for the first time to a presentation. Always wear a new outfit, including shoes and accessories, for a few hours to make sure that the outfit is comfortable, has no hidden issues and won’t malfunction at your next speaking opportunity.
  • Wearing blouses with buttons that can come undone when you move, or pants with trick zippers that tend to slide down.
  • Wearing high heels if you aren’t used to them or shoes that hurt your feet within five minutes.
  • Wearing tight clothing or clothing that does not flatter you.
  • Wearing clothing that will distract your listeners from your subject.
  • Women: If you are going to be up on a stage, wearing a shorter skirt in not recommended.
  • Wearing clothing that will be too warm or too cool for the room or the weather conditions. Sweating profusely or shivering on stage is not attractive.

wardrobeI highly recommended taking a spare outfit of your gig is more than an hour from your home.. This is particularly important if you if you are speaking after dinner or are accident prone. Make sure the spare outfit goes with the accessories and shoes too.

If you still aren’t sure what to wear for those occasions when you are speaking, get a wardrobe consultant or other trusted clothing advisor.

Choosing clothing that makes you feel confident and that helps you look your best is one of the key elements to being a Star Speaker.

Need assistance with your speaking career? Contact Elizabeth Bachman at