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What should I wear for my public speaking engagement?

By Marjorie Comer

A man getting dressed.When preparing for a speaking engagement, you may tend to focus only on deciding the topic or preparing the speech. While those are challenging elements of speaking engagements, too often there’s not enough attention on other parts of preparation, such as what to wear to a speaking engagement. The way you dress and present yourself gives the audience their first impression about you and your company and continues to solidify their belief in you. Here are eight tips to help you decide what to wear for your upcoming speaking engagements. 



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  1. Pattern or no pattern?

Should you wear a solid color or sport some patterns for your speaking engagement? If your speaking engagement will be broadcast on TV or video, you should wear solid colors, as patterns can be distracting. Lines and dots can play tricks on the viewer’s eye when they view them on a screen or from afar. Keep in mind that horizontal stripes can also make you appear wider and vertical stripes can make you appear taller.


  1. Color

You should be aware of how certain colors may affect your complexion, especially when under light – some colors will wash you out! Additionally, a thin shirt could look see-through onstage or under strong stage lights. 


  1. Comfort

You might be one of those people who are uncomfortable speaking in front of large audiences. This is why you need to ensure your clothes are comfortable for your speaking engagement. You don’t want something too restrictive to where you feel like you are stuck in one place throughout the event. This also includes the shoes that you wear. Comfort can mean more than sweatpants or workout leggings.


  1. Avoid distractions

Be sure to avoid accessories or clothes that might make noise and distract others from what you’re saying. This includes squeaky shoes, swishy jackets and pants, and noisy jewelry that is too big or bold. Consider also finding out what the background color will be so you don’t blend in. If there’s a green screen behind you, then you definitely want to avoid wearing green, or else your floating head will certainly be a distraction and something the audience will remember! 


  1. Microphone

As you plan your outfit, find out what type of microphone will be available. For example, if it’s a hand-held microphone, it won’t affect your outfit choices. For a mic pack, there has to be a place to clip the actual microphone as well as a place to clip the pack. Some people don’t consider this when planning their wardrobe and are left a little embarrassed as they try to figure out where to put the microphone components.

  1. Dress rehearsal

Try on the outfit you’ve picked. Have someone take a picture of you in it and practice your speech while wearing the outfit. This will allow you to know how it feels as you walk around in it and present. For example, if you have to scratch your nose, you need to know if your shirt will untuck. I’ve also always wondered if Jennifer Lawrence practiced walking up stairs before she tripped on her way to accept her Oscar.


  1. Backup

If you are traveling to your speaking engagement, then be sure to bring a backup outfit with you. This is helpful in case you split your pants or spill something on yourself. While showing up with a mustard stain could make you more relatable, it could also be a major turnoff for your customers. 


  1. Wrinkle-free

Make sure you’re wrinkle-free before you leave for your engagement. This is especially important if you travel by car or plane and your clothes are stuck in a suitcase. Make sure the place you’re staying has an iron so you can use it on the clothes. If not, then sprinkle some water on the clothes and hang them in the bathroom while you shower to naturally steam and release the wrinkles.


The way you dress can help convey your authority on a subject and gives the audience an opportunity to form a favorable impression of you and your company. Think about Steve Jobs – he was well known for wearing a black turtleneck and jeans – or Anna Wintour – whose straight bob is iconic. If you do this successfully, people will think of you and your company when they see certain attire. 


For more insight, listen to our webinar on media and spokesperson training. Also, through our MediaMaster service, we can coach your company’s spokespersons to manage news, media coverage, and corporate communications.


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Marjorie Comer.Clients love Marjorie’s work ethic, speed and diligence. She has worked with Axia Public Relations since October 2011. Marjorie graduated from Rockhurst University with a Bachelor of Arts in communication and loves to cheer for her hometown Kansas City Royals. Learn more about Marjorie.


Photo by Antoni Shkraba

Topics: PR tips, public speaking

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