I had a very sobering experience recently that had to do with the way I dress.
No matter what you say, your clothes say more. -Tom Kirby
My friend and business partner, Circe, and I were photographing and videotaping speech contestants at a Toastmaster Conference. Since Circe is very adept at using InDesign and Photoshop, I asked her to create a quick and dirty half-page handout listing the prices I charge for taking the videos of speakers and putting them on DVD. I was shocked when she came back with this SUPER FEMININE FRILLY ad. I asked (or rather, interrogated) her, “Why would you create something so frilly? Is this how you see me?” She laughed and remarked, “Then why do you wear flowers in your hair, Linnaea?”
My manner of dress conveyed a persona I didn’t necessarily want to project. I don’t mind being feminine, but for business, I don’t think frilly is taken seriously. In case you are curious, below is the first draft. Ask me if I’m wearing flowers in my hair anymore. NOT!
Karen Hudson, the author of an outstanding book titled Dressed to Speak, was the costume designer for a popular TV show in the 1970’s called Hill Street Blues. She gives a very insightful workshop that demonstrates how clothes affect how people receive you. She first fools the audience by showing up in what resembles a sort of a homeless person and sits among the audience members. No one talks to her. In fact, she is avoided. What a shocker when she gets up to talk! Once the audience recovers, Karen puts on other items of clothing and accessories and asks the audience to tell her what type of person they thinks she is now. It is so fascinating what clothes say about us!
Everything you wear should compliment the purpose of the meeting or the interaction among people. Tom Kirby is one of America’s premiere executive communication coaches. Below are excerpts from his booklet titled 117 Ideas for Better Business Presentations
- Nationwide, the safest color is gray if you want to appear businesslike and project a professional image.
- White shirts and blouses may not sound exciting or fashionable, but in a hotel meeting room they’re your best bet to accent a business suit, especially when seen from the back of the room.
- If you want to project an authoritative image, go with dark blue suits – especially when you address strangers, people who have no idea what you’re really like as a person.
- Keep your suit jacket buttoned during your presentation and you’ll automatically look more businesslike. Wear it open, and you’ll have a more casual look. Neither look is intrinsically good nor bad, yet you are making a definite statement about your attitude toward both the subject matter and audience depending upon the option you select.
- Personal accessories, including jewelry and wristwatches, can be distracting to your listeners if they dominate your visual presentation, especially if they glitter under artificial lights. When in doubt about the effect of accessories on your audience, keep them in your briefcase until after the presentation.
- Tinted prescription glasses make it difficult for listeners to have good eye contact with you. Avoid them when speaking to more than 30 people.
No question about it. Clothes Count!
UNFORGETTABLE FOR THE WRONG REASONS
”I watched a famous woman golfer speak once. She carried a huge white handbag loaded with junk and plunked it on the lectern. We looked at it throughout her presentation. I don’t remember a word she said, but I do remember the handbag.” -Judy Moreno