Since returning to live meetings, I’ve noticed that more and more people are now lining up to give speaking presentations about books they have authored and ideas they have formulated while we were sequestered by Covid. This means that more people are asking my advice, as a personal branding expert, on what to wear on stage to look their personal best. For this reason, I have prepared my list of the Five Most Common Wardrobe Mistakes That Will Distract Your Audience From Your Presentation (and possibly detract from your credibility).
If you follow these simple suggestions, I promise you that you look your best and reach a wider audience, whether on camera, on stage, or before a virtual audience!
1. Keep it simple; keep it solid. While fashion sometimes dictates the newest styles or fashions that are in vogue, sometimes, they just don’t work well on stage. We are, of course, talking about large and small checks, stripes, and large busy patterns. Any of these will pull your audience’s attention away from you and what you are saying and, instead, focus in on what you are wearing. Also, small checks and thin stripes tend to moiré on camera, which means they take on a rippled appearance due to the pixilation where the camera can’t zero in on the pattern, causing it to appear wavy. So, stick with the solids and avoid clothing that is “busy” or distracting.
2. Avoid wearing all-white or all-black. Here’s why: The color black absorbs light so it acts like a black hole to your audience and that means you will disappear into your background, unless you are positioned in front of a white or light background. This also creates the sensation of a “floating head” because that’s all your audience sees. I would conjecture that a floating head is not a good look on you.
On the other hand, the color white is the first color the naked eye and the camera sees. So, wearing all white will pull the focus off of you and what you are saying, and put it instead on what you are wearing. Also, due to white’s brightness, if you are on camera, the camera will need to darken everything else around you to adjust. It’s always best to call in advance and ask what color your background will be on stage – and then wear a different or contrasting color! This will help you stand out to everyone in the room, including the people in the back row.
3. Choose jewelry that doesn’t compete with you. Many of us love to wear dazzling jewelry and when we are not speaking to an audience, anything goes. But when you are in front of a room or speaking on a virtual platform, dangly earrings or clunky bracelets can interfere with your audio and cause distortions. So, I would advise toning down your colorful, oversized or jangly jewelry so you can keep your audience focused on what’s most important – you and your presentation.
4. Avoid super short skirts. As women, we need to be aware of the length of our skirts and dresses when we are in front of an audience and especially, when we are sitting down. For this reason, I recommend wearing a hemline that is a bit longer so you don’t have any embarrassing moments! I have seen this happen too many times where a camera inadvertently looked up the skirt of the speaker revealing a bit more flesh than was intended. Play it safe when you are on stage giving a presentation and you won’t regret it.
Check out my blog: Do Skirt Lengths Really Matter?
5. Your shoes: Shoes are always a popular item of discussion for female speakers. While high heels can accentuate your legs by making them look longer, high heels can also be uncomfortable – unless you are going to be sitting down for most of your presentation. If you are planning to walk the stage and be animated, keep in mind that high heels are more apt to slip or catch on an uneven or slick surface that has been polished. Since you don’t always have advanced viewing of your stage, I would recommend erring on the side of caution and wearing shoes are broken in, comfortable and are NOT the light or brightest color of your outfit.
Remember: You want your audience to be focused on your face, your body language and what you have to say. Anything that distracts or detracts from that focal point isn’t your “friend.”
Play it safe, play it smart and rock your presentation.