BIG Presentation Secret No.9: Appear beautiful!


So what’s this week’s secret?

This week’s secret sounds all soft and fluffy, but it’s not. This secret is actually the one that provokes the most debate amongst the speakers that I work with.

Today we’re going to focus on how our appearance can influence our BIG Presentation delivery and the perceptions of our audience.

Many people feel that a speaker shouldn’t have to change their appearance or what they wear for a BIG Presentation. They feel it is wrong that the audience will judge them based on their ‘look’. Perhaps this is true, but that is a debate for another day.

The truth is that, like it or not, we all make judgments based on first impressions.
Our strength as public speakers is to use our appearance to manage that impression and achieve our BIG Presentation goals.

So how do we use this secret?

We all know that first impressions count.

If you see before you a speaker that cannot be bothered to even tuck their shirt in, you quickly wonder about the quality of the BIG Presentation to come.

I’m sure you will tuck your shirt in, but there’s so much more that your appearance can do to influence the success of your BIG Presentation.

Why is how I look so important?

The way we look influences how we perceive information. Here’s a quick example:

A man dressed in jeans and t-shirt comes to your desk and asks you to leave the building – what do you do?

A man dressed in a fireman’s uniform comes to your desk and asks you to leave the building – what do you do?

Of course, you obey the fireman, but you most likely question, or ignore, the man in jeans and t-shirt. For all you know, jeans and t-shirt man could be an off duty fireman, but you choose to ignore him due to the impression created by his clothes.

When our appearance doesn’t match the message that we are communicating, it undermines the validity of what we are saying. Our audience is much less likely to engage with and believe our message.

Our job as speakers therefore is to ensure that ‘the gap’ between how we look (and what our audience expects us to say) and what we actually say is as small as possible.

How should I look?

Your appearance needs to fall in line with your core message (remember your core message from week 2? If not, recap here. (LINK).

Review your core message and ask yourself: what would my audience expect someone that truly believes this message to look like?

The answers you come up with might include terms such as: professional, formal, expert, creative, relaxed, informal – depending on what you are saying, and who you are saying it to.

In the majority of cases, it’s unlikely that your answers will be specific, as it is often more about how you generally need to look, than a certain item that your audience is looking for you to wear!

From the answers that you generate it isn’t too difficult to pick suitable and relevant items of clothing for your audience. If you aren’t sure if your clothing matches what your audience expects, road test your outfit the day before with your work colleagues and family!

How can my clothes help me practically?

Our clothes can increases the chances of a successful BIG Presentation in other ways than just creating a great impression.

Button up shirts or blouses are great for concealing microphone wires, and if you are being filmed, avoid stripy or intricately patterned clothes as they don’t show up well on camera. Never forget that the camera also dulls white clothes, so only wear new white shirts when on film, to avoid looking dull and washed out!

Heels are to be avoided if you’re nervous or have to scale a large flight of steps to get to your stage. Heeled shoes provide much more opportunity for an embarrassing fall and so it’s best to avoid them if possible!

Further reading:


Next week’s secret…

Next week is our final BIG Presentation secret, and it focuses on rehearsal.

We’ll discover how the best BIG Presenters rehearse less and remember more, as well as loads of practical tips on how to ensure that your rehearsal style is right for you.