Top Tips for Public Speaking and What to Wear

Moana Robinson

I was recently given an amazing public speaking opportunity to give a TED Talk. It was one of those moments when I decided to just say “yes”. I felt the fear and did it anyway. The book by Susan Jeffers is a good one! “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”.

Most people do feel a sense of fear when it comes to public speaking. This is absolutely normal and some people jokingly refer to public speaking as a "fate worse than death" . It can also be a real phobia which is called glossophobia. There are many ways to overcome a fear of public speaking such as

  • Joining a speaking club such as Powertalk , Toastmasters or Rostrum
  • Coaching and Hypnotherapy can help with confidence
  • There are also many people who specialise in training for public speaking onstage such as Speech Perfect
  • Practice as much as you can in front of a friend or video so that you can feel comfortable
  • Find a mentor or someone you can brainstorm ideas with
  • Get plenty of sleep and hydrate well prior to your talk

Know your subject and make sure it is something you are passionate about

My talk was important to me. I wanted to focus on the positives in a world which was increasingly full of doom and gloom. Everyday news was full of global disasters and the COVID pandemic. I wanted to share positive areas of life we can focus on instead of the negatives in life.

Take the focus off yourself and onto your audience

The important verbal aspect of your talk is what you are saying and not what you may forget to say. It is also important how you say it and that you speak directly to your audience in an authentic way and from the heart. You have an important message to share with them. Knowing you look your best and feel your best enables you to be your best.

What You Wear is Important to your Audience and to You

Creating that powerful first impression counts even more when public speaking as you are speaking to more than just one person and this is the case whether you are online or on a stage.

I had a couple of outfits in mind to wear and at the last minute changed into a dress which  felt  just right to me. The dress had gold chain laced through the side seam and it felt symbolic to wear something with gold. I knew the cameras would not pick up on it. It just felt good to me to wear something which went with my talk which was about discovering gold.

Having watched quite a few TED talks  I could see that many people wore casual clothing and although there is no definite dress code smart casual was recommended in the information I received.

As a Personal Stylist clothing is important to me. It is also important for your talk. Are you looking to motivate or convey an important message which requires something which requires a conservative look. Looking right for the talk meant that I was taking into account the following:

Comfort

Being comfortable is very important when public speaking. I left the house wearing a sleeveless dress as do feel quite hot when nervous plus it was a very hot day. I grabbed a white jacket at the last minute before walking out the door. In hindsight I was pleased that I did this. The jacket looked tidier and more formal than wearing a sleeveless dress.

I knew that we would be standing around or on stage for a long time so wearing very high heels was out of the question, Wedge heels rather than stacked or stilettos are very comfortable for me.

Colour

The colours behind me on the stage consisted of the  Derry LondonDerry TEDx sign in bright red letters and the dark stage with the red circle to stand on. I didn’t want to wear black as that was not a powerful colour. Red is a powerful colour (of course it would need to be in a red that suits me) but it would blend into the letters and red shoes would blend into the circle on the floor. I chose the teal dress  because it is a universal colour, is one of my branding colours and would stand out from the red without clashing.The shoes are a neutral pewter colour. Having light coloured hair I look better in light coloured shoes as this creates a visual loop effect.  The white jacket added some brightness. Block and definite colours are best when speaking onstage.

Clarity

Patterns and stripes are not good on stage as they can be distracting for the audience. Also patterns and stripes can strobe on playback video. As much as I love prints and patterns they can be dated. As TED talks can be up online for a long time it is important not to wear something which would date too quickly. By keeping your outfit simple the focus will be on your talk and how you are conveying your talk.

Consistency

This may be a psychological trick that other speakers do or maybe not. I find that I like to have something which relates to my talk or to my branding. The shoes I wore were pewter wedges and although not gold were metallic. Being a "silver girl" rather than gold these shoes felt great. I even painted my nails gold but took it off straight away as it definitely did not suit me.  I would advise anyone who is doing a lot of public speaking to have something that is unique to them or their talk such as a branding colour, style of clothing, a lapel broach or pin which relates to them personally. This way if someone recommends you for a talk and they cant remember your name they will remember something about you which was visual.

Congruency

One of the most important aspects of my outfit is that it is very similar to what I would usually wear when giving a talk in any other public speaking situation. I wear mostly plain colours and usually wear black or navy when doing in person colour consultations so that I am a neutral background while draping a client. I wear a lot of patterns and prints when I am not working in a formal environment or doing a colour consultation. When public speaking you can use colour to convey a message so knowing something about the psychology of colour is a good idea.

My favourite quote is from Dr Suess “Its truer than true there is no-one alive who is you-er than you”. Dress as yourself and wear what you would usually wear in front of an audience. Wear something that shows your personality. If you usually wear trousers and feel comfortable in trousers then wear them. If you usually like to wear skirts or dresses wear this. Be YOU on stage. You can build rapport with your audience and still represent the real you at the same time.

Cull the Clinking

It was important not to have any jewellery distractions. Simple is best when it comes to jewellery when public speaking. I had the globe to hold which was really the only accessory. Wearing dangly earrings is a big no no when you have a microphone attached. I was once at a conference when the speaker had to remove her long jangly earring because it kept hitting the microphone making a loud clink every time. The same goes for long dangly necklaces and bangles or bracelets.

Consider the Benefits

My recommendation is that if you are offered the opportunity to do something like this take it. Doing the TED talk  is something I hadn’t thought of doing before. I am grateful for the opportunity which this independently organised TED Talk gave me It has definitely been the catalyst for me to consider doing more talks about messages which are meaningful for me. I feel that if you have a message you should be able to share it. The benefits are immense as it increases your confidence and you know that if you have done even a small amount of public speaking you can always grow from there.

As a last point I would like to say that public speaking is something which anyone can do and you can find ways to make everything so much easier. Learning about what to wear when public speaking is just one of the ways you can feel more confident straight away.

As Rachel Zoe who is stylist to the stars said

“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak”

Wearing clothes in colours that suit you and suit the occasion makes creating that first impression so much easier. As well as full colour and style consultations Introduction to Colour & Style Sessions. Discovery sessions for hypnotherapy or coaching are also available

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