The Importance of Personal Appearance
Like it or not we live in a society that assesses people based on the way that they look. Consequently, if you are preparing to give a speech, it’s essential to focus on your personal appearance.
Of course, there’s no need to fret—the process isn’t as rough as it may seem. You don’t need to lose any weight, you don’t need to get a face lift, and you certainly don’t need to be someone you aren’t. However, you DO need to take some pride in the way that you look.For many public speakers, this is an unnatural concern. After all, they believe that their words should drive their message home. And in an ideal world, they would be right. But our planet is far from a nonjudgmental utopia. Thus, it’s critical to allow your mirror to be a part of the preparation for your next speech.
HairRegardless of your hairstyle, all hair should be clean and brushed/combed in the back as well as the front. (Don’t laugh—many people forget to check the BACK of their heads. So while they look great entering a room, they end up looking terrible when leaving!) If you have trouble with dandruff or other scalp conditions, contact a physician or dermatologist who can prescribe an appropriate shampoo or cleansing regimen.
Face and SkinYour face and neck need to be addressed during your grooming preparations. Men should be clean-shaven (no “five o’clock shadow”) or have their beards and mustaches trimmed. Very noticeable blemishes can be covered using cosmetics or tinted moisturizers, even by males.
Women may wear make-up, though this is a choice rather than a necessity. As long as a female has properly cleaned her face, she may go “au natural” if she so desires. Should cosmetics be used, remember that a little certainly will go “a long way”; therefore, prudent use of eye shadows, blushers, and lipsticks are sensible.
HandsMen’s nails should be trimmed and cleaned before a speech. Overlook this simple measure, and you’ll run the risk of shaking someone’s hand, only to have him or her notice your unkempt and/or darkened nails.
For ladies, shorter nails are always more appropriate than long ones. And any polish that’s applied should be of a light or nude shade… nothing shouts, “Look at me for all the wrong reasons!” more than nail polish in wild and/or fluorescent colours.
MouthObviously, it’s important to brush and floss your teeth before going in front of an audience (unless, of course, you’re expected to speak directly after a meal and you’re unable to excuse yourself for a quick stop to the lavatory.)
Some speechmakers even carry mints and mouthwash for an extra level of fresh breath confidence; however, never give a speech with anything in your mouth such as gum or mints. (A cough drop is fine if you’re truly ill, but do explain its presence and make apologies for its presence at the start of your speech.)
SuitsFor business and formal speech occasions, suits (for both men and women) are entirely proper. Additionally, ladies may be able to “get away” with an ensemble that wears like a suit but isn’t “officially” one (such as a matching blouse and skirt combination.)
If you already have a suit, make sure it’s clean, pressed, and void of lint. If you don’t own a suit, consider buying one (or borrowing one) if your speech is extremely important.
“Dressy” Casual AttireSome presentation environments lend themselves to more casual (but still conservative) attire. When in doubt on how to dress, ask your host (or the person who “booked” you if you’re a professional, paid public speaker) for clothing advice.
Though it’s generally better to be a little overdressed, you don’t want to seem out-of-place, as it will make both you and your audience members feel uncomfortable.
FootwearYour choice of footwear should be neither too bland nor too bold; just be sure to polish them before you step in front of your listeners. Even if you think, “No one will notice these little scuff marks,” you can never be certain. (And why would you want to take the risk?)
AccessoriesSimple accessories such as watches, wedding and engagement bands, small earrings, and modest necklaces and bracelets are completely acceptable and shouldn’t be problematic during your speech. However, if you have a tongue or lip ring, it’s wise to remove it; often, a distracting “clicking” sound can be heard by listeners when you speak with one of these mouth-related accessories in place.
Similarly, if you have many facial piercings, you may want to remove them before publicly speaking. Otherwise, some audience members could find themselves more focused on whether or not your eyebrow piercing hurt than the subject matter of your presentation.
SOME FINAL WORDS ABOUT APPEARANCETo reiterate, there’s no need to be someone you’re not just because you’re delivering a speech. Consequently, if you don’t wear make-up, you don’t have to wear it during your talk. And if you feel too physically uncomfortable in a suit, you may be able to “get away” with something slightly less formal.
However, do not underestimate the power of your appearance on your psyche. When you can stand before a mirror and positively state, “I look my best right now,” you’ll increase your chances of having a phenomenal public speaking experience.