Communication Tip: What to Wear when You Speak

What should you wear when you get up to speak in front of a group? Think job interview. Your objective when you speak in front of a group is the same as when you go to a job interview: You want to make a good impression and project confidence and competence without being overly showy and distracting. Here are some good general guidelines:

  • All: Wear a quality, well-fitting conservative suit, preferably in dark colors. Make sure your shoes are in good repair and are clean and polished.
  • Gentlemen: Wear a conservative tie in muted tones. Avoid loud colors or distracting patterns.
  • Ladies: Use some makeup, if desired, but not too much. If you wear a skirt or dress, wear quality hosiery with no runs. Leave your large, bright jewelry at home.

The suit guideline does not apply to all audiences. Some audiences, such as students, artists, and people in show business and other creative industries tend to be intimidated by suits or view them negatively. For these groups, you may want to dress a bit more casually, but you should still maintain a neat, professional image.