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Looking the Part: Get Togged Up!

October 24, 2013
Hippie gal

Groovy prop

I have been a scruff all my life. Any opportunity and I’ll bin the tie and abandon the razor, so I’m the least qualified person to be imparting this advice.  But let’s just say I’ve learnt the hard way…

There is one golden rule on how to dress when you speak in public.  It is this.  Be as well dressed as the best dressed person in the room.  If you don’t look the part, you’re starting off your speech on the back foot.  You’re going to have to fight extra hard to gain the audience’s credibility.  Public speaking can be hard enough as it is.  Why make it harder?

There are exceptions, of course.  If I’m going to be speaking about my days as a hippie wannabe in the late 1960s, I might get dressed up in my headband, floral waistcoat and, if I can find them, or still fit in them, a pair of loons.  I would be using my attire as a prop.  Likewise if you ladies wish to give a speech on the sexualisation of society, you may choose to wear your dress as a prop, with a plunging neckline and heaving cleavage.  Please!

I got it very wrong the other day.  The parents’ association at my son’s school organized a Burns Night, but it was called off at the last moment due to heavy snow.  So they rearranged it to coincide with St David’s Day five weeks later and invited me along too, as a token Welsh parent.  I was asked if I’d like to sing a song or tell a tale.  I opted for both.

I showed up a bit late and found the school hall full of ladies in evening gowns and stern-faced men in dinner jackets and kilts.  I was wearing a blazer with an open-necked shirt.  Oops.  I had never received the original invitation and hadn’t got round to asking about attire. But I needn’t have worried.  This was a Scottish do and very soon the golden nectar was flowing.   By the time I got up it had started to work its magic, and those formerly grim, pale faces were now noticeably ruddier.  I was saved by the Bells.

In summary, a public speaker needs to look the part.  Play it safe: be as well dressed as the best dressed person in the room.  Or use your dress as a prop and, if the occasion demands, get decked out like a funky, groovy, heavy chick or cat, man!


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