Whether it’s in person or virtual, giving a speech to an audience is exciting — and a little nerve-wracking.
But one thing you definitely shouldn’t be worried about during your speech is your outfit.
Read on to learn some simple tips on what women should wear when giving a speech.
3 Questions to Ask When Deciding What to Wear for a Speech
Before you can choose an outfit for a speech, you’ve got to determine what you want to convey to your audience. Start by asking yourself:
1. What do you want to communicate with your style?
Do you want to convey a sense of authority with your outfit?
Or do you want to put your audience at ease with a more laid-back look?
What you want to say with your style will help determine if you go with a more formal look or a more relaxed outfit.
Consider your audience as well: Are you speaking to a group of young female entrepreneurs, or an audience of older, mostly male executives?
2. What does your personal brand communicate?
You want to ensure that what you’re saying with your outfit aligns with your personal brand.
For instance, if you’re a corporate executive, a sharp, professional style, like a suit, will help you present a clear, unified message.
If you’re a food blogger, on the other hand, wearing a suit would feel overly formal and out of place.
3. Will you be seated or standing?
If you’ll be giving your speech standing at a podium, take footwear under careful consideration.
You don’t want to wear uncomfortable three-inch stilettos and be constantly shifting your weight to ease the pain in your feet.
Instead, choose more comfortable shoes that will give you a firm foundation.
3 Real-Life Examples of How to Dress for a Speech
The Virtual Event
While it may be tempting to wear yoga pants for your virtual speech — after all, no one will see them! — I recommend avoiding “above keyboard dressing.”
Numerous studies have shown that dressing for success has a big impact on our self-confidence.
Even if your audience doesn’t know if you’re wearing sweatpants or trousers, you’ll feel the difference!
You also want to make sure your outfit isn’t distracting from your message.
Avoid clothing items that require constant adjusting, and go with something simple like a collared blouse: It’s the right level of formality for most events without seeming overdressed.
The Ted Talk
Natalie, one of my women’s personal styling services clients, hired me before she was set to give her first Ted Talk.
She wanted to ensure she was communicating the right things with her style for her first big speaking engagement: that she was modern, confident, and an expert.
Keep in mind you can use color strategically to your advantage like we did here. Red conveys feelings of confidence and boldness; it’s a color that leaves a lasting impression.
Paired back to a core color, you can’t go wrong. In this case, we paired a red top with black leather trousers to project modernity and confidence.
The Celebrity Speech Style
Celebrities are used to being stared at and photographed, so they’re a great source of inspiration on what to wear when giving a speech.
For her speech on gender equality at the United Nations, Emma Watson chose a classic structured blazer in a neutral color.
It’s a simple but strong look that conveys the seriousness of the topic and didn’t detract from her message: Media outlets focused on the content of her speech and not what she was wearing.
Take a cue from her and ensure that you’re wearing structured fabrics (such as a wool blend) so they don’t look sloppy when you sit down and you won’t have to constantly adjust them; blazers are a perfect go-to piece for this.
Need helping figuring out what to wear when giving a speech? Check out my virtual stylist services.
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Cassandra Sethi is a NYC Personal Stylist and Image Consultant. After working over 15 years in the Fashion Industry, most recently as a Senior Buyer for Equinox, she created her business, Next Level Wardrobe – a luxury personal shopping service for successful professionals. Cassandra’s been featured in Greatist, Livestrong and NY Mag.