Do the clothes make the man (or woman)? It seems a bit shallow or perhaps unfair, but what you wear makes a statement of some kind. Are you somehow different if you are wearing a business suit versus a nice pair of comfortable jeans?
Probably not, but I bet you feel differently. You might be a bit more uncomfortable in the suit, perhaps a bit more self-conscious (depending on the situation).
And, I bet you will act differently, especially if you wear that suit. Maybe you’ll act more… business-like?
What Do Your Clothes Say?
While you won’t intrinsically change (you will still be you essentially), your clothes make a statement about you. It might say something as simple as, “I like to be comfortable,” or “I am trendy,” or “I need to do laundry today,” but it says something. You know it does, because you chose to wear it. I don’t know that anyone closes their eyes and randomly selects clothes to wear.
So, unless someone else dresses you, you are making a statement to the world. What do you want that statement to be?
It’s All about Venue (and a Little Bit about You)
I won’t tell you to wear fancy clothes all the time or in every speaking or professional engagement. It’s not always appropriate. Wearing a suit may speak to a professional attitude in some situations, but may also make a separation between older and younger generations. The context makes a huge difference.
The trick is to know the situation. Where are you going to speak? To whom are you speaking? I’m not suggesting that you throw on sweat pants and that old t-shirt you wear when you bum around the house because you want to project a laid back attitude, but you certainly can decide that a suit and tie might be a bit too much. Perhaps a nice button-down shirt with a jacket and no tie might accomplish that.
At the same time, don’t try to dress completely to suit the audience. For example, if you are speaking to teenagers, wearing the trendiest clothes (or trying to) will only make you look ridiculous. So, please don’t wear a baseball cap sideways and claim that you’re in touch with America’s youth. On the other hand, dressing more casually (slightly more) might help to make them feel like the occasion is a little less formal, and they might be more receptive to the message.
Success in Speaking is Tailor-made
It all comes down to being true to yourself but understanding the context in which you are speaking (i.e the message you plan to give and the audience you plan to have receive it). Wear what’s appropriate to the venue and to what you represent. Anything else will be noticed negatively, and will thus set a bad tone for your presentation.
Since this website is dedicated to your success, realize the need to dress for success. Just remember that it doesn’t always have to be the most uncomfortable thing you own. When it comes to choosing the right thing to wear, think of your audience and of yourself and these two words: be true.