Michael H. Schaefer, DTM

One on One Coach, Keynote Speaker, Leadership Trainer

Dress for Express(ion)

The finest clothing made is a person’s skin, but, of course, society demands something more than this.
~ Mark Twai

How fast do you make your snap judgments? When you meet someone for the first time? When you watch a colleague step up to the lectern to give a big presentation? That sword of appraisal has two edges and it cuts both ways.

Last time I got a little passionate about pauses. This time I’ve got a very simple message when it comes to what you wear. Yes, it’s the 21st century, but Twain’s quote still holds true. If you’re speaking in front of an audience, you only add to the challenge of gaining their sympathy and their ears if you under-dress for the occasion. Meaning the degree of formality, of course, not the amount of clothes.

You can wish for otherwise. I wear jeans and a sportcoat if I can get away with it. I know a fellow speaker who actually likes to wear a leather café racer motorcycle jacket. But there are way too many speaking engagements where either of us would come off as unprofessional or disrespectful if we tried to get away with those choices.

Ladies, I know the choices are vast. Without accessing my inner fashionista, I’ll leave it at this: a half step higher than the room gives you the right amount of stature. You want to be the head of table metaphorically. And that should be reflected in what you wear.

And the same really applies to men. Especially if the audience is new to you. A casual Friday culture? Wear a jacket. No tie necessary? Wear one.

And if you don’t know what you look good in, which colors, a two or a three button suit, what the power articles of your wardrobe are, then get help. I’ve got a working relationship with an image consultant and a wife with great taste. Get a support system if you feel challenged. OR, if when you say, ‘Dang, I look good in this,’ your friends or family pause too long before agreeing with you. Love that confidence! (Just get a second opinion if you need one.)

And a word about hygiene. It’s good. Breath is the one we forget sometimes. All that speaking, the mouth gets a little dry. Re-mint after you’re done at the lectern and before the up close networking begins. Need a wardrobe/makeup consult? I got people. Email me and I’ll hook you up:


Next time: How to make it look easy…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>