“Should I wear the light suit or the dark suit?” An executive asks this of his wife in conversation because he has to score points at a presentation the next day. She recommends the light-colored suit to him because she likes it so much: with the suit, he reminds her of her last vacation on the cruise ship. If she had known more about the secrets of proper presentation attire, she would not have recommended this suit to him.
Another example is a young expert in communication who gives her first lecture at a women’s congress and decides to wear her favorite outfit: The sleeveless loose blouse that goes to the middle of her thigh, with a big skull on the front and silver leggings to go with it. According to the motto: I have to feel good – that’s me.
One asks the partner, the other his feeling. Most of the time, unfortunately, it goes wrong if you don’t know the secrets of effect in presentations and on stage. Unfortunately, the man with the bright suit did not achieve the effect he wanted. He appeared colorless and conveyed little status. The lady got a very bad rating because of her outfit and her competence took a back seat. It’s actually a pity that both gave away important points through ignorance.
Clothing can emphasize or detract from your message. After all, the well-known saying “Clothes make the man” still applies today and can help you on your way to success.
However, there are also many people who do not leave the choice of clothes to chance and seek advice and coaching in the choice of clothes. They support their intention through their clothing and are successful with their resulting effect.
The expectations are high
I have heard many speakers with top topics where the dress performance left much to be desired. For whatever reason, they had to work harder to convince. Sometimes the shot really backfired and hardly anyone talked about their content, but only about the inappropriate outfit. You are expected to dress appropriately, matching your image and personality. Otherwise the feeling comes up: Something is wrong!
I still remember a Facebook post in which a very well-known lecturer vented her anger because her outfit was discussed and made fun of in the reviews during the lecture without her performance being appreciated. People are primarily visually driven. If an outfit does not seem adequate to them, they pay more attention to it than to the content.
All I can say is don’t give away valuable points with your clothing and dress in such a way that your outfit lays the red carpet for your content.
The bait must taste the fish and not the angler.
A few years ago, the choice of clothing was very simple. There were two tips that you could always use:
1. never dress worse than your audience
2. underline your image, your company and your product with appropriate clothing.
Today a 3rd point is added and that is: dress with profile, be authentic, show who you are and what you stand for. For this you can also break your style. Whether this is really always true, we will illuminate in the following.
According to the target group?
If bankers are your target audience, it’s simple: the suit/pantsuit is the best choice. Whether it always has to be a tie, I doubt in some cases. Feel comfortable with it, very good! If not, think carefully about whether the tie is detrimental to your authenticity. Imagine Reinhold Messner, who is supposed to give a lecture in a bank, wearing a suit and tie. It just doesn’t suit him. A combination of a jacket, sporty shirt and pants is a better choice. However, it must also be said that with celebrities, many a dress faux pas is forgiven. The bonus of familiarity counts and thus outweighs the effect of the outfit. However, many a celebrity can’t rely on it either, as you can read from negative comments in magazines.
Speaking in front of technicians in an IT company would be overdressed with an overly formal outfit in a suit and tie. Add a sporty blazer/jacket and chinos (cotton trousers) and the outfit is perfect for this target group.
Never underestimate your target audiences. Many have experienced unpleasant surprises because they thought they understood their target group and were dressed inappropriately as a result. Ask what dress code is required at the company. However, never forget your image in the process. I would never wear jeans just because my audience wears jeans. I then wear a sporty-classic outfit, according to my brand, but not too overdressed.
In an agency pitch, where you are applying for a job in the boardroom of a large insurance company, the suit/pantsuit is again a good choice. A dress code that is too casual could convey a lack of interest in the job.
All I can say is: be overdressed rather than underdressed. This is still the better choice.
According to your brand
Every company has a certain image and represents special values. Ask yourself what message and what values you want to convey. You should reflect and embody your brand with your outfit. If you sell luxury items or expensive consulting concepts, you should not present yourself in a used look (this look looks as if the things have been worn for a long time, but was usually very expensive) or in a “I don’t care look” – this does not correspond to the brand image. Those who sell precision should not be sloppily dressed, but accurate and precise. That is, in well-fitted clothes, not too big, not too small, not too wide, not too tight and good quality and well ironed. Anyone who sells creativity is not dressed down to earth. If you want to be perceived as an authority, you should dress like one. You are expected to. You wouldn’t want your counterpart to interpret your outfit as, “Don’t invest in me, I’m not worth the money.”
Do a little survey in your professional environment: What is expected of you and your brand? Ask for honest opinions on this and bring in professional consultants with know-how for stage performances or presentations.
Authentic and appropriate for the target group
Feeling comfortable in your second skin is a top priority. Those who don’t will convey their discomfort through their body language and that is not to their advantage. It is necessary to create a connection between authenticity and professionalism. Remember the story with the young communications expert at the Women’s Congress who was rated so poorly by the attendees. She failed to make the connection between your feel-good clothes and the expectation. What would have been the solution? Finding an outfit that is more formal than the skull and leggings, yet not too formal that she doesn’t feel dressed up. A chic, not too tight pants with a fashionable sporty blazer and a nice collarless blouse underneath, done. And the critics would have had nothing to complain about. Because a suitable outfit lays the red carpet for your content. Once the brain has gathered a first bad impression, it constantly looks for confirmation and no longer pays attention to what is being said and what it contains. You certainly don’t want that.
Perhaps you know Stefan Verra. The top body language expert is a true “body speaker.” He is an extroverted Austrian, 155 cm tall, moves a lot and almost always wears jeans and a dark blue shirt on stage (now and then also a shirt and blazer), no matter which target group he has in front of him. Stefan Verra comes on stage with a fire and a charismatic appearance, so that the clothes become a minor matter. He manages to convince from the first moment. And the audience takes that from him – a suit and tie would be out of place with him, because it doesn’t emphasize his brand. His outfit is absolutely authentic and fits his themes. It doesn’t matter what the target group is.
If you don’t have this convincing charismatic appearance, or your image doesn’t allow for a casual style of dress, you need to find the connection between your audience, your target group and your personal style. With this you are always right.
If you want to make a mark with an eye-catching outfit, you need to think through your clothing style very carefully. If you break the style just to stand out, you don’t have a concept yet. What seems effortless is well thought out to be perceived as a brand. Without the right personality, an eye-catching outfit is not credible.
Thomas Stein, the music manager, once told me how much time and energy is put into the perfect stage attire during TV appearances in order to achieve the desired effect. So take enough time in advance to think through the outfit.
Dark colors or light colors, maybe colorful?
The more status you want to represent, the darker colors need to be. The brighter the outfit, the less authority you radiate. If the background of the stage is dark, their clothes should be chosen lighter and vice versa. You might only see your face and hands on the big screen. Ask at the venue what stage conditions prevail. If in doubt, just take one darker and one lighter outfit. The more vivid your theme and the more colorful your personality, the more color is possible. The subject of colorfulness on stage cannot be explained in two sentences. This must be analyzed in detail for each person. However, always keep in mind that the more colorful and flashy your outfit, the more attention you draw to your appearance and distract from the content.
Here’s what you should keep in mind:
– Do not disguise yourself! You need to feel comfortable and confident on stage.
– If you constantly tug at your clothes, you look insecure. That’s why clothes have to fit perfectly.
– Dress appropriately for your age. Try not to dress forced young. Stand by your age and emphasize your accompanying life experience with your clothing.
– If you move a lot on stage, you should wear clothes that are not too constricting.
– If you wear sneakers with a suit, you should have the image for it and the personality and demeanor to match. Otherwise, it looks too effortful and doesn’t come across well.
– Always have a second outfit with you in case something is wrong with the first one. So you can still change it on the spot.
– Also ask yourself where the microphone will be mounted. A dress is usually rather awkward.
– If you wear a shirt, you should always go for long sleeves.
– Wear polished shoes and long socks – knee socks would be perfect!
– Just before your performance, ask the person sitting next to you if everything fits.
– Remove everything from the jacket pockets so nothing bulges and make sure the jacket pocket flap is not half in and half out.
– On the way to the stage you closed the jacket button. You can then open this again if you move a lot.
– Avoid putting your clothes in order on the way to the stage.
I wish you that your professionalism and your personality will be visible with your outfit and you will convince your audience from the first moment.
For: “He who is not pleasing to my eye, to him I will not lend my ear” – Unknown Author
Elisabeth Motsch is a style and image expert and advises business companies on the dress code and appearance of their employees, in keeping with their position and brand. Elisabeth Motsch combines her profound know-how with typical Austrian charm and feminine tact. She also passes on her knowledge as a lecturer at the Steinbeis University in Berlin and is the author of several books.
Book tip: Motsch, Elisabeth/Berndt, Jon Christoph : Profil mit Stil: Persönlichkeit als Marke – Kleidung als Statement. Vienna 2015.