I recently watched a video by Josee Brisebois all about what to wear when speaking on stage. (I’ve embedded it below.) I’ve talked about this before, but she went into a lot more detail. In this post, I’m going to share some of her tips and expand upon them for when your stage is virtual.
There are a lot of things you need to take into account when planning what to wear when speaking on stage or on camera. For example:
- What outfit will support my brand?
- What outfit will support the message of my presentation?
- What outfit will enhance my authority while still being relatable to the audience?
- What colors will make me stand out against the backdrop?
- What outfit will work well with the technology I’ll be using?
- What outfit will make me feel confident and comfortable at the same time?
Let me address each of these one at a time.
What outfit will support my brand?
There are two ways that your outfit can support your brand:
- It matches your brand colors. For example, I often wear purple when representing this website’s brand because purple is the dominant color.
- It matches your brand message. For example, Featured Speaker Elizabeth Murray often wears artsy outfits or even gardening-inspired clothing when speaking about Monet’s gardens.
When choosing what to wear on stage when speaking, keep in mind your brand.
What outfit will support the message of my presentation?
Your brand message, mentioned above, is not necessarily the same thing as the message of your presentation. For example, my brand message is “everyone can become an effective speaker,” but that is too broad a topic for a presentation. So my individual speeches are about sub-topics within that larger message.
For example, one day I may be speaking to high-level executives about using body language. For that presentation, I would want to make sure that my outfit allowed me the physical freedom to demonstrate body movements. However, on another day, I might be talking about overcoming the fear of speaking to a group of college students. For that presentation, I have fewer restrictions on what I can wear.
What outfit will enhance my authority while still being relatable to the audience?
As Josee mentioned in her video, you want to dress a little bit nicer than your audience, but not in a manner that alienates them. For example, for the executive audience, I talked about above, I would probably wear a suit, however for the college students, I would leave the blazer at home, but still dress nicely.
What colors will make me stand out against the backdrop?
What color is the backdrop you’ll be speaking in front of? You want to choose a color that stands out and doesn’t blend in. For example, many times the backdrop is black. So you don’t want to wear black or navy. A happy coincidence happened when I recorded my presentation for The Personal Development App during my book tour in 2018/19. I chose to wear a teal top and the backdrop turned out to be gold. The two colors looked good and I popped from the background.
Josee recommends using the color wheel to help you decide on the colors that will stand out from a colored background. I’ve posted one here.
What outfit will work well with the technology I’ll be using?
Here’s where it becomes important to know whether you’ll be on stage or on camera because the logistics are different.
What to Wear When Speaking on Stage
In addition to the points previously given, you need to be aware of how your clothing will interact with the technology you’ll be using.
- What kind of mic will you be using? If it is hand-held, avoid bracelets. If it is a clip-on, be sure your top can accommodate the clip. Will it be hanging on your ears? Be careful what kind of earrings you wear. Will there be a battery pack? Make sure your clothes can not only accommodate that but that the technician can access where it will go without awkwardness or embarrassment.
- What kind of backdrop will there be? Will it be curtains? What color? Will it be a viewscreen? What colors will it be projecting? You need to make sure that your clothing pops enough for you to stand out, but not in
a way that glares and makes the eyes sore.
- How will you get up on stage? Make sure that your shoes are appropriate.
- Will you be sitting or standing? If sitting, on what? Make sure that the clothes you wear will not only be comfortable in that position but also modest.
What to Wear When Speaking on Camera
You have much more control over the environment if you’re speaking from your home office via Zoom, Skype, or some other video conferencing software. But there are still things you need to consider when deciding on your outfit.
- Will you be seated or standing? Make sure that what you wear is not only comfortable in this position but what shows up on camera is free of unsightly wrinkles and folds.
- What does your backdrop look like? Like when you’re on stage, you want your clothes to stand out, but not clash.
- Avoid colors and color combinations that don’t play well on video. The camera loves jewel tones such as amethyst purple, turquoise, sapphire blue, emerald green, ruby red, rich golden yellow. Avoid metallics and shiny fabrics that play havoc with the lighting. You also want to avoid textures and patterns such as plaid and fine stripes.
What outfit will make me feel confident and comfortable at the same time?
Don’t wear clothes that make you feel bad about yourself. You should be able to look in the mirror and like what you see. Wear colors, shapes, and styles that flatter you and make you feel fabulous. Speaking is nerve-wracking enough without wearing something that brings you down.
What to Wear When Speaking on Stage or Camera
The bottom line is this: Wear something that makes you feel great, looks good, and works with the environment in which you are speaking. If you’ve got those three basics taken care of, you’re good to go!