Oftentimes, we don’t consider that our presentation appearance transmits messages to those around us.
Most certainly, the appearance of a speaker before an audience conveys non-verbal signals. This happens whether you are conscious of it or not.
Your presentation appearance sends a message to your audience, and you cannot decide not to send a message with your appearance.
You cannot tell an audience to disregard the message your appearance transmits.
And you can’t dictate to an audience the message it receives.
Your Presentation Appearance . . .
What message does your presentation appearance transmit to people?
That you don’t care?
That you’re confident?
That you’re attentive to detail?
That you care about your dignity, your physique?
Is your appearance one big flip-off to the world because you fancy yourself an ageless rebel, shaking your fist at the “man” and refusing to “conform” to the “rules?”
If so, then you pay a dear price for so meager a prize.
That price comes in the form of ceding competitive advantage to your peers, who may want to spend their personal capital for more luxurious rewards.
Are you the “ageless rebel” battling the “Man”?
Many young speakers seem unaware of the messages that their appearance conveys. Or worse, they attempt to rationalize the message, arguing instead what they believe that the audience “ought” to pay attention to and what it “ought” to ignore.
You simply cannot dress for lazy comfort and nonchalance and expect to send a message that conveys seriousness, competence, and confidence. This is the lesson that so many fail to grasp, even on into the middle management years.
“I’m a rebel and exude confidence and independence!” you think, as you suit up in the current campus fashion fad. The message received is likely much different: “You’re a slob with no sense of proportion or clue how to dress, and I’ll never hire you.”
The best public speakers understand the power of presentation appearance and mesh their dress with their message. Take President Barack Obama, for example. He is a superb dresser, as are all presidents.
On occasion, you will see the President speaking in open collared shirt, his sleeves rolled up in “let’s get the job done” fashion.
And that’s usually the message he’s trying to convey in such dress: “Let’s get the job done . . . Let’s work together.”
Politics, Schmolitics . . . He’s a Sharp Dresser
You will never see President Obama address the nation from the Oval Office on a matter of gravity with his jacket off and his sleeves rolled-up. The messages must mesh.
The lesson here is that your dress ought to reinforce your message, not offer conflicting signals.
Here are some basic suggestions for ensuring a minimum pleasing appearance . . .
For more on creating an especially powerful presentation appearance, as well as the other six elements of your personal style, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.