Funny how even the most confident people question themselves when they’re going to be in front of an audience. Something about all those eyeballs staring at you, right?

We launched into what-to-wear-when-you’re-speaking last week. Turns out it’s a big topic. So here’s what else you need to know.

  1. Even as the whole world grows increasingly casual, business speakers look more confident and professional when they dress a notch more formally than the audience.
  2. At the same time, you should “dress your brand” – if you’re a creative you wouldn’t show up to speak dressed like a banker. And if you want to manage our money, you’d best be looking responsible and prosperous.
  3. Even for creative types, though, you want attention on your words, not your wardrobe—stay away from flashy, fringe-y and distracting. Your brightest tie or biggest baubles might not be right for your presentation.
  4. If you’re using a headset mic, check your earrings to make sure they don’t bump against the stem. Your favorite hoops or danglers might make unwelcome noise. With a lapel mic, a big chunky necklace can cause the same kind of trouble.
  5. When you’re speaking at a conference, remember to take off your name tag before you take your place at the front of the room.
  6. If you’re on a stage or a riser, the people in the front row will be looking right straight at your feet. Make sure your shoes are in good shape.
And (it pains me to say this—I love open-toed shoes) better those audience members should be looking at leather instead of your tootsies.
  1. When you choose a color, take into account your skin tone as well as the color of the background behind you. You want some contrast with both.
  2. I must be a rule-breaker. I’ve been known to wear red when I’m speaking, even though some experts recommend against red, especially for women. The research says scarlet signals sexual availability; it stirs up the men in the audience and makes the women want to take you down a peg.
(I’d guess there’s an age factor involved though; at some point those reactions might fade. It may be that I’m past that point …)
  1. You have to be able to move freely when you’re speaking. A jacket that’s too tight, pants that don’t quite fit, high heels that hurt…they’ll make you look uncomfortable. And thanks to mirror neurons, if your audience picks up on that, it will make them uncomfortable too.
  2. In the interest of appearing slim, smooth and bulge-free, many speakers swear by Spanx. Most of them are women.
  3. And then there’s this. If you’re a woman you’ll need more make-up than you typically wear so that people past the first few rows can see your facial expressions. That might mean darker eyebrows, more vivid lipstick, extra mascara or maybe false eyelashes. (Think theater and the way actors use stage make-up.)
Even for men, a touch of make-up may be in order when you speak. (Does that make you go, “Ewwww?”) Lipstick that’s a shade darker than your actual lips and some brown eyebrow pencil will give your face some much-needed definition.
The bigger the room you speak in, the more this is an issue. Have someone stand as far away from you as the back row; if they can read your expressions, you’re fine. If not, you need some enhancement. You can go to any cosmetics department or ask your sister or significant other for some help.
  1. At the risk of sounding like their mother, I’m often telling clients, “Get your hair out of your face.” If you’ve ever heard me talk about delivery skills, you know I think eye contact is a speaker’s most powerful tool.
And I mean full-frontal eye contact—your whole face shining on your audience. Hair that’s draped across one eye, long bangs, even locks along the side of your face, close to your cheeks, will interfere. And you’ll miss an opportunity to connect fully with the people on either side of you.
  1. I’ve heard from women waiting eagerly for the panty-line-pay-off. The subject came up in the video you saw last week, and I never did give you whole story. So here it is.
Yes, you can go commando, as someone suggested to me. And I guess a thong would work. But you might react to those ideas the way I do: “Not in this lifetime.” Then check out Soma’s Vanishing Edge Panties. Seriously. They make a remarkable difference.

Maybe you have a suggestion of your own to share, or a question about how to dress for a particular presentation? Share it in the comments below.