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03 Jan


Dress to Impress

January 3, 2013 | By |

Don’t judge a book by its cover…

Well maybe we shouldn’t but we all do. It’s natural, when we meet someone, our primal instinct kicks in ensuring we assess people for any hint of imminent danger. Whether we’re aware of it or not our eyes see it all and we can make quite instant impressions based on a ton of information being processed unconsciously.

Those times we ‘just get a funny feeling’ about someone is usually because certain indicators we are not consciously aware of are setting off alarm bells in our brains, reminding us to keep the barriers up until we get more information. Maybe once you get to know the person, you realise your concerns were groundless but sometimes you realise you were right all along. However it turns out, what it means, is there was something about the way this person looked or behaved which felt wrong.  YOU have the power of your own first impression. Before you even get to utter your opening words, you are being sussed out. While your physical presentation is only one part of the ‘performance’ it can be immensely beneficial to know how to optimise it and why.

When people use the word POWER dressing, for me in conjures up images of women in bright red jackets with Eighties style shoulder pads. Somehow it doesn’t seem so current. However, how you dress DOES determine how powerful you FEEL, how powerfully you BEHAVE and how powerful you APPEAR. This doesn’t have to translate into something domineering or overbearing. It simply means a sense of rightful confidence that emanates out to the audience.

Dressing powerfully – what does it do? 

  1. Makes you feel confident. It’s also a costume for a role you are undertaking and a reminder of being in character – that character of a brilliantly confident speech giver!
  2. It lets your audience know you are taking yourself and THEM seriously, that they are worthy of the effort. They will be more likely to return the favour and take YOU seriously.
  3. Someone who looks suave/chic/well -presented immediately looks competent and capable. Competent and capable looking people inspire faith and trust. It gives added credence to the things you say.
Dressing powerfully – how to do it? 

  1. As obvious as this might seem, it begins at the most basic level. Good hygiene. Even if you are on a stage away from your audience, poor preparation will eat away at your confidence. Be clean, fresh, and well groomed. Look at you hair. Does it say neat, tidy and organised, or does it say too busy/lazy to do much with it? Ask yourself how you want to be perceived and your answers will tell you what you need to do.
  2. Know your audience. You don’t have to wear a suit to dress powerfully. If you are speaking to a group of teenagers then in order to engage them they need to relate to you. While I don’t suggest wearing low hanging jeans and trainers, find a middle-ground. You need them to take you seriously without alienating them.
  3. Know what works for you. There is no point feeling trussed up like a Christmas turkey. However important your speech might be, you need to feel comfortable to deliver it effectively. Go window shopping, try on different outfits, take photos in the changing room mirror and seek opinions from friends whose style you admire.

Next time you see Barrack Obama making a speech, imagine him unshaven, in a pair of baggy, threadbare pyjama bottoms and a faded T shirt with sweat patches at the arm pits. This man runs America! Makes you realise how just how powerful a suit can be….

For more information about public speaking and presentation skills go to