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Personal Appearance


Techniques Public speaking > Preparing Yourself > Personal Appearance

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



When doing a presentation or making a speech, it is more than the words that is important in persuading your audience.


Make sure you are scrupulously clean. Shower. Trim and scrub your nails. Take a haircut. Brush and set it well. If you have facial hair, trim it neatly. Shave well.


A simple rule is 'Dress to impress', which means what you should wear can can vary greatly with your audience.  Consider your audience and think about what would make them think well of you and respect your opinion. A way of doing this is to consider what they will be wearing and then dress a bit smarter (but not a lot smarter).

If in doubt, wear dark colors. A simple pattern that often works is a dark or black suit, buttoned up over a white or pale shirt with a simple tie or neck scarf. This can work well for both men and women.

Use lighter colors and more casual wear to set a relaxed atmosphere. Brighter colors can be more exciting and energetic.

A woman may use 'power' colors such as a strong blue or red in appropriate situations such as a political rally (where she can be picked out from a long way off) or in a business setting.

It is almost always a good idea to use clean, crisp clothes and avoid old and tired ones. Keep jewellery simple or do not wear any. Use scent sparingly.

Wear clothes appropriate to your body shape and age. If you are a bit older, do not fall into the 'mutton dressed as lamb' trap of wearing clothes that are too young for you.


I am speaking to a group of engineers on a technical topic. They will be wearing jeans and T-shirt. I wear smart jeans and a white shirt with no tie.


One of the most powerful negative emotions is disgust, which will turn people off you and which may be triggered by any lack of cleanliness they see.

A suit in a factory setting could distance you from the workers there. However, wearing a boiler suit or torn jeans might look false. People look up to others who are similar, but within reach such that the listeners can empathize and think they could possibly be that speaker.

The reason to wear a dark suit is that black is a receding color and is noticed less. A white or pale shirt forms a triangle with your face, where you want your audience to attend.

Power dressing is appropriate when power will impress, such as in a high-level business setting. It is a particularly male thing to play games of status and they will likely pay attention more to someone they see as superior and ignore those who seem inferior.

See also

The Meaning of Color

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