Thursday, September 15, 2016

My favorite fixes for public speaking: Don't wear all black

As a speaker coach, it's my job to keep a lot of tools in my toolbox to help my clients improve their public speaking. But just like any craftsman, I have a few go-to tools, well-worn from frequent use. This is the fourth in a series of five favorite fixes I turn to all the time. Each one sounds simple, but confers a complex array of benefits to public speakers...if only you will do them. I'm sharing each favorite fix along with the types of speakers who might benefit most from them. You'll get the best results if you try them not once, but over a period of time.

This week's favorite fix is to avoid wearing all black. Speakers are happy to stand alone on a stage in front of hundreds or people, or say provocative things in their speeches and presentations. But many of them do their hiding with their wardrobe, blending into the background in all-black or predominantly black outfits, for reasons that range from "It will make me look thinner" to "It will make me look more serious."

But what it makes you look is invisible. And is that why you bothered to get up on that stage or in front of the room? You might get lucky and have a pale background against which to stand, but why take a chance? Black also does little to complement your skin and face. And this one goes for men as well as women, no matter how often Steve Jobs wore it.

Really, almost any color will do instead, although you'll want to avoid lighter or pastel shades and pure white; the former wash out under the lights, and the latter is a lighting director's nightmare. Instead aim for jewel tones and other saturated colors like a French blue, navy, emerald, ruby.

This is a good fix for speakers who want to look more lively and energetic; speakers who want to stand out against the background, rather than blend in with it; and speakers who want the video of their talks to really shine.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Florian Richter)

Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of SpeechIt's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both, and you'll get the best discount if you sign up by August 1.