When I first started public speaking I was, understandably nervous. I had a story to tell and generous kind people gave me the chance to tell it. However, I was a novice at the whole etiquette of public speaking and I made a number of mistakes purely through lack of knowledge.
I thought that sharing some of my costume disasters might save any of you budding speakers from the embarrassment I experienced!
We have all heard the phrase, "First impressions count" but you may not realise just how important those first impressions are. Human beings make a judgement about each other within five seconds of meeting. An audience will process how you look and sound the moment you walk onto the stage.
(picture permission courtesy of sarah vitale)
How NOT to impress with dress
Wearing my flatteringly beautiful but toweringly high fashion heels on stage for one event was a very, very painful experience. Half an hour into my talk and my feet were killing me. I was also gingerly moving around the stage for fear of the ultimate mortification of falling over. Following the speech I had an agonizing further hour of mingling with the guests. This was only made possible by taking pain killers and smiling grimly through the pain I vowed never to wear such high heels on stage again.
Lesson take away- wear a much lower heel on stage. With flat shoes you risk skidding on the floor (unless they have tread) and high heels hurt!
Glamorous can be noisy
I once wore a lovely gold necklace that reached to my waist. It set my outfit off perfectly but I had forgotten about the microphone. As I moved around the stage every clank and sound the necklace made was picked up by the microphone. It sounded like a scene from Cool Hand Luke and I was part of the chain gang.
My next accessory disaster was with a lovely pair of dangly earrings. They too turned out to have their own musical sound, plus one got tangled up in the head microphone, literally stuck. It was no mean feat to continue speaking while trying to extricate the earring from the mic without damaging the earring, the mic or my earlobe!
Lesson take away - jewellery should be discreet, understated and kept under control.
Technology has come a long way for speakers on stage. You are not often likely to be holding a microphone any more - it is going to be discreetly attached to you. Discreetly, oh dear! I once turned up to an event dressed in a simple, elegant dress and was confronted by a rather handsome young man who was supposed to "mic me up". This meant him trying to get the mic lead down, and then up, my dress! I eventually had to retire to the ladies loo to undo the entire dress and place the wire myself.
Lesson take away - look at your speaking outfit- where is the microphone going to be attached- change outfit if required!
Real life lessons can be laughed at afterwards but at the time the embarrassment of being incorrectly dressed for an important function can ruin the event. Public speaking can be nerve wracking and the last thing you need is to feel less than confident about how you look. This does not mean you have to be a fashion model or dressed head to toe in Versace. The audience are there to hear your message, to be inspired by your passion. What you need to ensure is that your appearance does not distract from your speech.
I have covered some do's and don'ts of creating good first impressions when speaking in this weeks' blog post on my site."First Impressions Count"
I would love to hear of any costume disaster you have learned from. Do leave a comment below.