Dressing and speaking the part

First impressions are important even when giving a speech

Public speaking is comprised of different things – what you say, how you say it and how you present yourself.

You’ve heard people say that first impressions are important. While I’m not suggesting that they outweigh other things, there is some truth to it.

How we dress and present ourselves when delivering a speech does play a crucial role in conveying a statement about who we are.

What statement are you making?

Even when unconscious of it, we are sending off signals and making ensuing statements.

If you have ever seen the 2006  Hollywood film The Pursuit of Happyness, there is an unforgettable scene in which Will Smith’s character shows up to a job interview wearing a tank top under a paint-splattered jacket and jeans. Luckily, he is able to redeem himself by the end of the interview using his quick wit and charm.

If I had been in his shoes, I’m not confident that I could have pulled that off. In fact, I know I couldn’t.

When I’m delivering a speech at my Toastmaster club, I dress more formally than I do for some club meetings. I’ll select a dressy pair of shoes, possibly a necklace and do my hair differently (if I want to take it a step further!)

For other meetings, I let the role I have for the evening help me determine what to wear.

Toastmaster is a dignified role, while quizmaster is a light, fun role at the end of the night.

For the majority of people, putting some effort into our clothing choice when speaking publicly is a good thing, whether it’s for a job interview, a Toastmaster meeting or a professional speech of some kind, dressing appropriately for your audience is always advisable.

Your speech delivery and attire impart a message to your audience. What do you want it to be?


Tasha Waite is a member of Thunderbird Toastmasters Victoria. The club can be reached online at thunderbirdtoastmasters.org.



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