The Art of Persuasion Found In How You Look
In this post, we continue on about how you look when speaking.
I’m reminded of that Dilbert cartoon that says “There are four personality types: Ugly Smart, Cute Smart, Ugly Stupid, Cute Stupid…you figure out which box you’re in.” You look the way you look. Yet there are aspects of your appearance that you have some control of, short of cosmetic surgery.
It was in the early years of my speaking and training career that I learned to always dress a little nicer than the people in my audience. (I still find occasion to point this out to some of my more casual audiences, and then I point at myself and add the comment, “So what does this say about you?”) It’s not that hard to dress a little better than your audience. And it really can make an impression. The organizing ideal is to be ‘easy on the eyes.’ It’s a fact that people do judge a book by it’s cover and you never get a second chance to make a first impression. If you dress a little nicer than your audience, it conveys the idea (true or not) that you are a successful person. If you dress down from them, you may dismiss what you say because they feel superior to you. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it’s a useful guide for people who make presentations.
Does the color of your clothing say anything worth hearing? It surely can. You can use color for effect in the clothing choices you make. To convey authority, image consultants say to wear dark colors, or the colors found in uniforms (Navy, black, olive.) In the early years of my speaking career, at a time when people questioned my youthful appearance (How I long for those days, but alas, they appear to be gone!) I used the colors of authority to important effect. I got tired of answering the question, ‘How old are you?’ as if wisdom comes from age and someone young as me couldn’t have anything worthwhile to say.
Now I’m older. (Not that old!) I’ve changed it up. I want to appear youthful to balance out my silvery hair. After all, who wants to listen to some old guy who may be out of touch with a changing world! As the audience gets younger, vitality is key. To convey vitality, wear vibrant colors (think autumn leaves and primary colors.)
There are occasions when you want people to take you seriously right off the bat. Black is the darkest and most authoritative color. On some people it doesn’t work at all. If you already have a lot of gravitas, you need a lighter look. If you have a tendency to seem a little lightweight in the gravitas department, because you’re very playful and easy to like, or have an irrepressible sense of humor that lightens people up whether they want to lighten up or not (Dr. K, I’m looking at you!) you can ground yourself in black. Of course, black for formal events ALWAYS is a good choice. So is white.
When you stand up in front of a group to speak, give them something to look at, but don’t make a spectacle of yourself!
After you’ve had a look at what I have to say on the subject, I’d like to look at your comments! I’ll be back in a couple of days with more about looking and speechmaking.