18-point clothing checklist for every speaker

Will your jewelry make noise? Will the pattern on your shirt be distracting? Consider these points and more before your next speech or presentation.


When you choose what to wear for a speaking engagement or presentation, what goes into your thinking?

Too many speakers don’t think about their clothing; they choose colors they like versus colors that work well for their coloring or the setting, be it a speech before 1,000 people or an interview in a television studio.

The setting, your movements during the talk, your technology, and other factors can all affect the choices you make from your closet.

I started this list with the wardrobe questions from my popular checklist for the whole speaker, then added more items to make it a comprehensive checklist on how your clothing appears when you speak or present. Once you get used to working your way through this checklist, you’ll find yourself automatically making smarter wardrobe choices for your speaking engagements and presentations. This checklist works for men and women.

1. Are my clothes clean, pressed and mended? Will they likely look wrinkled after a short time?

2. Do my clothes suit the occasion at which I’m speaking? Think in terms of formality, what the audience will be wearing, and the event itself.

3. Do my clothes fit me?

4. Is my outfit comfortable from head to toe?

5. Will my outfit allow me to do things like crawl under a table to plug in a cord, or reach high to point at a chart?

6. Have I rehearsed my presentation movements and gestures while wearing my intended outfit?

7. Am I using color to my advantage? Will it help me stand out in the setting, or work against me?

8. Is there anything about my outfit that will distract me or my audience? If so, can I make a change?

9. If I plan to gesture, have I removed rings and bracelets that may be visible or audible distractions?

10. If I will wear a lavalier microphone, do I have a lapel or collar on which to clip it? Will it be easy to hide the wire under my jacket and clip the pack on my waistband or pocket?

11. If I stand behind a lectern or sit behind a skirted table, have I focused attention and color near my face?

12. Which parts of my outfit will the audience see? For example, small jewelry might not be visible, and the audience will focus more attention on your upper torso and face.

13. If I’m on a panel, will the table be skirted? Will I be sitting in a big armchair? Have I thought about how my outfit will look when I’m seated and facing the audience?

14. If I have white, gray, light or no hair, am I wearing a dark suit to bring my face into focus?

15. Am I wearing French blue near my face (shirt, scarf or tie)? This color flatters all skin tones.

16. Have I inquired about the color of the background that will be behind me so I can make sure my suit doesn’t blend in or clash?

17. If my talk will be recorded on video-whether on television or for another purpose-have I avoided wearing clothes that will:

  • Appear to bleed at the edges on camera, like a red jacket?
  • Draw the viewers’ focus away from my face, like a white shirt?
  • Look like they are moving on their own, like a checked or plaid jacket?

18. If I’m going to walk in and around the audience, have I considered what will be visible to someone who’s seated in front of or behind me?

Denise Graveline is the president of don’t get caught, a communications consultancy. She also writes The Eloquent Woman blog, where a version of this article originally ran.

Topics: PR

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