For the past two years I have had the opportunity to see many professional speakers, corporate entertainers and corporate trainers perform and deliver great speeches and training programs to both small and big audiences. Like many speakers I too try to developed and create awesome messages that will inspire others to live better lives. Most speakers labor over every word in a speech in order that these messages will penetrate hearts and change lives for the better. They spend hours in crafting a new message. Once the speech is to their liking they practice the delivery of the speech in front of a mirror, in front of family and friends, and even record themselves to make sure that everything is perfect. I guess you could call speakers perfectionists. So why then, after all the meticulous preparation, do I see speakers and presenters fail in matching their personal style to their message and audience?
I am stunned when I see presenters and speakers go on stage with a bad suit, pants to long, too big, shoes not shined, shirts too small, ties not properly tied. Why spend so much time preparing the perfect speech if you are going to go out in front of your audience not looking your very best?
I have identified three reasons for people’s lack of style:
Fear of the Fashion Police. No one wants to be judged or criticized for wearing the wrong item of clothing. In reality its better to try a new look or improve upon your current look than to not do anything at all.
Comfort: We live in a comfort-based society. People want to dress for comfort. Who said that dressing up was uncomfortable? Not me.
Budget: People say that dressing up is too expensive. To remedy this myth shop at outlets, discount stores or thrift stores.
Finding a style is like preparing the perfect speech. You have to spend time thinking about what you are going to wear. What are you trying to communicate with your style? Does your style match your personality? Does it match the setting and your audience? You must be as detail oriented in your personal appearance as you are about your message. Look your very best because your personality isn’t the first thing people see. Take the time to match your style to your message and audience. Show people that you care enough about them to look your best. Make certain that dressing for comfort does not turn into looking sloppy because that is never ok. Notice that I am not saying that you need to suit up. NO, just match your style to your message and audience.
Three years ago, while working as a sales representative in the medical device industry, I found myself waiting in the executive lobby at a hospital. Two men walked in and sat next to me. One of the men was an older gentleman and he was dressed to the nines. The other was younger, maybe mid-twenties and dressed horribly. His suit was too big and old. His white shirt stopped being white, and his shoes were scuffed and not shined. The older gentlemen excused himself and headed for the bathroom. I debated quietly to myself as to whether I should say something to this young kid. I decided to talk to him. I introduced myself and after some small talk I asked him what his career goals were. He mentioned that he was working for a prominent bank and wanted to climb the corporate ladder to the top. I told him how awesome I felt it was that he was focused and driven in excelling in his career goals, but I followed it up with saying “no one will take you seriously.” He replied with, “What?!” and I repeated, “No one at your bank is going to take you seriously because of the way you are dressed. Talking with you I get that you are a smart guy and that you are driven to succeed, but you need to make some changes to your wardrobe.” By now his older colleague had returned from the bathroom and was sitting quietly listening to me lay into this kid. As the young kid was about to start arguing with me the older gentlemen interrupted him and said, “You better listen to what he just said to you because he is right.” Whew that could have gone either way. Several days later I took this young executive shopping and I gave him a great makeover. He is now matching his style to his message and audience with confidence.
I also recently had the opportunity of speaking to my good friend Wade. Wade is a real estate agent and he helped me sell my first home and buy my second home. As far as I am concerned Wade is the best in the business. He is extremely sharp and much focused on his customer’s needs and wants. Having said that, Wade had no clue as to how to dress when he was showing homes to my wife and I. Don’t get me wrong–I didn’t expect that he would wear a suit and tie, after all we are good friends. But I did expect a certain level of professionalism. I made several comments to my wife Selina about how much more business Wade could have if he just upped his game a bit. So I finally decided to call Wade and invite him out to lunch. After some small talk about our families and how much I was enjoying our new home, I dropped the bomb and in no uncertain terms I told wade that his fashion sense sucked. I told him that I believed that if he changed his style that his business would improve and that he would land more referrals and sell more expensive homes. I think he was a bit choked, but he agreed that his fashion sense was not the greatest and that he had been thinking about making changes but did not know where to start. He mentioned that he follows my “the walking Fashion show” page on Face book.
We set up a time for me to take a look at his closet and when I showed up he had everything laid on the bed. We went through every item and he donated several shirts and pants to thrift stores. I have to say that Wade did not have much left in his closet. The first day we shopped together I had him try on some slim jeans–I think he thought I was nuts. I told him these are slim–not skinny. Some women shoppers saw him go in to the dressing room and when he came out with his slim jeans and new shirt they nodded in approval. Wade looked awesome!
Let’s remember that we should dress the way we want to be addressed. I know from experience that when we match our style to our message and audience people will see you in a different light, they will hear your message loud and clear. I have been talking about Living the Life You’ve Imagined for years without much success. Now that my style matches my message and audience my message is resonating with people. They see me in a different light. People are listening to my message. Remember that your style is the introduction to your audience.