What feedback do you most want to receive after you’ve delivered your TEDx talk?

I’m guessing it would be something along the lines of what the audience heard, experienced and are going to do as a result of hearing you.

I’m guessing you would not most want the feedback to be about what you were wearing to deliver your talk. Because that would most likely mean (whether the feedback was “good” or “bad”) that your outfit distracted from your message.

I’ve seen too many speakers fall prey to that distraction – the silent nemesis that detracts from the message – when the message is supposed to carry the day.

“Long before you speak, you announce yourself.”

This quote by Alison Lurie, Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and author of The Language of Clothes, rings especially true when you take the stage to give your TEDx talk. In the context of TED, I would argue that you announce yourself in perpetuity, long after your live talk concludes.

As a soon to be TEDx speaker, you’ve invested a combination of heart, soul, intelligence and painstaking work into your talk. You’ve written. Rewritten. Rehearsed. You’re nearly ready.

And . . . weeks before you take the stage, whether you’re a man or a woman, no matter what your profession or field of study, you should be asking yourself, with a straight face, the following question:


What Am I Going to Wear Onstage?

Whether you already know what you’re wearing, whether you don’t believe what you wear is important, or whether you’re stressing over choosing the “right” outfit, research and common sense both reveal that we DO speak volumes before ever saying a word.

While those few seconds as you walk onto the stage before uttering a word are precious, this actually goes much deeper, and lasts much longer, than the critical first impression.

The last thing you want as you prepare to unveil the idea and share the stories that quite possibly represent the bulk of your life’s work, is for the message to be muffled by what you choose to wear.

Don’t Let This Silent Nemesis Distract You or Your Audience

I’ve seen too many speakers and audience members who never saw it coming. That uncomfortable feeling that something is “off.” Sometimes it’s obvious. Other times it’s so subtle it’s barely noticeable.

When what you wear onstage is not a “match” for you, it can affect not only how the audience sees and experiences your talk – but also how you feel and perform your talk. When I say not a “match” for you I mean, ultimately, that the outfit is not a true reflection OF YOU. When that happens, you and the audience both sense it – because it detracts from your message.

“Cognitive dissonance is that uncomfortable feeling you get when you try to maintain two or more inconsistent beliefs at the same time or when you believe one thing but act in a contradictory way.” Source

Practically speaking, detraction can happen if the color you choose washes you out, causes you to blend into the background, or looks a little weird on camera. Choosing a color that looks amazing on you requires a bit of careful work and thought – but it’s a relatively easy, tangible step you can take.

On a deeper level, if your outfit just doesn’t hit that right “note” for the event, for the audience, or for you . . . that’s a bit harder to quantify. It might look like dressing so casually or so blandly, the audience notices that before they hear what you’re saying. It might mean wearing something that is too loose, or too tight. It might look “fine” but just not feel right. And if something on stage doesn’t feel right, will you be able to give your best?

Investing the time and energy to make sure you DO hit the right note will make sure you show up in an outfit that supports you – and help you reap the rewards and tremendous honor of being a TEDx speaker that can last long after you conclude your talk and exit the stage.

Cognitive dissonance affects not only what the audience sees and experiences, but how YOU, the speaker, perform.

If you show up in an outfit that doesn’t support you and your Idea Worth Spreading, you will inadvertently give less than your very best. And if you happen to garner millions of views, you’ll hear about the discrepancies in perpetuity.

If your audience sees you wearing an outfit that is not a “match” for you, they will struggle to reconcile what they are seeing with what they are hearing.

The good news is, the effects of cognitive dissonance in this context are preventable, if you’re willing to trust yourself to show up in the “right” outfit.

If you want to learn more about the ins and outs, dos and don’ts, where to start and how to put together an outfit that absolutely supports and advances:

  • Who YOU are as a speaker
  • Your message and
  • The vibe of the event that’s fortunate to have you speak on it’s stage

I highly recommend my Digital Guide – Dress for TEDx Speaking Success: Garner trust and connect powerfully with your audience before you ever say a word – and long after you’ve left the stage.

Written for TEDx speakers and ANYONE who knows that part of their work in the world is to be visible: speaking onstage, facilitating workshops, making a difference through webinars – anywhere you are up in front of people sharing your message – this Digital Guide will help you gain maximum benefit from one of your most important visibility resources: your clothing.


Kathleen Audet

Image Consultant

Reno, NV

Sponsor for TEDxUniversityofNevada

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *