March 7, 2012

Wear a looser dress



Photo courtesy of fixedgear
On last week's American Idol, the top 12 women performed. One singer, Baylie Brown, wore a lovely and flattering dress, but after her performance, confessed that it was too tight. She said that she had had trouble breathing and that she could feel her heartbeat.

Host Ryan Seacrest spoke to judge Jennifer Lopez after the performance and asked what could be done in this situation. Jennifer's "duh" response: "Wear a looser dress."

It's tempting, when preparing for that next performance or speaking engagement, to put too much emphasis on our appearance, at the risk of sacrificing comfort and ease . After all, we're told that it takes somewhere between three and 30 seconds to make a first impression (where exactly is the science on that?), and we don't want to blow it.

I wrote a post a couple of years ago inspired by Tim Gunn's quote, "Physical comfort is overrated." And I agree that he has a point... to a point. If discomfort gets in the way of your presentation, you will not be able to focus on your audience and getting your message across. In the case of Baylie Brown, her too-tight dress not only distracted her, but literally impeded her breathing. If you're a singer or a speaker, you better be able to take a breath.

I recently read a blog post with some great public speaking tips to make you stand out at work. Most I agreed with. We got some style tips, too, which included dressing up (okay), wearing a supportive bra (hell yes), wearing false eyelashes (wha...?) and "High heels are a must." And I had to wonder... for whom?

My job as a speaker entails being able to stand in front of an audience for anywhere from ten minutes to six hours. I'm really supposed to wear high heels because "it’s not how you feel, it’s how you tower?" My personality is towering enough, thank you very much.

Take the time to look your best, in whatever way works for you and is appropriate for your audience. But don't let vanity get in the way of your performance. Remember: It's not about you, it's about the audience.

There is no benefit to the audience (besides amusement) if you look great, but hobble around on painful stilts with spiky lashes poking you in the eye and your dress so tight you pass out from lack of oxygen.

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