Your Image From the Platform

by Lilly Walters

Secrets of Successful Speakers -
How You Can Motivate, Captivate and Persuade"

(McGraw Hill, 1993).

Chosen as a major selection by Fortune Book Club, and a selection of Book-of-the-Month Club and Business Week Book Club. In 1996 it was selected as one of the top most valuable books ever written from professional speakers. For more of the top products for professional speakers, go to or call 909-398-1228, ALL material below is (c) Lilly Walters, 1996, and may not be duplicated in anyway without written permission., Phone 909-398-1228, PO Box 1120, Glendora, CA, USA, 91740-1120

What makes you attractive on the platform? Here are some tips from the masters of the spoken word about your clothes, mannerisms, and your image form the inside out. Secrets have been included in this article from these Masters of the Spoken Word: Dr. Ken Blanchard, Harvey Diamond, Bobbie Gee, Hermine Hilton, Danielle Kennedy, Stew Leonard, Jr., Dr. Layne Longfellow, W Mitchell, Mona Moon, Judi Moreo, Tom Ogden, Dr. Terry Paulson, Rosita Perez, and Gene Perret.

"More often than not a speaker's image will remain in a person's mind long after the words have been forgotten. You can never be over dressed or too polite. It sends a message of the respect you hold for your audience."

Harvey Diamond, Author "Fit For Life", Lecturer, Wellness Pioneer


How To Decide On Your Personal Image

Whenever you see pictures in magazines and newspapers, which ever image makes you stop and think, 'I like that!', then clip them out. I keep mine in a folder in my desk. Before I go out to buy an outfit, I review the pictures in my folder. Think about the mood you want to create with the presentation. Do you want this audience to feel interactive and warm? Do you have enough time to establish your expertise? Will your power image need to say it all? How much authority do you really want to exude? Look at the pictures you have collected and decide which images match the ambiance you want to create. What they don't teach you in image seminars is that everybody's idea of "power" is different. When I do my seminar, I show a series of slides, with two people in each slide. I use the slide to show what subtle differences in dressing and image does to the perspective of power. The first time I used these slides in a seminar was a real adventure. I put the first slide up and asked the audience, who of the two people in this photograph has the greatest authority? To me, it was crystal clear. But my audience was split right in half! This was not the point I was trying to make at all. Luckily I had two more slides - I tried again. Same result. Half agreed with me, the other half thought the other person in the slide had more power. Same thing happened with the third slide! Every time I do the seminar I get the same result. I have no doubts in my mind which of the people has a greater 'power' image. It came as a shock to me that once you get past some rather basic rules of image - dark suit, solid colors, clean, ironed, etc., the rest is up for grabs.

So what is a "power" image for speakers? It's whatever makes you feel like a presenter who can move and motivate an audience.


Tips for Fabulous Fashion in the Footlights

Fashion in the footlights is not governed by the same rules that tell us what is appropriate fashion when we are one-on-one. As a presenter, you need to dress for success from across the room. When you try on the clothes you are considering using on the platform, do you stand about five feet from your mirror as you review your image? I always did. Until it hit me one day. The audience will be 10 to several hundred feet away! Lines, colors and images change drastically when seen from a distance - as your audience sees you. Walk way across the room from your mirror. Walk as far as the majority of your listeners are from you on the platform, and then decide if you like what you see. Men, that patterned tie looks great up close. But it confuses your audiences eyes from a distance and distracts from their concentration on your topic.

"I watched a famous woman golfer speak once. She carried a huge white handbag loaded with junk and plunked it on the lectern. We looked at it throughout her presentation. I don't remember a word she said, but I do remember the handbag."

- Judi Moreo



How Much Authority Do You Want Your image to Generate?

Before we go on with tips on how to create an authority or power image from the platform, ask yourself, "How much power and authority do I want my appearance to generate?" If you project too much "authority", your listeners will never "know how much you care" because they'll assume you're not the caring type. Authoritative people seem to create that kind of environment. So, you may want to dress with less than the look of The Absolute Authority. Still, you need to know what the rules are of creating an authority power image before you can break them Š or before you decide if you want to break them. If you're presenting for only an hour, you don't have as long to build credibility with people. You need to rely on your image more heavily to help you establish credibility. If you have several hours, it won't matter how good your image is. If you don't follow the other steps in growing this tree, your listeners will see right through the temporary effect you create with your image.


Tips On Creating an Authority/Power Image For Men

John T. Molloy author of the world famous book, Dress For Success said in a keynote I heard , "There are only three appropriate colors for men in a business setting - 'dull, dark and drab.' I think a step or so beyond Mr. Molloy's "Drab" category is acceptable. A good quality suit, perhaps just a shade or so lighter than the traditional dark grey, black or dark blue, but still within that realm of "dull and dark" can be very nice and at the same time help the speaker stand out on the platform. If you have any doubts as to what the standard traditional "success" look is, see Mr. Molloy's Dress for Success.


Tips On Creating an Authority/Power Image For Women

Women have a tougher time than men figuring out what to wear in a business setting. Since the turn of the century, men have been wearing "dull, dark, drab" trousers, vest, and jacket. Sure, the lapels and tails changed slightly, but a man's suit has hardly changed at all compared with women's fashions. At the turn of the century, women wore Victorian bustles, huge hats with feathers, ribbons, and stuffed birds draped in odd places - over their shoulders and on their heads. Not what you see walking into the boardroom today! Men have only worn "dull, dark, drab," this entire century. Women have been appropriate in the entire color spectrum. So as we have entered the business world, it has made it hard for us to decide what is acceptable to wear. Here are a few quick guidelines:


Power Image Tips For the "First Impression"

Image is based on people's first impression assumptions (which, by the way, are often wrong.) Your performance on stage will change their "first impression" anyway Š but it won't hurt to try and create a good first impression that might help get your message home. Here are a few ideas on image assumptions you may not have thought of:


Using Color To Persuade and Enhance Your Image

A Munich Psychological Institute study showed that children improved their I.Q. scores if they were tested in rooms painted with "happy" colors: light blue, yellow and orange. But those who were tested in rooms painted in "ugly" colors - black, brown and white - got lower scores. You can use color psychology to help create moods within your audiences too. First, decide how much authority and power you want to create, then use color as tool to help you achieve it. You can use color in the room and in your materials as well as in your clothes.


Color Meanings


Choosing the Type and Color of Material For Your Clothes

Patterns make your eyes blink. Every time your eye blinks, it takes away from the brain's concentration on the topic. When we look at you from across the room, we should see you, not your necklace, tie or jewelry. Don't buy fabrics that have a shine or glimmer under bright lights. (Beware - lights in department stores, are not the same type that hit you on stage.) Be careful or you will be shining a light into your audience's eyes, almost like a mirror. Instead, buy material with subdued colors and solid patterns. A very subtle pattern or a very light pin strip is acceptable.


"People tell me again and again my wheelchair and my unique physical appearance pretty much disappears. My movement back and forth across the stage are just one more sign that helps convey that although I am disabled I am not unable."

- W Mitchell, motivational speaker and author


Coordinate Your Colors With More Than Just Your Hair and Skin Colors

You decide on a dark blue suit, light blue shirt, solid steel blue tie. Now you walk out in front of the audience in front of that dark blue backdrop. Lights! Camera! Action! Š and you disappear! Great for a magic show. Not so good for a business presentation. To avoid this, wear a color that makes you stand out from the background. Try to coordinate your colors so you don't clash with the room color.

How do you know what the room color will be? Before you get dressed - preferably the night before - check out your entire room set-up, including room color. If this is impossible, bring two suits, a dark and a light.


My choice of clothing comes from a heart decision. What can I wear today to make my audience feel good about me and about themselves? I want my clothes to merely be a frame around the love that permeates from my heart."

- Danielle Kennedy, M.A., Professional speaker, author of "Selling the Danielle Kennedy Way"


It's Hard to Persuade Anyone When Your Feet Hurt

Wear "wearable" clothes. Try your outfit on for a nice long period, at least as long as the presentation. If it's a several day presentation, one day is enough. If you're pulling at your drawers, or cringing every time you take a step because your shoes are too tight, you won't have the concentration to be able to persuade your audience to do anything. Your focus turns from them to yourself. Women have a more difficult time than men when it comes to shoes. Men wear shoes that are meant to be walked in. Women have been taught that high heels are "the thing" for the well dressed business-woman. If you can stand in high heels from sunup 'till sundown and not feel excruciating pain, your feet don't have nerve endings or you're a masochist! Ladies, let's be honest, there is only one reason to wear high heels Š they make our calves look thinner. But no presenter has ever told me, "I had them in the palm of my hand! Persuaded and motivated! Suddenly, someone looked at my legs and said, 'Oh heavens! She has heavy calves! How can she possibly know what she's talking about?" I, on the other hand, have taken a stand for women's rights. I just don't care how heavy my calves look when I'm on the platform (when I'm on a date it's a different story!) When I'm giving a full day session I've decided to wear shoes I can walk, move and be energetic in all day long. True, adrenaline will often carry me through the first day, regardless of how uncomfortable I am. But at the end of that day I have sat in my hotel room in tears because of my silly vain choice of shoes. Day two was not a pretty picture. Mona Moon, has a clever trick. She has a set of high heels which she wears until lunch. She buys flats in the same material which she slips on for the afternoon. No one - but me - seemed to notice. Nice compromise, smart idea.


"Never wear white shoes - unless you want your audience to look at your feet the entire presentation."- Bobbie Gee


Match the Meeting's Ambiance

If they're having a Western Hoe-down, or a Hawaiian luau, dress to match the mood. You look pretty silly if you come out in a tux and they have jeans and cowboy boots on. It's important for the speaker to help the meeting planner create the mood and environment for their event. Find out what the majority of your audience will be wearing - and dress just a tad nicer. Don't give all of your authority away by dressing "too casually", but don't spoil their fun either. Just because it's at the beach and they will be wearing bathing suits, does not mean you should! You should be in a casual outfit, perhaps a muslin type Caribbean looking suit. (Men, this might be a great time to pull those white suits out of storage!)


"I come dressed up, but I'm ready to dress down to make a human connection to the audience. The first impression should match your introduction and the credibility you want to build. Even when I'm told to dress casual, I start off in a suit and take off my coat after they know I have one! Once you have connected with an audience, they won't care what you look like. But 30% of an audience can be so image-oriented that inappropriate attire can turn them off in a way you will never be able to recover. Never be afraid to ask what is appropriate and then, as a rule of thumb go one step up from what they ask for."

- Terry L. Paulson, Ph.D., CSP, CPAE, Psychologist and Professional Speaker, author of "They Shoot Managers, Don't They?"


Make Up (Gentlemen, don't skip this section!)

Yes, I mean you too. The tiniest bit of oil in your skin looks very shiny to the audience and in photographs. A bit of face power every hour of so does wonders. If you have never purchased face power, go to any department store that has a make-up counter. Men, just look helpless and explain to the nice attendant you are a presenter - you need something to cut the glare under the lights. They'll be very understanding and helpful.


"I often use a light amount of face make up on my nose and temples, especially if there is a spot light, I never use a lip gloss, it looks like lip stick. If I'm playing to a crowd of 2,000 or more, eye liner. Wives or girl friends will love to give you lessons.

- Tom Ogden Master Magician and comedian


How To Hide Nervous Shaking

Even tried and true masters of the platform can loose their control and start to shake. Not a good image enhancement technique. Here are a few tricks to help you appear normal in an abnormal situation.

"Clothes should match the audience. You can choose your clothes and you can train your voice, but your personality is best the opposite -- unchosen, untrained, natural."

- Dr. Layne Longfellow president of Lecture Theatre


Image - From the inside Out

It's good to get rid of the obvious habits that might distract listeners. However, all image problems are just symptoms of how you feel about yourself. The presenters who have the greatest impact on their audiences follow very few of the traditional "rules" of image. Tom Peters paces back and forth across the stage and often looks like he slept in his clothes. Ken Blanchard often wears a sports coat. Hermine Hilton a memory expert, wears pants instead of a skirt and her hair often looks like she forgot to brush it when she got up that morning. Yet all three leave their audiences wanting more and raving about their fantastic impact. If you have an obvious "flaw" in your image, i.e.: "too fat," "icky voice," "too short," "handicapped," not "educated enough," please understand, the audience is not very concerned about you. They are concerned about what you are going to do to make them feel better. Consider your impression of the following list of presenters - did their "flaws" effect the brilliance of their presentations

"You know what happens, people get too worried with this looking like a professional speaker deal. Everybody tells you, 'Here's how to give an executive presentation ' and 'You're suppose to wear a blue suit and red tie.' And you know what happens? Here's a lively, colorful, dynamite person that is stuffed into this square box. All the enthusiasm and excitement is just drained right out of them. You should try to look nice up there, but more important, look like you."

- Stew Leonard Jr., President of "Stew Leonards" in Connecticut (Featured in "In Search of Excellence" by Tom Peters


ALL material above is (c) Lilly Walters, 1996, and may not be duplicated in anyway without written permission., Phone 818-335-8069, Fax 818-335-6127, PO Box 1120, Glendora, CA, USA, 91740-1120


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