How to Dress for Virtual Speaking Engagements

career advice image Mar 23, 2021
Woman surprised holding laptop

This post is written by guest contributor Cassandra Sethi, Personal Stylist + Founder of Next Level Wardrobe

With one in four adults continuing to work from home in 2021, learning to dress for virtual events has never been more important.

And while there’s no shortage of advice out there on how to dress for video calls, what people often overlook is one of the most important aspects of why you get dressed in the first place: setting an intention for your look. You want to spend some time thinking about what feeling you want to inspire in your audience — and most importantly, in yourself.

For virtual speaking engagements, in particular, giving some thought to how you want to show up is so important. After all, what you wear speaks as loudly as what you actually say. Creating a clear intention for the image you want to project will help you feel confident and focused and let your audience know they can trust you.

When planning an outfit for your virtual event, ask yourself these three questions:

1. How do you want to feel in my clothing?

Do you want to feel confident but comfortable? Bold and powerful? Think about colors you know you look great in and tried-and-true styles that work for you.

2.What do I want to communicate with my clothing?

Do you want to project authority or put people at ease with a more relaxed style? The message you want to send will influence your clothing choices, whether you pick a structured blazer and elegant blouse or a blazer with a tailored t-shirt and simple necklace. 

3. What’s the context of your virtual event?

What you wear to keynote an event for 100+ attendees will differ from what you wear for an important sales call with a big client and will differ still from what you’d wear for a Monday morning check-in with your team, so be sure to keep the context in mind.

After you’ve answered these key questions, you can then bring your style vision to life. By choosing an outfit that reflects your intentions, you’ll ensure that your clothes will support your message without distracting from it.

Now that you've set your intention keep these four things in mind when making your final wardrobe choices.

1.Get dressed from head to toe.

Tempting as it is to wear sweatpants, I recommend staying away from “above keyboard dressing.” 

Studies have found that dressing for success has a significant impact on our confidence, how others at work see us, and even on our own productivity. 

Your style can help you feel productive, motivated, and focused, especially when it comes to big events.

2. You can never go wrong with ‘core colors.’

Here is the hierarchy of color for your closet and how I suggest investing in items. The most important is the bottom section--core colors: black, gray, navy, and white.

Think of these as the unifying colors of your wardrobe; they’re classic, timeless, and universal. They also pair well with just about any other shade if you want to add a pop of color, leading me to my next point.

3. Create a statement look with accessories.

I often hear from my clients that they want to experiment with bolder colors and prints. 

If you have a solid foundation of core colors, you’re ready to incorporate prints and statement colors like red and cobalt blue. A great way to do this is also with your accessories.

For example, think colorful scarf, colorful or interesting earrings, and an eye-catching necklace, but remember, don't wear anything that makes a distracting noise. Also, consider your makeup. For me, I love a bold lip color!

These lower investment items are a great way to add character and support the message you want to send with your outfit. 

4. Don’t forget your background! 

Forget the shoes and handbags. This year, your Zoom background is the latest must-have accessory. 

Ensure that your Zoom background is in line with your intention and what you want to communicate; an unmade bed or clothes on the floor will definitely not project authority! If you decide to use a Zoom background, like the one above that Carol uses, don't forget to brand it with your logo or your company's logo. Today, many organizations provide their employees with custom Zoom backgrounds that they can use, so everyone's on the same playing field.

If you're going to use your own live background, there are three vital items you'll need: (1) a ring light (they make your hair look shiny and your skin luminous), (2) a good-quality webcam, and (3) a plant to add a little visual interest.

And there you have it. While you're in the process of preparing your thoughts, remarks, or slide deck for your next presentation, be sure to take a moment and think about the intention you want to set and the message you want to communicate to your audience. By following these tips, you're sure to be a hit!

*Guest post by: Cassandra Sethi, Personal Stylist + Founder of Next Level Wardrobe

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