Thousands of people each year attempt to make the jump from speaking for free at Toastmasters, church, and other organizations to a career as a Professional Speaker. Some speakers gain instant credibility through celebrity. Others are retiring from the corporate world and bring their successes and failures with them to the stage. Still more leap to speaking through survival: from disease, accidents, and natural disasters. Instant credibility will take them only so far, however.
Others take a longer path. They have a love of speaking, for influencing and inspiring audiences, and are determined to make a living from their internal passion. Their credibility is built over time, and with great effort, and they put it on the line with every appearance.
For speakers, each aspect of credibility is to be closely guarded and continually built upon. This series of articles will focus on 15 facets of credibility that must exist for all speakers to succeed over the long run. “Instant Credibility” must continue to be nurtured for a career to continue. If you are building from the ground up, each point must be examined and properly attended to in order to build deep roots on the speaking circuit.
Facet #1: Appearance
Unfair as it may seem, what you wear, your hairstyle (or lack of one), and even your scent will provide a strong impression to your audience.
A. Take a job interview approach. Every speaking opportunity may be a job interview in disguise. Your next job may be in the audience. As a general rule, dress one notch above your audience.
B. If your image clashes with your message, the audience can be confused, and quickly lost.
C. If you are scheduled to entertain, your dress may mimic the crowd, or bridge into costuming for effect.
D. If your image is in line with your message, but clashes with your audience, take special care evaluating the necessity of your attire to the message. Extreme Example. Professional Body Builders speaking on goal-setting should probably invest in more than bikini briefs!
Before and after your speaking engagement you will be interacting with your meeting planner, audience members, and potential future jobs. In these instances, speakers must “sweat the small stuff,” in order to build credibility from every angle.
Hair – Always carry a brush, comb, and hair spray in your purse or resource bag.
Teeth – Bring an emergency toothbrush and toothpick.
Nose – Keep tissues handy at all times – colds and allergies strike at the worst possible moments!
Deoderants/Perfumes – Never overpower the room with too much or too little.
Makeup – Consider your environment: lighting, humidity, and appropriateness.
Facial Hair – Invest in a simple set of trimmers and scissors. Less than $20 at most discount stores.
Check yourself – your tie, shirttails, slip, collar, and, of course, your zippers before walking to the stage.
Show some style – invest in clothes from the current decade, and make sure your colors work well together, and your socks match.
Wear Comfortable Shoes – if you are standing for 30-60 minutes, comfort is more important than look. Unless your shoes draw negative attention, they won’t be noticed at all.
Beware Jewelry – be sure your accessories do not detract from, but rather contribute to your image. Watches, necklaces, cufflinks, large rings and earrings can create a myriad of problems, from glare under strong lights to becoming a point of distraction to you as a speaker. How many of us are guilty of class ring or wedding band twisting?
Be Yourself – in the end, you must be yourself on stage. Your personal authenticity must take precedence over your audience expectation, unless you are purposely speaking outside your personal realm of comfort. If being yourself doesn’t mesh with your message, it’s time to re-evaluate.
Your appearance will not make you a great speaker. It may make you a memorable speaker, a funnier speaker, or a glamorous speaker, but not a great speaker. Few speakers are famous or powerful enough to allow their credibility to take a hit from their outward image.
Protect your image at all costs – a small time and financial investment today will protect your opportunities for success tomorrow.
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Rich Hopkins is a speaker, coach, and consultant who aligns his clients with their own potential. He has 20 years of business background in marketing, sales, and customer service. He consults with individuals, student groups, non-profit organizations, and corporations. http://www.richhopkins.net
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