People form first impressions in the fraction of a second. Before you say a word, your image speaks volumes.
What does your image say about you as a speaker? Does your image appeal to your intended audience? Do you present your best self?
How do you change the image that you project, and still remain authentic? And, for the thrifty, how can you up your image, and do so on a budget?
These are all questions that I had when I was starting out as a professional speaker in the fall of 2009. At the time, my audience was high school students (I was giving classroom workshops to generate leads for a local business college). Also at the time, we had a failing business that was generating a loss. I had very little money.
So, in short, you do the best with what you have.
With $11, I went to my local Salvation Army store and purchased 2 jackets, 2 tops and a pair of black pants. I already had a pair of black shoes. That was the sum total of my speaking wardrobe for the next 2 years.
I also got my hair cut at Great Clips and colored it myself.
Below are my speaking photos from 2009-2012. Note that I am wearing my Salvation Army wardrobe (the exact same top and jacket) for all the pictures. I actually picked my SmallTalkBigResults.com brand colors based on the top and jacket. It’s what I had.
2009: Photo taken at a Toastmasters Leadership meeting. The photographer did remove some stray hairs (and for promotional purposes, I removed the name badge):
2010: Inexpensive photography session. $40 for a CD with about 20 pictures. Note the messy hairstyle:
2012: New haircut, new glasses, necklace and a better photographer:
In late 2010, I decided to spend the money on a professional cut and color. It was vastly more expensive than Great Clips and my home color job. I also learned how to use a flat iron. I looked better, and felt more confident. What was really weird was that people started to treat me differently, like I was somehow more worthy because I had a more polished appearance. In 2011, I started getting paid presentations for adult audiences.
Earlier this year, I decided I needed to step up my image again–this time with weight loss and clothing. Since January, I’ve lost 17 lbs (and plan on losing another 21 by Christmas). I also have been working with an image consultant, Dawn Stebbing of Image Evolution. She helped me discover the colors and styles that work for me, and I’ve started to change my wardrobe. I removed all the clothes that didn’t look good on me, or that I hadn’t worn in 2 years. Then, my husband accidentally threw away my summer clothes when we took a vacation in June (long story short: At the end of the trip, I put my dirty clothes in a trash bag. And, you can guess what happened). So, I’ve replaced most of my casual clothes and plan on working on replacing business clothes this fall.
One of the challenges for me was feeling that by changing my look, I was somehow not being authentic. Really, I was in a rut, wearing clothes that were actually not expressive of who I was and who I wanted to become.
Take a look at your “look.” Is your “classic” look really outdated, maybe even dowdy?
If you haven’t changed your eye glasses, clothes or hair style in 4 or 5 years or more, the answer is probably “yes.” Consider using styling aids, like a flat-iron for a sleek look. If you are a woman, update the make up. Lipstick is a must, but don’t be garish.
Look at some fashion sites–When I was thinking about changing my style, I started a Fashion Pinterest Board and pinned fashions I liked from mostly higher end stores’ online cataloges–mostly out of my budget, but it helped me become aware of what was current that I liked.
Consider hiring an image consultant. If you are in the Twin Cities, I recommend Dawn Stebbing of Image Evolution. Or, take a fashion-forward friend or relative shopping with you.
As a speaker, an investment in improving your image is an investment in your business. Let your first impression be a great one, and one that lets the true you shine!