There is no universal guideline for what to wear on stage. Each speaker is different, where one feels good, the other freezes. Though it be said that it is helpful to take a look at how professional speakers approach their on-stage wardrobe.
Starting with the largest group of presenters: priests and pastors. Although it’s more than just about presentation, they mostly opt for simplicity during their daily sermon. The Catholics wear a black or white garment, so that all attention is focussed on their talking head and their two hands, which are occasionally raised to the heavens. There is nothing else distracting the parishioners, as their dress code is preferably “simple”.
Architects adopted that same idea much later. After all, architects are professional speaker who handle imaginary spaces, so they must have some verbal abilities. They wear black paired with black, with which they bring all attention to their heads and hands, and this proves successful.
The lesson learnt from this is: if you keep your clothing simple, your audience will not get distracted. No attention to writing on your t-shirt, not even to that bling around your neck. No intense colour combinations, textures, crazy hats or extravagant glasses and absolutely no short skirts. However, you will notice that there are presenters who take to the stage in Boy George-esque outfits and seem to achieve a full house.
Your choice of clothing is best made a few days earlier, well before your performance. Check whether your new shirt shows perspiration easily. If it does it would be unfortunate, because that easily distracts an audience. This also applies to perspiration on your face, which is quickly noticed. Did you know that deodorant can also be used on your face? It helps combat shine in when in the spotlight. However, make-up powder, or a gentle sprinkling of foundation is potentially a more effective remedy.
The tech team most likely want to fit each speaker out with a wireless microphone. The type with a headset that hooks behind your ear and comes with a clip-on transmitter (the same shape and size of a cigarette pack) which needs to stay out of view. For the gents this is often covered up by a blazer, however for the ladies it can prove more challenging to hide. It can be hooked onto the waist of a skirt, the back of a belted dress, or in a back pocket maybe? If that fails, a bra strap? If really necessary it can be taped straight onto one’s torso, under a blouse.
High heels – are they necessary? Possibly for experienced models who (mostly) don’t stumble down the catwalk when under pressure. Big earrings can be fatal, because that kind of body decoration will knock against your headset every time you move and that sound is then amplified throughout the auditorium. If the event is being filmed, you will most definitely regret it if you’re having a bad hair day. Your face is then projected on a giant screen so those in the back can see every detail. Do your shoes squeak with every step? In short, there’s a lot to regulate, however fortunately all these checks can be done in advance.