Appearance is an often disregarded part of communication and presentation skills. When you are speaking in public you may be representing your organisation or just yourself, but it is still you in the front line. It is you the other person, group or audience sees and before you have time to open your mouth and give an account of yourself, certain assumptions, both consciously and subconsciously, have been made.
First impressions are very important - they can be about attitude as well as dress.
Visual impact is at least as important as verbal impact, people will very quickly make assumptions based on your facial expressions, the clothes you wear, how well groomed you are and your body language.
Little can be done to alter your face but a lot can be done about the expression that is on it. However the day started and whatever minor crisis has occurred along the way, people have not come to meet you with a dark expression on your face. It is your duty to yourself as well as to the organisation that you represent that you convey a calm, friendly and professional exterior, despite how you may feel inside. Smile and appear optimistic.
Personal Image: The reflection that stares back at you from a mirror is not necessarily a true likeness of the face known to family, friends and colleagues, because they will see you off-guard, in repose, concentrating on a task or listening to them. How many people can honestly admit to looking in a mirror without altering their expression? It is quite natural to ‘play to a mirror’ possibly by raising an eyebrow, pulling a face or smiling at the reflection. This is why people often feel self-conscious when they see a ‘bad’ photograph of themselves.
The Real You: It is human nature to make compromises. All individuals change their approach depending on the people they meet and what they feel is expected from them. Your 'on-duty' self, the one who functions in public, is different from your 'off-duty' self, the one concerned with home, family and friends. Everyone has many and varied roles in life. You can be one person and be a parent, son/daughter, brother/sister, friend, adviser, patient, client and consumer all in one day. These differing roles all require their own particular qualities and skills in personal communication and can also call upon different requirements of attitude and appearance, i.e., of visual image. Your external image (appearance) is how you are seen by the world, whereas the real you (not a role model or the person you would like to be) is someone who is honest with themselves.
Clothes and Grooming
What sort of external image is appropriate to the organisation you represent? Only you can answer this question. Due to the nature of the work, some organisations are happy for people to be casually dressed, while others may expect smarter attire. It is important to be suitably dressed within expected limits. Nobody expects you to be packaged into something you are not, but your appearance is a reflection of your own self-esteem and you should aim to present yourself to your best possible advantage. Whilst you might be casually dressed when working within your organisation, a more formal approach may well be preferable when representing your organisation at an external meeting. Good grooming and a tidy appearance is preferable, whether casually or more formally dressed.