I’ve been thinking a lot about this since I saw Avinash Kaushik give the keynote at SES…in jeans. It’s bothering me so much that we discussed it a bit about it during dinner at Counselors Academy and, based on the reaction I received there, I know it’s going to ruffle some feathers. But it’s important to begin the conversation…
Wearing jeans for public speaking – keynote, breakout, panel, whatever it might be – is not appropriate OR professional.
I get that jeans have become the social media uniform. But I don’t get why so many really popular public speakers think it’s okay to wear jeans when they are on stage.
In our industry, everyone complains that we still don’t have a seat at the boardroom table, yet we think it’s okay to wear jeans as our professional dress. If you want to sit at the table in the greater business conversation, you have to look like you belong there.
I remember many years ago, Gary Kisner told me that you have to look the part if you want people to take you seriously. He was using this lesson in the context of telling me to stop biting my fingernails. He asked me why I thought real estate agents drove nice cars or bankers wore expensive suits. It’s because people want to do business with professionals who LOOK like they’re successful. The banker may have only one expensive suit, but he looks the part. The real estate agent may have had to forgo buying a house for the nice car, but when clients get in her car, they think she’s successful. Perception very much is reality.
If you want a seat at the proverbial table, look and act like you belong there. You’ll go from offering social media consulting as a tool in the toolbox to having very high-level conversations about strategy and business growth, as it relates to your expertise. People want to work with professionals who look successful and, let’s be real, even though your jeans cost $200, they’re still jeans.
As my mom always says, “It’s better to be overdressed than under-dressed.”