I’m always getting asked questions about Toastmasters. Whether it’s someone attending one of my classes or watching me give a speech, when they hear that I help people with their public speaking skills, the topic of Toastmasters often comes up. While I recommend Toastmasters and the most common question I’m asked is which club to join, I was recently asked an interesting question: how should I dress when visiting a club?
Every club is different so it really does depend on the club. Community clubs meeting at night or on the weekends might be casual while corporate clubs might require more formal dress. So here are some tips:
- If the club has a website, look for pictures of meetings to see what the dress code is.
- If the club meets at a business, even if it’s not sponsored by the company, call the company’s main switchboard and ask what the dress code for the company is. You’ll want to respect the company’s dress code when on their premises.
- Even if a club allows casual dress, make sure what you wear is clean and neat and don’t dress too casual.
- When in doubt, dress business casual. Even though no club will reject you for dressing too casual, dressing up will help you make a good first impression.
I have to say that a lot of the time, people dress sloppy for Toastmasters meetings and even district conferences. There are a couple women that I used to see at district events that always dressed like complete slobs. They wear outfits that were only appropriate to wear at Woodstock back in 1969 and their hair looks like it hasn’t been brushed or washed since then. While they’ve all held officer positions within the district and may be well known within Toastmasters, I doubt anyone attending the event would be compelled to hire them as a speaker. So here are some tips for Toastmasters on how to dress.
- For conferences, always dress business formal. For men that means a jacket and tie, for women it means either a dress, skirt or pants suit.
- If you’re speaking at your club, dress up. Remember that it’s hard to motivate and inspire people when you’re wearing shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops.
- If you’re competing in a speech contest, dress up a lot (unless the topic of your speech requires you to dress a particular way). A good friend and I were involved in a contest where the top two contestants gave speeches of equal quality. My friend was the deciding vote and he chose the woman that was dressed up over the one dressed casually. He said it showed more preparation for her speech.
- For TLI training sessions, district meetings and other events, dress at least business casual.
- It’s okay to show up to meetings dressed casually if your club allows it – especially during warmer weather. But don’t dress like you’re going to the beach unless you’re actually meeting at the beach.
- If you’re the Club President, Vice President of Membership or highest ranking officer at a meeting, dress up for meetings. You want to impress your guests.
- If you’re an Area Governor or other district officer doing club visits, find out the club’s dress code and dress a notch above. When I was an Area Governor, I used to dress business casual at a minimum when visiting clubs. My predecessor used to wear a suit for all his visits.
- When visiting other clubs, don’t assume they have the same dress code as your club.
In general, just remember that appearance matters when it comes to public speaking. While you don’t need to look like a supermodel to be taken seriously, you do want to make the effort to look clean and neat. You should always dress up a notch whenever you give speech – Toastmasters related or not. And if you’re looking to get hired as a speaker, all the more reason to dress up.