WHEN a speaker gives an address on stage, his choice of clothing is not randomly pulled out from the wardrobe.

In today's business arena, image is everything, and what a speaker wears is crucial to that image.

I am often asked by executives for advice on what to wear when giving a presentation. To give an accurate answer, I would need to know the purpose of the meeting, the objectives to be met and the size of the audience.

However, here are some tips you may find useful when you have to speak in public or give a presentation.

To begin, you must expect your audience to drift on and off from time to time while you speak.

To bring them back to you, you will need to complement a strong visual image with variations in your speech delivery and interesting visual aids. It is important to realise that different styles of attire will be required for different audiences.

Boardroom

If your audience is small, for example, at a boardroom presentation, you should adopt a softer and less intimidating look. A bright red suit just won't do in such a scenario.

The key is to wear something that will relax your audience.

So, women should go for neutral-coloured suits and introduce some colour with blouses. Accessories should be kept to a minimum. For an elegant look, try a gold and pearl combination.

Men, do not dazzle your audience with bright colours or wild patterns. Keep your suit black or navy blue, and instead of wearing a burning red tie, go for calming colours like green, blue or grey.

Stage

Wearing an attractive colour near your face is like having a spotlight focusing attention on you and what you are saying.

If you are addressing a large audience, the event becomes a "theatre" and therefore requires a "costume".

Thus, a navy-suited speaker will not create much of an impact at a conference of 500 people. Here is where you need to use more colour to win your audience's attention.

It will be useful if you can check the lighting of the room before your presentation. If the area where you are speaking is dark, you will need to brighten it up by wearing lighter or brighter shades.

When selecting the style of your suits, do take into account how your body reacts under the stress of giving presentations.

If you are the type who moves around when speaking, then be sure that your clothes allow plenty of movement.

Make sure you are well-groomed. Women should wear flattering make-up that is not too heavy and have their hair done stylishly. Similarly, men should have a clean-shaven look with hair neatly trimmed and styled.

Television

The idea of appearing on television can be very daunting. If you watch news interviews or panel discussions, you cannot help but notice how badly some interviewees can come across in terms of their appearance.

It is very difficult to concentrate on what is said by someone who is wearing a gaudy scarf, necklace or even tie. The camera tends to make you look bigger than you are, so avoid loud patterns.

Look great for your TV debut by wearing a simple outfit that does not distract viewers from your face.

This means you should wear solid colours, but avoid black and white shirts or tops. Black tops make you look formless, while white can make you look pale and washed out.

You should also avoid red, which tends to "bleed" on camera, that is, the edges run and look fuzzy.

Stripes or herringbone patterns can appear to be "dancing" or moving around the screen and are best avoided.

Try a monochromatic blend of colour to look calm and professional. Plunging necklines are no-no, and keep your jewellery or accessories to the minimum.

Make-up is a must when appearing on TV. Most TV shows will have a make-up artist to help you look good, but be prepared anyway. Put on some foundation and translucent powder over it to prevent shine.

These are just guidelines to help you feel confident and comfortable. Let your common sense guide you on what is right for you and be mindful of what is appropriate for the occasion.