LIKE IT OR not, first impressions often count for a lot—so people could get the wrong idea of what you’re all about just by looking at you. That’s why it only makes sense to dress in a way that creates a minimum of distraction from your message and at the same time enhances how you want the audience to consider you.

The quick answer to dressing up for the occasion is to wear better-quality clothes that are both simple and basically conservative.

Clearly, this would be the wrong advice for a clown or comedy act or for an informal party atmosphere. But if you’re talking about speaking to civic, government, church, or business groups, you can’t go wrong by toning down your apparel.

I don’t pretend to be a style arbiter or fashionista ...

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