Do you remember that show that was on TV for a number of years, “What Not to Wear”? Hapless fashion victims were nominated by friends or family to have a total makeover at the hands of celebrity experts, and the results were often amazing. While we haven’t gained celebrity status (yet), we’ve been around the block long enough to know what—and what not—to wear during presentations.
This has been a hot topic off and on in the horticulture world for years. And before anyone scoffs at this one as being too “superficial,” consider that your clothing says a lot about you, so it begs the question: What are you telling your audience about yourself with your appearance?
What to Wear to Speaking Engagements
The takeaway here is that you always want to look like yourself and look like you do what you do (garden), but on a slightly more polished level. So let’s take a look at some different places or types of speaking engagements that you may have on the books and get you ready for them!
- Live Speaking Engagement: You’re talking about gardening, and you are a gardener, so you want to look like a gardener, right? But you don’t want to look like you just popped out of the garden with raggedy clothing, dirty shoes (or worse, sandals and dirty feet—yes, we’ve spotted that before), and unkempt hair. Nice pants, casual tops, casual skirts/dresses are all appropriate. Jeans are fine if they are “nice.”
- Virtual Speaking Engagement: In theory, you will only be seen from the waist up, but you’ll also be seen more up close and personal than if you were on a stage presenting, so keep that in mind. Shirts/blouses in a solid color or an interesting but not overpowering print, nondistracting jewelry, and clean hands/fingernails are vital. If you wear makeup, be sure it’s neatly applied—any smeared mascara or lipstick on your teeth will be very noticeable.
- Keynote Address: Okay, here’s where you want to amp it up a bit. Still look like an approachable gardener, but you definitely need to look the part of a polished professional. Take it a step or two up from what you would wear for a live speaking engagement without appearing stuffy, too corporate, or like you’re going bar-hopping. Nice pants, a buttoned shirt, elevated blouse, possibly a structured jacket, a skirt/blouse combo, or appropriate dress.
- Television Appearance: From being interviewed on a TV show to recording a video class, producers will tell you that what you wear really makes a difference. The camera picks up on colors and patterns in a different way, and if you’re not careful, your attire could be extremely distracting. Rule of thumb from every producer we’ve ever spoken or worked with: No solid black, no solid white, no “crazy” prints and no “tiny” prints (they don’t “read” well on camera and can seem very busy). Tip: Ask the host or producer for their preference or recommendation ahead of time. Trust us, they will tell you.
- Radio: Just kidding. Nobody can see you; wear what you want as long as it’s appropriate for driving to a radio station and meeting other people.
Exceptions to the Rules
Now that we’ve told you our recommendations, we’re going to list some caveats for you, because nothing is ever set in stone, right?
- If you don’t give two hoots or a holler about “fashion,” that is totally cool. Take these recommendations, use what makes sense to you, and throw out everything else. Above all, gardeners are pretty authentic people, and it’s important for you to be you.
- If you are “known” for wearing something very specific (garden hats, overalls, rose prints, whatever), go ahead and wear it! This falls under branding and you should stick with it.
- If you wear makeup, be aware that many TV shows or prerecorded video where you’re working with a crew/producer will necessitate more makeup than you might be used to, as the camera can “wash” you out a bit. They may even have a makeup artist on hand to get you ready. Go with it if you like that, but if you’re not comfortable wearing, for example, false eyelashes, speak up. Speaking of false eyelashes, keep reading!
Real Life Example
A few years back, I shot a video garden design class with Craftsy. They flew me into their studios in Denver, CO, and I was treated to hair and makeup (and learned to read from a TelePrompTer). The producer had very definite ideas about how things should look on camera, so he asked me to bring a variety of clothing pieces to look over with me. This is what we chose:
- Jeans: Yep, I’m wearing jeans, but they are nicer, darker wash jeans.
- Top: Navy blue with a subtle white pattern. Nothing crazy or distracting.
- Jewelry: Simple hoop earrings and a couple of rings.
- Hair: Styled like I usually wore it, but nicer.
- Makeup: Hard to see, but it’s a lot more than I usually wore, plus false eyelashes. You read that right! Doesn’t look like it, does it? Trust your people; they know what works well on camera.
- Nails: This won’t apply to everyone, but because I was doing a lot of close-up hand work with the plants in studio, the producer requested that my nails be very neutral, so my nail polish was a soft off-white. My nail guy called them “QVC nails” because they are perfect for handwork on camera.