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Barriers to Good Listening

Are you a good listener? Most Americans are poor listeners. Litfin explains that we are an EYE-oriented culture rather than EAR-oriented. Americans prefer visual input, especially young people who have grown up with electronic technology. The people in cultures where there is no written language or high incidences of illiteracy are EAR-oriented. In our culture, we say, “Can I have a copy of that?” or “I need to see it in writing.” We prefer “reading and storage” over “listening well and remembering.”[1] We must work harder on listening when it doesn’t come as naturally. Attention and listening skills are better in cultures that must depend on hearing and memory for information.

Common barriers to good listening include the following:[2]

  1. passive listening – Many people are lazy listeners. Listening is active, involving interaction of the listener and speaker in the process.
  2. interrupting – Many listeners are impatient to wait for the comment to end and eager to speak themselves. Conversation requires give and take; listening, then speaking.
  3. assumptions – People have a tendency to jump to a conclusion before a speaker finishes a thought. Making a wrong assumption is like jumping to a confusion!
  4. self-focus – In this “me–generation,” people are more interested in what they have to say than what others are saying. Listening requires focus on the speaker, not on self.
  5. past intrusion – Previous experiences or past failures may influence a listener. A good listener must be “in the moment” in order to understand the speaker.
  6. distraction – Drifting thoughts and poor attention hinder good listening. Distractions can be internal or external. Listeners must focus on the words being spoken in order to listen completely and correctly.
  7. defensiveness – Listeners may react strongly when they disagree or have another opinion. This verbal response has been described as duelogue vs. dialogue. Duelogue implies two people fighting with words as their weapons.[3]

Identifying one’s personal barriers to good listening is an important move in controlling these hindrances so listening may improve. Knowing personal weaknesses in listening is the first step toward improving listening skills.

Distraction is probably my biggest barrier to good listening. I am highly distracted internally by thoughts of everything I have to do. I am distracted externally by sights and sounds around me. When my husband and I go out to dinner, my natural desire is to face everyone and everything in the restaurant because of my curiosity. But to give Chuck my undivided attention, I must sit facing him–and maybe the wall–to tune out the distractions around me.

The Bible teaches about the importance of listening and warns against hasty speech. In James 1:19, the apostle admonishes: “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” Commentary in the Life Application Bible for this verse includes an exercise for overcoming barriers to good listening. “Put a mental stopwatch on your conversations and keep track of how much you talk and how much you listen. In your conversations, do others feel that their viewpoints and ideas have been valued?”[4] Effective communicators break down personal barriers to listening in order to build up people while focusing on their messages. Have you been able to identify your own barriers to good listening? How can you become a more effective communicator by being a better listener?

            [1] Litfin, Public Speaking, 42.

            [2] Gronbeck et al., Principles of Speech Communication, 36-37.

            [3] “Duelogue,” http://www.examiner.com/article/monologue-dialogue-or-duelogue-how-savvy-are-you (cited 3 March 2013) examiner.com (Clarity Digital Group LLC, 2013).

            [4] Tyndale House, Life Application Bible: New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1987), 604.

“Lay Your Nose On The Altar”

I had the honor of writing another article for SBC Life this month, and would love to share it with you all! It centers on how to keep Christ at the center of our lives, so that we may always be ready for an opportunity to TALK of His truth. Click here to read the article on the SBC Life website!

Misunderstandings about Public Speaking

Because the process of communication is so complex, it is often misunderstood. It would simplify matters if a person could convey thoughts telepathically to another person. If thoughts did not have to be formulated in a speaker’s brain, expressed through that speaker’s words, transmitted through the air, perceived through the listener’s ears, understood in the listener’s mind, and responded to verbally by the listener, a message would always be understood. But that is not possible. Instead, God created humans to have thoughts and feelings which, to be understood by others, must be expressed in words. The complexity of communication requires study and practice throughout the lifespan.

Many counseling books unveil the critical need for communication within marriage. For years, during pre-martial counseling, my (Monica) father would place three rocks before the couple, signifying the three foundations of a marriage. One of those rocks stood for the critical need to communicate (connection); the others for communion (intimacy) and cooperation (marital roles). Married couples certainly benefit from the mastery of communication.

While there are numerous misunderstandings about communication, Duane Litfin presents three common ones in his book, Public Speaking: A Handbook for Christians.[1] These misunderstandings can confuse both the speaker and the listener.

Misunderstanding 1: Each act of communication is separate and discrete and can be studied as such. The truth is that communication is a complicated, interactive process.

Misunderstanding 2: Communication is linear in the sense that a message travels one way from a source to a receiver. The truth is that human communication is circular. It begins with a spoken word and continues with further interactions.

Misunderstanding 3: The speaker transfers thought to the listeners. The truth is the listener filters information through personal perspective in order to understand the message spoken.

These misunderstandings reflect the complexity of the process of communication. Though complex, communication is an essential interaction among humans to convey messages, build relationships, and serve others. Understanding these myths about communication will improve overall communication and strengthen relationships.

Seven Pinker, and Paul Bloom declared, “Speaking is innate, writing is an invention.”[2] Oral communication has several distinctive components which contrast it from written communication.[3]  These differences must be considered when speaking verbally. First, oral communication tends to be more direct than written expression. Nonverbal cues can clarify meaning while more description is necessary in writing. Second, oral communication tends to be more repetitive or redundant than written discourse. Readers can refer back to information that is written, while listeners need repetition for better understanding. Third, oral communication tends to be more fragmentary. Written language includes complete thoughts and sentences. Fourth, oral communication tends to be more personal. Readers typically include a variety of people not only those close enough to listen personally. One needs to be aware of these distinctives when preparing to speak. Information needs to be delivered to be heard, not read.

One of my (Monica) favorite Bible verses is Psalm 45:1,  “My heart is moved by a noble theme as I recite my verses to the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.” I love to write and find I am able to express on paper what is often difficult to express aloud. When I turned twelve years old, I started keeping a prayer journal. I would write out my prayers. Journaling became a daily discipline for me and helped me to articulate on paper what I was thinking about or struggling with each day. I found in my writing that I was much more detailed when I wrote out my prayers on paper than when I prayed out loud. However, when I have been asked to pray at a women’s event or small group setting, I never hand out copies of a prayer to be read by everyone. I speak them out loud to the Lord on behalf of the women in the group. As women hear what is spoken out loud, there is a connection. Words spoken out loud are different than words written out on paper.

According to Litfin, there are several distinct advantages of public speaking.  First, important messages must often be communicated to a large number of people. It is much more practical and beneficial for a major thought to be shared one time to a larger group than many times one-to-one. Second, a public speech is a message which can be organized and prepared by the speaker. Thoughtful preparation increases the clarity and improves the effectiveness of the communication. Third, a public speech allows the ideas to be heard by the listeners who can postpone a response until the ideas are fully understood.[4] While spontaneous, interpersonal conversation will always be a part of daily life and church ministry, skilled public speaking can enhance the message delivery among groups and even among individuals. What misconceptions do you encounter about public speaking?

            [1] Duane Litfin, Public Speaking: A Handbook for Christians (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1992), 19-21.

            [2] S. Pinker, and P.Bloom.”Natural language and natural selection,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13, 4 (1990), 707–784.

            [3] Litfin, Public Speaking, 275-77.

            [4] Litfin, Public Speaking, 27.

The Last Word on Drama

When drama is used effectively in public speaking, there are many advantages. But all of us have been in a service or at an event where the drama didn’t play out quite so well. So, this week, we provide you with a few important things to consider when planning to utilize the dramatic arts! Also, see below for resources to get you started!

There are some disadvantages of drama in public speaking. Both the audience and the speaker may struggle with creativity in communication. When taken to the extreme, any of these factors can become disadvantages of the dramatic arts in public speaking.

  • Overuse – Drama should be used occasionally as a special feature rather than using it often.
  • Mediocrity – If used, drama should be well done. The only thing worse than no drama is bad drama. “Bathrobe drama” is the term for bad drama, implying drama by untrained performers using ideas and materials at hand.
  • Overspending – Expenses for dramatic productions mount rapidly. Avoid exceeding the budget and causing financial pressure.
  • Shock Factor – Dramatization should be used in good taste to avoid making the audience uncomfortable. Shock usually detracts from the message.
  • Special Effects – “Bells and whistles” as well as props and noisemakers should be used to enhance drama not distract from the message.
  • Embellishment – Drama should not alter the Scripture text or overstate the message. The truth should be creatively but accurately presented.
  • Manipulation – Emotions are a part of well-done drama. Healthy expression of feelings is recommended rather than extreme emotional control.
  • Camouflage – The point of the message must be clear through the drama, not lost in the creative expression.
  • Mismatch – The type of drama should be appropriate for the audience. Know the crowd and select drama personally for it.

Beware of these risks of dramatic expression. Adhere to the cautions and benefit from the advantages of drama.

One of the advantages for dramatic expression today is the availability of resources. There are many reference books, internet websites, and professional organizations for the dramatic arts. The most important resources for Christian drama are the Bible and life experience. The following resources for drama are helpful also. They offer general information as well as scripts, training, and networking.

Books

  • Actors Not Included: The Complete Works of Matt Tullos by Matt Tullos
  • Art for God’s Sake by Philip Graham Ryken
  • Christian Playwriting and Self-Publishing by Cleveland O. Mcleish
  • The Complete Guide to Church Play Production by John Lewis and others
  • Create a Drama Ministry by Paul Miller
  • Developing the Church Drama Ministry by Paul Miller
  • Devoted Through Drama: Monologues, Plays, and Skits for Christian Youth Groups by Kimberly Smiley
  • Drama: Church Drama for Church Folks by Barbara Dudley

Many children’s books and classic works of literature provide excellent scripts for drama.

Websites

  • Christian Drama Resources (www.christiandramaresources.com)
  • Christian Plays (www.christplay.com)
  • Creative Pastors with Ed Young (www.creativepastors.com)
  • Drama Share: Your Christian Drama Resource Center (www.dramashare.org)
  • Online Journal of Christian Communication and Culture (www.ojccc.org)
  • Wordspring Creative Resources (www.wordspring.com)

These drama websites were active at the time of publication. Other websites may be developed to provide resources for different forms of drama.

Drama and the creative arts have been a part of the church for centuries. In New Testament times, the church led the culture in developing the arts, specifically drama.[3] Though banned from the church at times, the dramatic arts have been powerful tools in worship when used appropriately. Dramatic arts in ministry today can reach the lost world with the gospel and the saved followers of Christ through discipleship. According to David Taylor: “Our emotions, bodies, and imaginations have a vital role, and the arts serve to bring them into an intentional and intensive participation.”[4]

            [1] “Christian dramatists form new association,” http://bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=4819 (cited 20 March 2013), Baptist Press, (Baptist Press, 2013).

            [2] http://www.wordspring.com/?page_id=1416 (cited 20 March 2013) Wordspring Creative Resources.

            [3] Julie W, “A Biblical Perspective of Drama in Ministry,” Online Journal of Christian Communication and Culture, entry posted December 11, 2011, http://www.ojccc.org/2011/12/a-biblical-perspective-of-drama-in-ministry/ (accessed March 20, 2013).

            [4] David Taylor, “Discipling the Eyes Through Art in Worship,” http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/april/art-in-worship.html (cited 20 March 2013),  Christianity Today (Christianity Today, 2013).

More Ideas for Using Drama!

So you’ve been convinced that drama can make your public speaking come to life and touch the lives of many. Now you’re wondering, “Well, how can I do it?” Today we’d like to share several different approaches to incorporating the dramatic arts into your speaking!

Monologue

In the realm of communication, the word “monologue” may carry a negative connotation of a long, boring speech or a speaker who monopolizes a conversation. However, a monologue is a dramatic expression used by a public speaker. The dictionary defines a monologue as “a dramatic soliloquy (oral discourse); a continuous series of jokes or comic stories delivered by one comedian.”[1] Talk show hosts on television often begin the program with a monologue.

Everett Robertson writes, “The dramatic monologue involves one actor portraying one character in a crisis situation.”[2] Monologues may present biblical characters, such as Ruth or Mary the Mother of Jesus, or portray an inanimate object, like the manger which held baby Jesus or the alabaster jar which held the perfume used to anoint the feet of Jesus. Monologues may be short or long, presented during a portion of the message or as the entire speech. Speakers may wear costumes and makeup for dramatic effect. The script may be written originally or taken directly from the Scripture or another text. Monologues are most effective when they reveal a truth to the audience in dramatic details.

Dramatic Reading

Dramatic reading is defined as “a public reading or recitation of a work of literature with an interpretive use of the voice and often of gestures.”[3] A speaker reads aloud a poem, essay, story, or Scripture passage with animated voice, facial expression, hand gestures, and body movements. The reader portrays the dramatic, physical, and emotional aspects of a situation. If several characters or perspectives are included, the speaker may identify them with changes of voice, posture, or gesture.

Material for dramatic reading must be selected carefully. The content must have a clear focus and appropriate emotional appeal. The audience needs to identify with, understand, and enjoy the work. Delivery requires practice and timing. Careful pronunciation and phrasing as well as a rhythmical pace enhance the presentation. Facial expression, eye contact, and gestures add to the oral expression.

Storytelling

One of the oldest forms of drama, storytelling is “reciting tales or relating anecdotes in a captivating manner.”[4] While a monologue involves a character directly, storytelling includes the character indirectly. Storytelling is typically spoken in second-person, and monologue is first-person. Vivid description and animated expression is a part of storytelling. A real account is often exaggerated and amplified for effect in storytelling. Robertson encourages the storyteller to “use every possible technique to communicate the story creatively.”[5]

Object Lesson

For years, teachers and speakers have displayed inanimate objects to explain a lesson with dramatic effect. Visual aids are helpful to most listeners. They enhance a narrative, facilitating comprehension and identity. In delivery, the speaker should carefully connect the object and the idea. Creative interaction with the audience and object may foster application.

Role Play

Role play is a form of drama used successfully in many areas of ministry as well as public speaking. It is “representing in action the thoughts and feelings of another person”[6] During a message, a speaker may pause in her own discourse to assume the position of another person in order to emphasize or clarify a point. In teaching or training, role play may be used to demonstrate different responses or simulate varied emotions. Role playing is a creative and revealing way to present a range of emotions, values, and beliefs without threatening the audience.

Pantomime

One of the most creative forms of drama is pantomime, the process of silent expression. It is “conveying a story by bodily action or facial movements only.”[7] The term “mime” may refer to the performer, though it usually refers to the more formal, classical discipline. Marcel Marceau was the famous French mime who introduced the art form into the world stage. Dick Van Dyke premiered pantomime on one of his earliest television shows as humorous, physical comedy. Pantomime communicates visually what cannot be communicated as creatively with words.

Pantomime may be used by speakers as a means of visually expressing specific actions and traits. According to Robertson, “it involves a universal language of gestures which is understood by all cultures and ages.”[8] It can be serious or humorous and is often performed to music. Costumes and makeup may be worn. The audience often relates personally to the movements and emotions of the mime.

Clowning

Clowns are known for entertaining in circuses and rodeos, but they can also be found ministering in churches and communities. By definition, clowning is “entertainment by jokes, antics, or tricks in a public presentation.”[9] Christian clowning communicates biblical truths in a creative, non-threatening form, often in evangelistic outreach. “A Christian dressed as a clown breaks through many of the barriers placed by the secular world against religion. The joyful nature of the clown also makes it easy to tell others about the joy and colorfulness of Christ.[10]

Do you have any other ideas for incorporating drama into your public speaking?

[1] “Monologue,” http://www.thefreedictionary.com/monologue (cited 13 March 2013), American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. (Houghton Mifflin, 2009).

[2] Robertson, The Dramatic Arts in Ministry, 12.

[3] “Dramatic Reading,”www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dramatic reading (cited 13 March 2013), Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2013).

[4]“Storytelling,” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/storytelling (cited 13 March 2013), Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2013).

[5] Robertson, The Dramatic Arts in Ministry, 21.

[6]“Public Speaking,” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/public+speaking (cited 13 March 2013), Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2013).

[7] “Pantomime,” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pantomime (cited 13 March 2013), Merriam-Webster Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2013).

[8]Robertson, The Dramatic Arts in Ministry, 12.

[9] “Clowning,” http://www.thefreedictionary.com/clowning (cited 13 March 2013), American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. (Houghton Mifflin, 2009).

[10] Robertson, The Dramatic Arts in Ministry, 15.

Go Ahead. Be Dramatic.

Drama captures the minds, the imaginations,

and the emotions of the audience.[1]

God is theatrical. It has been said, “All of creation is a theater for God’s glory.”[2] Numerous biblical accounts demonstrate that God is powerful and mighty in His actions and purposes. He created everything from nothing: the heavens and the earth, the sky and land, the birds and fish, man and woman. He continues to perform supernatural miracles, signs, and wonders to work in the world and gain attention from His children. His dramatic demonstrations of power are seen today in nature, during hurricanes, earthquakes, and blizzards. God is all–powerful; He is omnipotent in His being and His behavior.

The Old Testament records numerous wonders of God. Moses experienced the dramatic work of God when the angel of the Lord spoke to him from the burning bush that was not consumed. When the Israelites fled Pharaoh’s army, God manifested His power in dramatic fashion by parting the Red Sea, allowing His children to cross safely to the other side. Balaam’s donkey talked. The walls of Jericho fell down. The widow’s son was raised from the dead. Elijah was carried into heaven. The widow’s oil was multiplied. Elisha’s bones were revived from the dead. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were delivered from the fiery furnace. Daniel was protected in the lion’s den. Jonah was saved from the belly of a whale. God demonstrated His mighty power in dramatic miracles in the Old Testament.[3]

The New Testament also contains many accounts of God’s dramatic intervention, often through the ministry of Jesus. Though Jesus refused to give a miraculous sign on command to prove His authority, He performed miraculous signs during His ministry. Jesus changed water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana. He healed Peter’s mother-in-law. He calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. He healed the woman with a hemorrhage, and raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. He fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, and He walked on the water. He healed a stooped woman, and He raised Lazarus from the grave. Jesus demonstrated His mighty power in dramatic ways in the New Testament.[4]

God has exhibited His power through wonders and signs, and Jesus performed many miracles in His ministry. These dramatic demonstrations accomplished divine purposes, met human needs, and evidenced the truth of the gospel. As God’s instruments, Christian communicators may use dramatic presentations to convey a biblical message or illustrate a spiritual principle. Consider how you may be able to integrate drama into your public speaking as you continue reading!

Drama is the “compression of human experience into a story we can view on the stage.”[5] The word “drama” actually comes from a Greek word meaning “to do.”[6] It implies action, involving a performer and an audience. Drama is a form of literature and can be prose, verse, or dialogue. It illustrates a message and can be presented from a script, by improvisation, through mime, or spontaneously during a speech. According to Lewis and others in The Complete Guide to Church Play Production: “Drama shoots darts into the hearts of the audience and pulls them out with emotions attached.”[7] When drama is used by Christian speakers, it should be God-glorifying and Christ-centered. The message, not the medium, is the focus of a biblical truth presented dramatically.

Drama is a powerful method of expression. It speaks to the total person—physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual.[8] The body performs the actions of drama. The mind conceives and interprets drama. The emotions express feelings and portray passions. The spirit convicts through the verbal and nonverbal message. Christians can use drama to stimulate and persuade the audience to consider their personal relationship with Christ. Therefore, Christian speakers should be open to drama in certain public presentations.

Oral interpretation is a dramatic art, also called interpretive reading or dramatic reading.[9]  It is the presentation of a literary work with feeling and expression, for the purpose of enlightenment. Oral interpretation and dramatic performance are similar in public speaking though slightly different in academic contexts. Oral interpretation is taught typically in speech communication programs, while drama is taught in the departments of theater arts. Both are appropriate for public speaking.

Oral interpretation began 3,000 years ago with the classical Greek philosophers who used formal oratory to teach and persuade. Eugene and Margaret Bahn wrote a History of Oral Interpretation to document the development from the classical Greek through the ancient Roman, Medieval Period, and Renaissance as well as the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. The oral interpretation of literature has continued into the 21st century, though its nature, practice, and trends have varied.[10] Oral interpretation and dramatic presentation can be effective and essential tools for a public speaker!

            [1] Matt Tullos, Show Me: Drama in Evangelism (Nashville: Convention Press, 1996), 5.

            [2] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. and indexed by Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1967), 1:6:2 (72).

            [3] Ex 3:1-22; Ex 14:15-31; Num 22:22-41; Josh 6:1-21; 1 Kg 17:17-24; 2 Kg 2:1-12; 2 Kg 4:1-7; 2 Kg 13:14-21; Dan 3:8-30; Dan 6:10-18; Jonah 1:1-2:10

            [4] Mark 8:11-12; John 2:1-12; Matt 8:14-15; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:42-48; Matt 9:18-26; Mark 6:30-44; John 6:16-21; Luke 7:11-17; Luke 13:10-17; John 11:38-44.

            [5] Alison Siewart and others, Drama Team Handbook (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 15.

            [6] John Lewis, Laura Andrews, and Flip Kobler, The Complete Guide to Church Play Production (Nashville: Convention Press, 1997), 277.

            [7] Ibid., 277.

            [8] Everett Robertson, The Dramatic Arts in Ministry (Nashville: Convention Press, 1989), 7.

            [9] “Oral Interpretation,” http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/oral+interpretation (cited 20 March 2013) American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. (Houghton Mifflin, 2009).

            [10] Eugene and Margaret L. Bahn,  A History of Oral Interpretation (Minneapolis: Burgess, 1970), 174.

Dress Your Best

Public speakers never have a second chance to make a first impression. While a person need not be a beauty to speak to groups, appearance and clothing are an important part of the speaker’s image. Neat appearance and appropriate clothing display professionalism and confidence. On the other hand, untidy appearance and inappropriate clothing can distract the listener and diminish the speaker’s credibility. Christian speakers should always look their best to represent the Lord well.

Florence and Marita Littauer have written and spoken about personality types for many years. They discuss how personality affects style of communication in their book, Communication Plus: How to Speak So People will Listen. Personality is definitely expressed in the clothing, hairstyle, and makeup of a speaker.[1] They suggest four different personalities with four different looks. While no two people are exactly alike, each personality tends to wear clothes of a particular style.

            Popular Sanguine: bright colors, sparkles and bling, flamboyant clothing, unique styles

            Powerful Choleric: bright colors, simple prints, tailored style, business professional

            Perfect Melancholy: muted tones, classic cuts, traditional styles, simple elegance

            Peaceful Phlegmatic: earthy tones, flowing fabrics, relaxed fit, unstructured styles

Personality should be considered when shopping for clothing, accessories, and makeup.

Public speakers need to understand how personality impacts style of speaking and type of clothing. While appearance should reflect personality, clothing styles should not be extreme. The audience and occasion should be considered as well as the fit and comfort of the clothes. Clothing should not be distracting to the speaker or listeners. According to the Littauers: Regardless of your personality, it is important to put extra effort into dressing for the platform. The things that work on the stage may well be things that you would never wear to the store or office. But on the stage, in front of an audience, you want to have a look that sets you apart and lends dignity to your work.[2]

Some people have a natural sense of style and dress attractively without effort. Others must work harder to look their best. General ideas can be seen in fashion magazines. Clothing consultants or sales clerks can provide professional input. Speakers must wear clothing, hairstyles, and makeup appropriate for age, setting, and ministry. Timeless classics are recommended over faddish trends. Invest money in fashions that last and are made well. 

The speaking wardrobe should take into consideration appropriate attire, personal style, body type, and skin tones. Type of attire is determined by the occasion, setting, and audience. A speaker is wise to ask about dress for the event before arriving unprepared. It is a general rule of thumb for a speaker to wear clothing one level above the audience. If the audience wears jeans, the speaker should wear nice slacks. If the audience wears slacks, the speaker should wear a dressy pantsuit, skirt, or dress.

There are four different body types which determine how clothes look on a person. They are called by different names, though they generally describe the same basic shapes. Several fashion sources suggest these four categories: circle (thick around the middle), triangle (larger at the bottom), hourglass (curvy but evenly proportioned), and rectangle (straight up and down). Circle figures should wear loose fitting clothes around the middle and fitted pants; avoid high-rise pants, belts, and fitted tops. Triangle figures should wear tailored tops and fuller bottoms; avoid oversized sweaters, skinny jeans, and clingy skirts. Hourglass figures should wear fitted waistbands and belts; avoid shapeless tunics, baby–doll dresses, and oversized cardigans. Rectangle figures should wear fitted waists and flared bottoms to create curves; avoid clingy dresses, Empire–waist tops, and flowing skirts.[1] Women who know their body types and wear the appropriate clothes always have a more attractive and confident appearance.     

Colors also matter. Solid, bright (not neon) colors are usually flattering on all women. However, certain colors look better with specific skin tones. In 1980, Carole Jackson developed a color system called “Color Me Beautiful.” Based on the four seasons of the year, a woman’s natural skin tones determine the most complimentary color palate. See the chart below listing coloration and colors for each season. [2]

 Clothing makes a statement. Clean, neat clothes project a sense of pride and care. Dirty, disheveled clothes indicate lack of interest or even emotional distress. Stylish, coordinated clothes display attention to detail. From head to toe, clothing matters to women and to public speakers. Clothing need not send the wrong message: “I am worn out and out–of–date.” Clothing can project a positive image. Speakers should wear their best to speak their best. Personal style and event setting may vary. However, a speaker’s appearance should always be neat, modest, and appropriate. Comment below with any additional tips you have about the speaker’s wardrobe!

        

            [1] Littauer, Communication Plus, 174-176.

            [2] Ibid., 176.

    [1] Larson, Kristin. “The Right Clothes for Your Body Type,” http://www.realsimple.com/beauty-fashion/clothing/shopping-guide/right-clothes-your-body-type-00000000007925/index.html (cited March 20, 2013), Real Simple, (Time Inc. 2013).

            [2] Carole Jackson, Color Me Beautiful (New York: Ballentine Books, 1980).