A fashion tip for women speakers

A fashion tip for women. When it comes to giving fashion advice, I am on thin ice. When it comes to giving fashion advice to women, I have fallen through the ice. But on one point, I stand firmly on solid ground.

If a woman is going to speak and she knows that she will have to use a microphone, it is important that she find out what kind of microphone it will be. There are four kinds:

    • The microphone that is mounted on the lectern
    • The handheld microphone
    • The lapel / lavalier / clip-on microphone
    • The headset microphone

For mounted and handheld microphones, I have no fashion advice for women whatsoever. But, for lapel and headset microphones, I do have an important tip.

Lapel and headset microphones are increasingly the most common types of microphones used at conference and other events. In the images below, Christine Lagarde and Marissa Mayer are speaking with headsets. Sheryl Sandberg is speaking with a lapel microphone.

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

Headsets and lapel microphones each have a wire that connects the microphone to a battery pack. Battery packs are the size of a small but chunky cell phone. And they have a clip to attach to the speaker’s clothing.

For men, it is straightforward. Run the wire inside the shirt or jacket and clip the battery pack on the belt in the back. I’ve done it hundreds of times.

For women, things can be more complicated. Many women speak while wearing a dress. The dress itself is usually appropriate and professional; the problem is that, often, there is no good place to attach the battery pack. I have been behind stage with other speakers and have witnessed tech people struggling mightily (and delicately!) to help women find a place where they could attach the battery pack. In some cases, the women had to resort to dropping the battery pack down the front of their dress and clipping it to their bra.

Thus, if you are a woman and you are going to speak at an event, find out beforehand if there will be a microphone and, if so, what kind. If it is going to be a lapel or headset microphone, be sure to wear something that will make your life easier when it comes to wearing the microphone and battery pack. Otherwise, you might find yourself in the same situation in which Northern Irish broadcaster Christine Lampard (née Bleakley) once found herself!


About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
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5 Responses to A fashion tip for women speakers

  1. alexowenhill says:

    Good advice. From a vocal perspective, I also often find myself telling female speakers to avoid the high heels. They push the head, neck and back into an alignment which is not good for voice production.

    • John Zimmer says:

      Thanks for the comment, Alex. Years ago when I was in university, my dorm mates and I went to a Halloween party dressed as women. We found a sidewalk sale that had high heels that actually fit my feet. My feet have never been as sore as the day they were after that party. I have no idea how women are able to manage. It is a complete mystery to me.

  2. PK Read says:

    Good advice! Another note – I was at a series of talks recently and the headset microphones worked fine for the dozen or so speakers there, men and women, with one exception. One woman had very thick hair, which she was wearing down. Her hair kept moving and swishing against her microphone, and we could hear it. Worse, so could she, and it clearly distracted her. But her hair was done in such a way that she couldn’t just tuck it behind her ear. So, as she spoke, it kept falling against her cheek, banging into the mic, and distracting from her talk. So – maybe make sure any particularly long and thick hair isn’t moving around too much, or at least, not on the mic side.

    • John Zimmer says:

      Thanks for the comment, Paula. And your tip on hair is 100% valid. I also find it distracting if a woman (or man) has to constantly brush their hair away from their eyes. Then there is the whole issue of clothing and jewelry. All good material for a future post!

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