Dog with Christmas antlers morguefile(This post originally ran a few years ago, but now that Christmas trees and decorations are twinkling on every street, I think it’s a good time to share this tip again. Hopefully it will save someone else from the embarrassment I went through!)

The Christmas season is a popular time for women’s events. For the past several years, I’ve had at least one Christmas presentation, and sometimes two or three during the holiday season. In order to make sure I’m prepared with what planners need, I’ve developed a couple of presentations that are specifically for holiday events, complete with a Christmas theme and spiritual message. Yes, preparation is important.

But the preparation required to be a good speaker sometimes requires more than just a good presentation. It can also require appropriate wardrobe choices.

At this point, some are probably saying that it’s the message–not the dress–that matters, that clothing shouldn’t affect our presentations. And spiritually-speaking, that’s absolutely correct. But in the real world, if we want people to hear our message, we should do everything possible to remove anything that could be distracting . . . and that includes inappropriate attire for the occasion.

A common rule of thumb is for a speaker to dress one step above the audience. And although dress isn’t critical at a relaxed weekend retreat, it is very important for some events.

Like a sequined evening at the country club.

It was years ago, long before I traveled very much as a speaker. Until that time, my conversation with event planners was limited to the requirements of speaking: topic, length, fee, travel, humorous vs serious or a mixture of the two. One thing that was NOT on my list of questions was expected attire.

I arrived in Texas tired from the long trip, yet excited for this Christmas presentation, my first event outside the southeast. I had a great Christmas message prepared and couldn’t wait to share it. My hostess, a dear friend, met me at the airport and helped me heave my heavy suitcase carrying my favorite tailored pinstripe suit and black boots into the back of her car. Then we called the event planner to let her know I had arrived safely.

Somewhere along the way she mentioned two things we had not discussed prior to my leaving South Carolina: the location and the attire for the evening. As I said, I hadn’t traveled much at that point and had assumed I would be speaking at the church, wearing churchy-type clothing.

Well, you know what they say about assuming…

Within minutes of landing a thousand miles from home, I heard the words “country club” and “semi-formal” for the first time in relation to this Christmas trip. My mind raced as I tried to figure out how I was going to dress up my non-semi-formal clothing with the least amount of money. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find a way to pass off a tailored pinstripe suit as something acceptable for such an evening.

Two hours and a hundred dollars later I walked out of the mall with a beautiful outfit . . . an outfit very similar to one I had already hanging in my closet at home . . . a thousand miles away.

Well, there is a little addendum to the story that I’ll have to share at another time, but the moral of this story is: When talking with event planners about your upcoming booking, be sure to ask the type of location and the expected attire.

It can save you a lot of time, money, and embarrassment.

And it can help make your message, not your clothing, the focus of the evening.

I have become all things to all people, so I could save some by all possible means. 1 Corinthians 9:22

I pray God’s richest blessings as we celebrate the Gift and the Giver,

Vonda