Why Chinese teacups have no handles

Dear ladies and gentlemen, some of you may wonder: why the traditional Chinese teacup has no handle while the European teacup does? Do you know where the difference comes from? Today, I will introduce you the story behind, and also some etiquette rules you should know about tea.

Chinese Anti-scalding Design
Chinese teacups are usually made of porcelain, and the shape without handles is more convenient both for production and transportation. And there are specific temperatures for brewing certain tea. In this case, a cup with no handle allows people to hold it with hands and feel the temperature by themselves. However, Chinese still have two special designs for the anti-scalding purpose.

1. Pair the cup with cover and saucer, so you don’t have to hold the body of the cup with hands directly but hold the saucer instead.

2. The bottom edges of the cup and the saucer are wider. And the edge serves as a stand to support the body of the cup and also prevents the direct physical contact.

What do the Europeans do to avoid scalding?
However in Europe, almost all sorts of cups in Europe were made of metals (silver or tin), and most of them are with handles. Because the thermal conductivity of metals is much better than any other materials, so it is impossible to use them for hot beverages. So how do they manage to drink hot tea without hurting themselves? They also had two ways:

1. In the 17th century, they imported Chinese teacups, which had no handle but with saucers. However, Europeans at that time knew nothing about the way how Chinese way of drinking. So they would hold the saucer with one hand, with the other hand to pinch the edge of the cup, take a sip very quickly and then put it back to the saucer.Even though they were scalded, they would never say it and would remain calm on their surface to stay elegant.

2. They got inspiration from their milk cup and wanted to produce their own teacups with handles to avoid the risk of scalding. And finally in the 18th century, they were able to do it after they discovered the secrets of porcelain.

Drinking habits
Chinese way of drinking is more of tasting: take the saucer with cup together, open the cover a bit but still press it against the cup; take a sip and then put it back onto the table.

European afternoon tea is usually a social event between nobles. And most Europeans are fond of sweets so that they will add sugar and milk into the hot tea. In order to cool the tea, they would pour it into the saucer, and then drink it afterwards with it. Later in the 19th century, people from high society abandoned drinking from the saucer, because they think it was vulgar and inappropriate to do so in public.

Etiquette rules for drinking tea

No matter you are in China or in Europe, there are some common rules you should follow when drinking tea:
Don’t make any noise when drinking.
And don’t drink like a fish but take small sips instead.
The spoon for European afternoon tea is for stirring the tea, not for drinking.
You cannot fill the whole cup with tea, otherwise the liquid would spill out and your guests would easily get scalded.
You could enjoy some pastries when drinking tea but never eat and drink at the same time using both hands.

Do you prefer to use the cups with handles or without handles? What else do you know about drinking tea?

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Secrets in paintings: which posture to choose?

Dear ladies, do you sometimes experience a moment of panic when you need to take a group photo? Where to stand? Where to put your hands? How can you look elegant and charming? In today’s article, let’s appreciate some group paintings of noblesse and royal members to draw some inspirations!

Standing and sitting postures
First of all, there are some general rules for commonly adopting postures regardless of the group size and the photo composition. Here we introduce you these:

Standing pose
Formal standing pose:
1. Back straight, shoulders down and back, face the front
2. Legs and feet together
3. Upper arms along the body or put together in front

Side pose:
1. Chin parallel to the ground
2. Back straight, shoulders back and down
3. Turn your body 45 degrees either front or back
4. Legs and feet together

Formal pose:
1. Back straight, shoulders back and down
2. Upper arms along the body, hands together
in front
3. Feet together, knees slightly apart but preferably together
4. Never lean on the back of the chair

Crossed calves:
1. Body straight, open shoulders
2. Knees slightly apart(with long dress)
3. Legs extended and cross the calves
4. One feet in front of the other
5. Hands together in front of the laps

Before taking the pose, you should first know the composition of the photo and where is your spot.
In formal occasions, people usually stand or sit in a row. When it is more casual, you can stand in more layered ways to achieve a better visual effect.

Triangle rule is commonly used in group photos. It can be either pyramid, with the tallest in the middle, or the V shape as the inverse version. The composition can be extended to an M or a W shape depending on the number of people.

Pyramid Composition
The Three Eldest Princesses, Charlotte, Princess Royal, Augusta and Elizabeth – Gainsborough 1784

The French and US presidential couples
The pyramid is taken in formal group photo

The V shape is often adopted when ladies or children are the focus, you can also add a seated row in the front which attracts most of the attention.

The British Royal Family
Focus is led on the seated couple and children

In most cases, people in the middle usually face front while the ones on the side should face towards the centre.

If you are in the centre, turn your head towards the camera, however you don’t need to look straight into it.

Keeping shoulders parallel to the camera makes your body look bigger, it will show your strength and authority. That’s one reason why male leaders usually take this posture when taking a group photo.

However, if you want to appear more elegant and natural in the photo, rotate your shoulders 15 degrees.

Standing on the side doesn’t necessarily mean that you lose all the attention. In fact, taking the right posture can make you look even better.

Slightly incline towards the centre and keep the waist straight. By doing this, ladies can show the charming line of their neck, shoulder or back.

Incline a little to show side body curve

Group Size
Small group
When in a small group, it is easier to find the composition and the right position so you can quickly decide your posture. But fewer people also means each can get more attention. If you want the photo to look more natural and vivid, you can add more interactions, either with other people in the photo or with the environment.

Use an object to make the photo more interesting

Make eye contacts with others

Large group
When there are many people in the photo, one way to be more visible is to get more exposed to the light, especially your face should not be in the dark. Standing straight with chin up a little can make you look more confident and outstanding.

Ladies on the left adopting over the shoulder pose, facing the light
The Family of Queen Victoria in 1887 – Tuxen

The lady in the right backside also draws attention with her elegant side posing, facing the light
The Du Cane and Boehm Family Group – Gawen Hamilton 1734

Another way to be more visible on the photo is to visually enlarge your space on the photo. You can simply reach your arms to the side on the back of a chair or else. Another way is to put your hands on the waist and use elbows to reach a similar visual effect.

The lady in the middle stretching her arms
Family of Felipe V de Borbón

Extending your arms or elbows

Dear ladies, after going through these beautiful paintings, do you have ideas about how to pose in your next group photo? Does any other problem bother you when taking a group photo? What is your most used posture? Please leave a comment below!

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All things to know about bread


Dear ladies, gentlemen and children, nowadays you can easily find bread anywhere you go, savoury or sweet or even in different shapes, it is an aliment that fits everyone’s tastes. Where the bread originates from? Do you want to know about some interesting stories and table manners about bread? Let’s discover together!

It is often being said that Egyptians invented bread in 3000 BC. We suppose that bread was created by accident, by mixing crushed or ground grains with water from the Nile, very rich in silt containing fermentation agents. Egyptians somehow put the fermented mixture in the oven then made the first bread in the world.

Egyptian baker making his bread

Let’s review some bread etiquette rules
The bread plate should be on the top left side of the main plate.

The proper cutlery for serving bread is a serrated bread knife. With sharp serrations, this knife cut the bread neatly while preserving its airiness.

You use a butter knife, like this one on the left, to cut off small butter cubes. You can also spread the butter with this knife.

Bread shouldn’t be cut with a knife but we use our hands to tear small pieces but always one at a time.

Use two fingers to break soft bread or breadsticks. For greasy bread like croutons, use a spoon especially when they are served over a soup.

You should avoid tearing pieces of bread with your teeth!

Having the fork in the left hand and a piece of bread in the right hand to push the food is a French method, but seen as very «middle-class», to avoid when you are invited or during formal meals, but you can keep with your close family.
In formal occasions, if the bread is served with olive oil or vinegar, each person should have his/her own plate for dipping.

Last but not least, we don’t use the bread to make sandwiches: we don’t stuff it with butter
or food, but we put a knob of butter and spread if wanted.

Click here to check out more about bread manners

Fun facts about bread
One ancient Egyptian way of baking the bread dough was to use a clay oven elevated with legs.

Portable oven (ἰπνός /ipnos) from 17th c. BC

It is believed that bread should always be in an upright position otherwise it will bring the Devil in the house.

One of the versions stating the origin of French baguette to the time of Napoleon. During the battles, bakers changed the traditional round shape to a longer shape so soldiers could carry them easily in a back pocket of their outfit.

The bread is so hard when dried out. In mediaeval, people use dry bread as plates or even containers for soup.

The caramel colour and aroma of bread are products of the maillard reaction: sugar reacts with an amino acid under high temperature.
The same reaction happens in a barbecue which makes meat mouth-watering.

Germany is the country having the most varied bread in the world, with more than 300 basic types and more than 1000 types of bread rolls and pastries.

Dear all, which type of bread is your favourite? Mine is of course:french baguette. Please share with me in the comments!

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A key item for preparing a speech…

Dear ladies and gentlemen, how do you prepare a public speech? When there is no microphone, no audience nor scene, you can still get fully prepared just with a mirror. Wonder how to do it? Let me introduce you to some mirror exercises!

Looking into a mirror as you rehearse your speech can help you become more aware of your posture, stance, body language, and gestures. Many great speakers also use/used mirrors to help them practise speeches.

Churchill giving a public speech

Mirror exercises

1. Confidence Exercise

Before getting started, you may have to do this exercise. Confidence is the precondition for every good speech. You can persuade others only when you believe in yourself and what you are talking about.

Stand in front of a mirror, it’s better to reflect your whole body. Keep your weight equally divided on both feet.
Straighten your back and take a deep breath.
Keep your shoulders back and push your breast out
Look yourself in the eyes confidently. Put on a light smile and show determination.
Encourage yourself, say: “I believe in you!”, “I see you getting better every day!”, etc…

Sit down if it is more comfortable for you

At the beginning, you can do it every morning when you get up. When you feel more confident about yourself, you can reduce it.

2. Smile exercise

In fact, 70% of the audiences’ attention is paid to what they see rather than hear. Nothing is more contagious than a genuine smile.

Duchenne Smile Practise
Stand in front of a mirror but concentrate only on your eyes. You may find it helpful to cover the lower part of your face with a piece of paper.
Make your eyes smile; hold it for ten seconds.
When your eyes do smile, remember how it feels, including which muscles are working and how.
Repeat this exercise 3 times.

Practise smiling before going to work, you can do in a bathroom. Use your hand or tissue instead when there is no paper around.

3. Breath Exercise

When giving a speech, we usually need a deeper voice to be clearly heard. In order for you to be in control of your voice, first you need to be in control of your breath.

Stand in front of a mirror, keep your body balanced. Rest shoulders and chest.
Breathe in through your nose, fill your belly with air.
Breath out through your mouth, slightly push your belly in. Exhaling slowly and gradually.
Pay attention not to lift your shoulders or chest as you breathe in.

Avoid lifting shoulders

Every time you feel stressful or there’s an important event upcoming, take some time to do this exercise. It is a good way to help you calm down.

4. Diction Exercises

Diction exercises strengthen the muscles involved in speech. It helps you pronounce more clearly and avoid habitual patterns that may not be benefitting your speech delivery.

Stand in front of a mirror close enough so you can see your mouth and tongue movement.
Try to say: “Betty bought a bit of butter, but she found the butter bitter, so Betty bought a bit of better butter to make the bitter butter better.”
Repeat until you can say it without mistake. Choose other sentences to practices pronunciation of words beginning with other letters.

This exercise is a good warm up before delivering the speech. You can also do it whenever it is convenient.

5. Gesture exercise

To be a good speaker our gestures have to reflect the emotion and story we are telling to our audience. As I said, people pay more attention to what they see, than hear.

Think about what gestures are the best for particular sentences in your speech.
Sort them out clearly so you know which ones to practice.
Stand in front of the mirror and start practising one by one.
Control the range of motion. Make gestures while talking, find the right timing so the movements don’t seem abrupt.

Do not make any unnecessary gestures

Once your speech text is done, you can start practising until you master them completely.

Dear ladies and gentlemen, we hope these mirror exercises can help with your next great speech. If you find anything difficult or have any problems with the practise, let us know!

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 Secrets to becoming a dandy

Dear gentlemen, do you know what kind of person you are? If you take great care of your clothing and general appearance you may be a dandy. Here is a guide for you to understand what makes this aristocratic style and how to achieve it.

Dandy – an elegant man

Dandy is actually an elegant man that places importance upon physical appearance, deportment, refined language, honourable ideals and more.  He is quite flamboyant in his fashion. First dandies showed up back in the late 18th century. Today, you may ask yourself – Who is a modern dandy? Let me walk you through steps on how to become a modern & elegant man.

1. Be confident

A dandy stands out from the crowd, style-wise. His look is an expression of himself. Therefore, you have to take pride in your appearance. A style becomes elegant and perfect when it reflects the inner you. Don’t be afraid of what people will say, you should feel good with yourself.

Be confident and smile

2. Impeccable tailoring

There isn’t any part of clothing that is loose, baggy or wide. Garments are well-cut and fit good. You don’t look like the suit is not yours. Focus on detail and fabric. Also, you should change your suit according to the events and the season. Lighter colours are worn in summer while darker in winter.

Taking measures for a suit

3. Tie or bowtie?

I personally wear everything: tie, bow tie, ascot tie. Depending on the event I will choose a particular type. I feel the most elegant and confident when wearing an ascot tie, which I do when I am teaching. For gala events, I will choose a bow tie. For daily or professional use I will wear a tie.

Wearing a bow tie for a gala event

4. Shoes

Leather shoes in classic colour are timeless. Invest in your shoes, all your efforts can be worthless if you wear a pair of shoddy shoes. There are many models, but I suggest you to have at least these: Derby, Oxford and Slipper shoes. Wax and polish them regularly.

Elegant shoes for a  gala event

5. Accessories

Accessories should match the occasion you are dressing for and your personality. I personally prefer having cufflinks, pocket square and wristwatch most of the time. You can also have a pocket-watch, tie pin, brooch, etc… Hats can be also worn if you really want to be noticed.

One of my favourite pocket square folding: the rose

6. Groom yourself

There are no limits when it comes to hygiene and grooming. Style your hair and beard if you have, use perfume and even makeup in achieving the desired look. When I am teaching, or when I have some special event I will be always freshly shaved. Also, I apply different perfumes depending on the occasion and season. Face cream is a must have, for having a moisturised face.

Moisturise your face every day

7. Express your thoughts

A dandy is an educated and sophisticated person, who uses a refined language when speaking. Jargon, curses, impolite words do not exist in a Dandy life. I always tend to respect others and to be pleasant when having a conversation. Properly addressing people, giving compliments always work well. By reading books or magazines you can widen your vocabulary.

Take some time just for yourself

8. Be a gentleman

Good manners never go out of fashion. Know the table manners, how to present yourself socially and how to be considerate to others. Treat others as you would like others to treat you.  Be the best version of yourself!

Be considerate to others and grateful

Dear gentlemen, I hope I have enlightened you with some tips on how to be a modern & elegant man. Do you have any other tips / questions to share with us? Please do so in the comments below!

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Pocket Square

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Impolite behaviours in daily life

Dear ladies and gentlemen, what kind of behaviour would be considered as impolite in daily life? This is a big question, and actually, I could write a book about it! Today, I will share with you 7 behaviours that I would never do in my daily life. Don’t hesitate to share yours!

Don’t: Speak loudly on the phone in public
I will pay special attention and control my voice when speaking on the phone. We all tend to speak louder when we have a phone discussion. But the truth is that nobody around wishes to hear or take part in your discussion. Please make your voice strong enough for people to hear, but not to disturb the person seated nearby.

Don’t: Check my phone all the time when dining with someone
If I am having dinner or meeting somebody, I won’t check my phone or even place it on the table. Because this would probably make him/her think “I am here with you, but you don’t want to talk with me!”

Don’t: Rush to take a seat in public transport
Don’t push and don’t rush in public transport! If you are in public transport, do not rush to take the seated place or to go first in a lane, it is extremely rude to show you want to be the first before the other, it shows selfishness.

Don’t: Stand on the left side of the escalator
The etiquette rule for escalator is “ stand on the right, walk on the left”. Avoid standing on the left side of the escalator! This side is for people who are in a hurry or who want to walk up stairs, so please don’t get in their way.

Don’t: Interrupt rudely someone while he/she is talking
It is impolite to interrupt someone while he is talking and don’t interrupt other parties that are having conversations. Just wait patiently and listen carefully if you want to be respectful. Besides, you will have more time to think about what you are going to say and how to react when he is finished with his speech.

Don’t: Stare at people in the street
Don‘t stare at people in the street, especially some handsome guys or beautiful girls, or foreigners! Your stare would make them feel uncomfortable or embarrassed to some extent. Or even worse, don’t take stealthy.

Don’t: not holding the door to someone behind
Holding the door to the person coming after you is one of the basic rules. If you want to be even more elegant and admired, you can as well smile to the person coming after you. Smiling is the key to every good feeling, sharing it helps to feel more confident and glad.

If we would all have more manners, we would create a better society. What else do you know about this topic? Please share with us!

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How to prepare a great menu for a formal dinner

Dear ladies and gentlemen, spring is in the air! People step out and get together more often. If you are planning to host a formal western dinner but wondering how to prepare the menu, then these tips can definitely help you impress your guests.

A typical continental menu includes these parts:

If it is a French-style dinner or your guests have the habit to have a small drink before eating, the menu can start with alcoholic beverages.
You can choose from common Apéritifs like Vermouth, Campari, Dubonnett and Sherry. Sparkling wine and cocktails can also be good.
Apéritif should be dry in order to stimulate the appetite, try to avoid drinks which taste too sweet.

If there is no Apéritif, you can start the menu with appetizers. This first course of the meal usually consists of a small amount of food.
Seafood like smoked salmon and shrimps are often seen in appetizers. Oysters are also a good choice if it is the right season. Seafood is better served with a lighter white wine such as Chablis or Sauvignon Blanc.
Foie gras or red meat appetizers can be served with red wines like merlot or chardonnay.

Soup can vary. Normally seen are roasted onion soup, cream of mushroom soup and borsch. Hot bisque or chilli soup can quickly warm up your guests.
You can also try Curry soup or Tom Yum soup to add some exotic flavours, just make sure that your guests can accept that and that the taste is harmonious with the rest of the courses.

Main Course
The main course is the most anticipated part of a meal. It is usually a well-cooked meat course. Beef, Lamb, Pork and poultry are often prepared in different ways as the main course. On the side are a small amount of vegetables and staple food.
If the main course is rather heavy, crunchy vegetables like asparagus broccoli can reduce the greasiness. Seasoned or creamed side dishes will bring more tastes if the meat is lighter.
You can also make fish as the main course or prepare a fish dish before a meat dish. Again please prepare the right kind of table wine to go with the dish. A simple rule is that red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat.
Sometimes food like pasta or risotto can also be offered as the main course, you can check with your guests what do they want and prepare accordingly.

There are also many options for dessert, ice cream or cakes can be served if you have no better idea.
If time permits, prepare a dessert of the same style as the main course. If it is French, a Crème brûlée will be on point; if it is Italian, maybe a pannacotta or a tiramisu will do good.

At the end of the meal, offer some nice drinks. Coffee and tea are a safe option. Prepare espresso, black coffee and some black tea, provide some milk and sugar too.
In case your guests would like to have some digestif, you can offer them some brandy, whisky or liqueur.

Dear ladies and gentlemen, now you know about what makes the menu of a western-style dinner. If you are curious about the cutleries or the table manner, please check our previous articles or just leave us a comment!
Cutlery Usage
Wine Choice

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How to write a hotel review

Dear ladies and gentlemen nowadays people rely more and more on reviews before going to a restaurant or booking a hotel. You may have used tripadvisor, 大众点评 or ctrip to help you. But what if you want to start writing your own, do you know how to do it? What you should write about? I invite you to learn some tips.

Five Ws
Start your review by giving a little introduction about yourself, you don’t need to go too much in details, you can follow the five Ws:
Who: who went to the hotel, was it only you? Were you with your family, your partner, your friends or your colleagues? Also, add the frequency of your travels, it will give to your hotel review more credibility.
Where: give the city and the name of the hotel you stayed in.
When: tell your readers the dates of your trip, if it was during a particular holiday, during the week or during a weekend.
Why: give the reason for your trip (business trip, pleasure…) and why you would recommend or not the place to others.
What: let the readers know about what you did there if you only went there to sleep if you went to the hotel restaurant, the type of room you booked, your first impression of the place, everything related to what you have experienced during your trip.

Set evaluation criteria
If you are a person who travels often to different places, for many reasons and you write review wherever you go, you should set standard criteria you will use to evaluate the tested places and will always use the same for all places you are going to.

Tip: take some notes throughout your stay so you will not forget anything when it’s time to write the review.

People like to know the distance between the hotel and the airport or the station, so you can write about that and also give the amount of money you spent on transportation or taxi to get there. You can be more useful and let the people know about the major attractions near the hotel (shopping, restaurants, dining, nightlife, tourist activities).

A picture is worth a thousand words. If the website allows you to, give as many pictures as you can to support your review whether you are talking about the wonderful sunset in Greece or the dusty desk when you arrived. Posting pictures will help the readers understand your experience with ease.

You can talk about the room you had, the feeling sleeping on the bed, about the pool if it was clean, or you can also discuss the different services provided by the hotel (spa, massage, room service…). You may think they are small details but they can be useful for the people reading you to make their choice.

And of course don’t forget about the staff in your review, they are also part of your experience. Discuss how courteous and friendly or unhelpful and rude the staff was. Maybe you had a special request and you are satisfied with the way they handled it.

Share your experience of what stood out. Include details of your stay, why you liked or disliked your visit. Give a balanced view, but you don’t need to list every little flaw: the readers want you to focus on facts and give valuable details, they don’t want to read about a list of complaints.

Write with clarity, confidence and honesty: be objective and fair. Keep in mind that the other traveller may not have been to the hotel, so your review can persuade them to either go or choose another option.
Be careful about the tone you use. If you are angry or upset, you are still writing a review, not a rant.

Tip: when you are done writing your review, take some time to read it back or ask someone to check it. It should be professional, engaging, detailed and free of errors.

Dear ladies and gentlemen, writing a review is not an easy task, just set your own criteria and you will soon find your way of writing. Do you have any other tips to write a nice review? Please share with us.

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«Royally Outstanding» Class in Beijing on April 13 and 14!

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How to prepare a speech?

Dear ladies and gentlemen, there can be occasions where you need to prepare a public speech. How to write it? How to present? What should you wear? If you are getting nervous just thinking about these questions, then you won’t want to miss the following tips.

Write the speech

Set the topic
A clearly defined topic is the backbone of a good speech. Try to focus on one rather than covering multiple topics. A single topic will also make it easier to keep the speech structured and logic.

Write an outline
Of course, there will be opening and closing parts, but you know it is the body of the speech that needs the most attention. Think about 3 or 4 topics sentences gradually leading to the main idea, keep the logic solid. Avoid complex structure which might confuse the audience and even yourself.

Choose supporting points
Collect as much information as possible according to your outline, screen and categorize the information. Combining the materials with your own opinions and experiences can make the speech more original and attractive. Usually, 3 points are enough for each topic sentence.

Adopt correct wording
In many cases, you need to adopt formal expressions. Politely address the audience using “ladies and gentlemen”, or “Sir”, “Madam”. Avoid using slangs and describe things clearly. Try not to use abbreviation when not necessary.

Prepare the speaking

Know the circumstance
Who will you speak to? How many people will there be? Where will you do the speech? How formal is the occasion? Understand the circumstance and choose the appropriate way to present.

Practice the speech
It is not just about memorizing the content. While practising, we’ll get the full impression of the whole presentation. Set a timer and pay attention to the inner rhythm. Imagine where might be the climax and which part might bore the audience, then think about how to react. When possible scenes are anticipated, you will be more calm and confident during the real speech.

Tone and postures
Make sure your tone is natural. Control the volume, it should not be too loud but needs to be clearly audible by the last row of the audience. Stand straight and wear a smile. The movement range of your gestures should be moderate to stay elegant.

Choose the outfit
It will be nice to dress formally. A suit for men and a below-knee skirt with 3-5cm of high heels for women will do. Do not wear too showy or exaggerating cloths or accessories. Also, avoid wearing new clothes, it may cause you trouble while giving a speech.
You may take other kinds of outfits in different scenarios, just keep in mind to be neat and elegant.

Dear ladies and gentlemen, we hope this article can help you better present yourself and the ideas in your next speech. What is the most difficult part for you when preparing a speech? Please share with us!

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