17 June 2009

Dress to depress

As a semi-professional presenter, I am always interested to observe how others do the job. This week I spent an afternoon in a very interesting session, and the main facilitator was an object lesson, to my mind, in how not to present oneself.
His message was clear and well-expressed, but his appearance was so unpreposessing that it detracted from the value of what he had to say. It was hard, at first, to take him seriously.
He had chosen a pair of pinstriped trousers which might well have been half a suit, though in line with modern thinking there was sign of a jacket. I take my suit jacket off to present, but I would not dream of starting without one.
Nor was there any sign of a tie, though it is hard to conceive of one which would have harmonised with the shirt. This looked well-cut from a good material, which had been printed with a ghastly collection of stripes in various shades of grey with a little pink. It completely drained away what little colour there was in his complexion. He probably works 12 or more hours a day for the corporate behemoth that pays his salary and passes his leisure time in front of a computer or TV screen, or in some hellish club being assailed by incomprehensible and deafening music.
Stripes and stripes are bad enough, but navy pinstriped trousers with brown belt and shoes is another sartorial disaster which compounds the overall impression. Worse, the belt is not up to supporting the incipient beer belly that rides over the front of the trousers, and the shoes - a modern style that provides several inches of redundant toe-space, which must make stairs very tricky - are badly scuffed, battered in the elongated toe area and obviously unacquainted with polish.
The overall impression is reinforced at the other vertical extremity, where gelled hair that appears to have been styled with the assistance of a hedge (traversed backwards) or a couple of fingers in an electrical socket is complemented by what might politely be called designer stubble (when on a good-looking singer or model) but which actually looks more like laziness, or perhaps a broken shaver, until you notice that he has troubled to shave parts around his adam's apple. At least the growth serves to obscure, though obviously not to hide, some spots which nevertheless manage to shine through.
His colleagues, and other participants, mostly belong to similarly eccentric schools of fashion thought. One stands in front of us wearing neatly-pressed suit trousers and a high quality white cotton shirt which has not recently been in the presence of an iron. Closer up, the cuffs and collar display a long term lack of attention at laundry time. The open neck and white tee-shirt visible there fail to provide the colour his pallid face needs.
Does this matter? Quite by chance, between finishing the previois paragraph and starting this one I found myself in a tube carriage with the friend who invited me to that session, and he is interested in feedback. We agree that the subject of my criticism was very good at his job, and the corporate behemoth must be assumed to know what it is doing. I regret the fact that his personal presentation detracted from what he had to say, until I had overcome initial unfavourable impressions and focussed on what he was doing very well.
I think I am right to ensure I am smartly turned-out when I stand in front of an audience. And I perform better when I feel comfortable.
Sent using Bunberry from Orange

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