The last word

Trainer and writer John Charlton gives some advice on what not to wear when
conducting a training course

Imagine my horror recently when I unwrapped a birthday present  and discovered a pilot’s shirt. Or rather, a
short-sleeve shirt in the pilot style.  

Naturally, I stuffed it in the charity clothes bank. It’s
probably now being worn by a sweaty moustachioed taxi driver in Bucharest’s
Latin quarter.

The sight of this item set me thinking about  trainer stereotypes and the ongoing debate
surrounding ‘smart casual’ business dress. This phenomenon, too often a social
and professional minefield, is still in favour, according to recent research by

Yet very often good trainers let themselves down by their
choice of attire and they underestimate the importance of appearance at their
professional peril.

Image consultant Lesley Everett says 55 per cent of impressions
we form about  people are based on
personal appearance and 38 per cent on voice quality. That leaves 7 per cent
for words.

Add the truism that decisions at interviews are made within 30
seconds of candidates introducing themselves and it’s clear that we tend to
place far more emphasis on what we see rather than what we smell or hear. Sight
is the most powerful sense. So how can trainers hit the right couture note?

The simple answer is to dress appropriately for the audience
and environment in which they’re performing.

Casual wear is probably OK in a blue-collar type environment
but not in a business one. There co-ordinated conservative attire is the rule,
and ties are a must for males. As Oscar Wilde said : "A well-tied tie is
the first serious step in life." 
Although I think he would have made Open University lecturers an
exception to that rule.

It’s also imperative to minimise colours, wear matching shoes
in good condition and to keep clothes clean.

In her book Walking Tall – Key Steps to Total Image Impact,
Everett recommends an image audit and self-critique analysis which involves
seeking and taking advice from a trusted source. Sounds fine – just make sure
that source isn’t an Open University lecturer wearing a pilot’s shirt.

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