Wardrobe Malfunctions


Even before the bank’s senior franchise manger stood to give his talk I was transfixed by the hole in the bottom of one of his scruffy shoes. On closer inspection his suit was shiny through wear & tear and his shirt had a frayed collar. The over-riding thought going through my mind was, “Surely, on his salary, he can afford a decent suit and shirt. Surely he can afford a decent pair of shoes – or at least clean the ones he’s wearing.” I was really quite cross. So distracted was I by this thinking that he was a good five minutes into his presentation before I realised he’d started. What he talked about I couldn’t begin to tell you.


Isn’t that mad? I’d turned up because I was interested in what he had to say, but when push came to shove, once I’d clapped eyes on him, I couldn’t bring myself to listen.


When you leap to our feet to give a presentation you are fighting for your audience’s attention. They’ll only remember what you said – if they heard it in the first place! And of course they’ll only hear it if they are engaged and stay focused on you throughout. So, we have to fight against other things vying for their attention. Some of these distractions could be external; the room might be cold, someone’s mobile phone goes off, a fire-engine goes by. These can be difficult to control – but can be anticipated. Other distractions might be internal, i.e. within the presenter’s control. Messy hair, scruffy shoes, flies undone, comedy ties, short skirts, plunging necklines, lack of eye contact, reading from the screen etc. etc.

So, the lesson here is: make sure that what you wear doesn’t distract. Always project the smartest image you can, and an image that will impress (not distract) the audience. We have trained National Trust Gardeners in the black art of presenting and whilst I wouldn’t suggest they wore a suit and tie to give talks on Capabilty Brown’s Landscapes I do suggest they kick the mud off their boots, give them a clean and that they wear a clean fleece (not the one they were wearing when they spread organic matter on their marrows.)

Here are five key pointers on holding an audience’s attention:

Look the part!

Look the part!

  • Before speaking put yourself in your audiences’ shoes (especially if they’re shiny) and ask “What’s in it for them?” Make sure you speak about something of interest or value to them.
  • Dress smartly, shine your shoes, brush your hair.
  • Give your audience eye-contact (not the screen)
  • Interact with them, ask them questions
  • Tell stories or anecdotes to which your audience relate can relate


These are lessons the senior franchise manager at the bank would do well to heed. Ironic then that in the audience were two of the smartest chaps you could wish to meet. After the talk I met Alex Edwards & Richard Demczak whose sartorial DItchley (Alex) & Heythrop (Richard) suits were as sharp as sharp could be. Turns out they run Aptus Suits tailoring bespoke made to measure gents and ladies suits. Suits of exceptional quality. But here’s the rub; they keep down their overheads running their operation, away from the bright and expensive city lights, from a modest studio in the Cotswolds. So, even a senior bank manager on his significantly reduced bonus can afford to look smart and therefore be taken seriously.

For more top tips on presenting see our website www.newtricks.co.uk


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