Monthly Archives: June 2011

Dressed for presentation success?

Last week, a trainee from “Presentation Skills” sent me an email – I thought I’d share my answer here.

If you have comments, please add them.


The question

After the course I was discussing with a friend a mine and it ended up in a statement/question that needs to be cleared out by a specialist. One of them pretends that, while presenting in a suit in front of an audience, it should be better that the sleeves of the skirt are longer than the vest so that the sleeves are well visible. This should express an aggressive, positive and confident body language. There is even a rather famous presenter on the Dutch television that should buy his vests 1 size smaller to emphasise this effect even more.


What do you think about this?


My answer

First of all, I am not an expert on dress-sense – my wife would argue that I have no style 🙂

I therefore cannot make any comment on the specific effects that specific clothing has on the impact of a presentation.


What I can say is:

  • 93% of what is understood by other people is more than words – this includes body-language and all sorts of other things (like culture, convictions etc..). Therefore, it is clear for me that the perception of one’s clothing can definately have an impact on how the other person processes information.
  • I think it takes more than clothes to come across as aggressive and confident
  • Aggressive doesn’t sound like a good thing to me
  • I think it would be possible to wear all sorts of clothes that are supposed to look like XYZ and not have the other body-language and behaviours to really create XYZ
  • I’m sure Tom Cruise wears high-heels to make himself look taller 🙂 and more “powerful”
  • Some people position themselves as experts in colour/clothing and will tell you which colours best make you look X, Y, Z


What I mostly think about clothing and presentations is that you need to match the style to the audience you are presenting to. If I were to come to training dressed extremely differently to you guys, it would have an impact. I also note that some people come to my trainings looking “really smart” with expensive clothes from designer labels. The fact that I think they “look smart” probably says more about me than it does about them. But its worth thinking about…


That’s the best I can answer.


Focus on behaviour and not clothes. Match clothes to the audience style if you want to. Do that right and your presentation will look confident and strong.


Hope this helps!



Follow me on twitter for more L+D resources or check

Self-learning in the vegetable patch: 5 important ingredients

What can be learnt alone and what cannot? What is the fine-line between discovering something and learning something? Do we need expert help to learn? Do we need expert help to KNOW we’ve learnt?

All these questions interest me a lot at the moment and I’d be happy to have your comments. For today, I just want to share an example of something that feels like self-learning to me, underlining the different things that make it possible: Welcome to my vegetable patch.


Motivation is key

Since I bought my small farm in January, I have delusions of “living off the land” and “keeping livestock”. Fortunately, Delhaize is just down the road and my chickens are well behaved!

But I still have a vegetable patch. Having spent the initial day digging and turning the soil, a month waiting patiently for weeds to die under cardboard boxes and plenty of time doubled-over planting seeds….. things have started to grow!

I was motivated by the challenge of growing my own vegetables, the ideas of relaxing in the garden with a family project and the (potential) reward of eating the vegetables afterwards. As far as I can tell, the first 2 are examples of what @DanielPink calls Motivation 3.0 in his book “Drive”. Eating the vegetables sounds like a classic example of extrinsic motivation (the proverbial carrot becomes reality :-)).

Without these motivations, I am not sure I would learn (or do) anything in my vegetable patch.


Clarity of mission

Covey says you have to begin with the end in mind in order to be effective. Csikszentmihalyi says you need clarity of mission to get in flow. I agree with both. Vegetable patch mission: Grow some vegetables!

Ok, got it. What next?

Last week, I was confronted with a dramatic vegetable patch situation: My garden-pea crop is falling over. Nobody ever told me this would happen. I didn’t know they would grow so tall and only my own understanding of gravity and growth tells me now what the problem is. Time to self-learn!

Mission: Help them stay upright. I hold on to this idea like a burning torch in the darkness of my ignorance.

Mission is key to successful self-learning.


Ability to evaluate the as-is situation and self-coach for options

In my post on self-learning competences, I talked about the need to self-coach and give feedback. I am a fan of the GROW model from Sir John Whitmore. Faced with my droopy peas, I applied this model to self-coach myself towards solutions:

  • I want the peas to stay upright as I have an intuition that this is best for growth
  • Assess reality: Peas not upright, future growth in bad direction…
  • Options: stand and hold them, recruit children to do the same, look on internet for answer, tie them individually to a bunch of sticks, put a wire from one side to the next and hope they climb it, create a fence ….
  • Assess options in relationship to mission, vision, resources, competences etc… (children not motivated 😉
  • Choose action





Available resources, including own materials, own competence and time to discover and learn

I decided to go for the fence solution. I still don’t know if this is what people generally do and frankly I don’t care.

Not wanting to spend money on a fence, I looked around for something that might do the trick (much like William Kamkwamba and his windmill): I found chicken wire and a few bits of old bamboo.

3 hours of work.

I tried, I failed. I tried, I succeeded.


Encouragement and feedback

Csikszentmihalyi says it is important to get feedback from the world. When self-learning, this might come from simply seeing (lack of) results, but it can be equally helpful to seek out other 3rd parties for feedback and other ideas. Whilst failing to create my effective fence, I asked 2 people for their input

  • My 35 year old wife came with encouragement in the form of words (“Well done” and “keep it up”) and presence (her simply being nearby boosted my activity – I hoped to show her how clever I was !)

  • My 6 year old daughter came with feedback: “That’s not going to work papa. You don’t have enough chicken wire for all the peas” Good point – this feedback helped me to slow down, think ahead and change course…



Voila, what seems to me to be 5 important ingredients for successful self-learning.

What do you think?

Follow me on twitter for more learning + development ideas or stay-tuned to

Thanks for reading!