I’ve done a lot of facilitating and training in my time and believe me, I’ve had many-a-wardrobe malfunctions while on the job.
Not the greatest thing when you are the center of attention!
So what should you wear?
Read on to learn about my TOP 4 Tips for How to Dress when Training or Facilitating a Group.
To illustrate my points, here are 4 outfits I wore to facilitate training during a 4 day training series – Day 1 (Monday) to Day 4 (Thursday).
1. Always dress 1 step above your audience.
In a previous life, I may have dressed to match my participants’ dress style to seem relatable, possibly because I was young and wanted to fit in with the group. After reflection though, I realized that dressing to match your audience is a mistake.
For example, although I work in a head office that is generally more formal, I often speak to groups of our stakeholders or regional employees that are much more informal (think jeans and polo t-shirts). So, even though I could have worn jeans and a polo T-shirt, I chose to dress a step above to look more polished, which gives me an appearance of being more serious and having expertise (whether or not that is true 😉 . ) By default, a trainer is expected to have a level of expertise in a subject matter that is above that of the audience, and therefore they are trusting that you have that expertise and dress accordingly.
It might seem silly, but if you dress more formally, you actually appear like you are smarter and more trustworthy. That way, your group is more likely to listen and be open to what you are trying to teach them.
Open Learners = Good. Resistant Learners = Bad.
2. Wear pants.
I’m a BIG supporter of championing femininity in the workplace and as a result, dresses and skirts are a BIG part of my wardrobe. That said, there’s always some kind of reaching or stretching or bending over that needs to happen if you are training or facilitating and the last thing you need to do is flash those nice people who came to hear you speak. See my mistake on day 4 (image farthest to the right in the photo above). I thought I’d wear my new pink pencil skirt and look all polished, but really I ended up worrying about bending over the whole time.
3. Leave the busy patterns at home.
When you are facilitating, especially for 2 or more hours, it can be difficult to keep participants focused. The last thing you need to do is to wear some sort of busy and distracting pattern that drives them into some hypnotized state. Wear colour but try to keep your look simple and polished – no busy patterns or sequins please.
4. Don’t Sweat It
No matter how many times you’ve delivered the same lecture or workshop, it’s only natural to sweat a little, if only from exertion. Consequently, you risk flashing those big wet stains under your arms if you aren’t careful. So if possible, wear a jacket/blazer or wear a shirt that won’t show you sweat. This should be tested before doing the training (obviously).
You can see in the photos of my outfits below – for the first two days (left and center left), I chose two tops that I knew from past experience wouldn’t show sweating. The third day I wore a blazer but the I made the mistake on the 4th and last day (far right) by wearing a cotton button down shirt. Before I presented I went for a quick bathroom break and realized with horror that I had already sweated right through the arm pits of my shirt, even though I was the farthest thing from nervous since this was my 4th day presenting the same material! Needless to say, I ended up having to concentrate on keeping my arms down through the whole thing and was totally self-conscious.
So, the bottom line is that you should really think of training or facilitating like an interview situation.
Look polished but not distracting.
Dress comfortably but don’t let them see you sweat.
[Top image source: InnovativeSafety.co.uk]