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10 Disney-Inspired Appearance Tips for Training Success

The young Walt Disney knew that image creates illusion and illusion creates magic.

Dis, as he liked to be called at the start of his career, grew a mustache because without it, he looked too young to be a movie mogul. Later, when success was his and he became the one and only “Walt Disney,” he kept the now-expected mustache but dressed down, almost unkempt. It was his way of appearing more human, more ordinary, so that he could communicate with people.

And when he built Disneyland and his successors built Walt Disney World, they made sure their employees, called cast members, followed defined dress code standards. Those standards removed impediments to eye contact, helped build personal connections, and identified employees as Disney cast members ready and able to assist.

The same dynamics hold true in a training environment. It is important for facilitators and trainers to connect with their audiences and establish themselves as experts who should be listened to and who are ready to listen and assist.

People will size up your trainer or facilitator competence within seconds of your taking the platform, often before you even open your mouth to speak. This first impression is based on several things, including posture, demeanor, attitude, and, importantly, wardrobe.

These 10 dress code suggestions, inspired by Disney’s example, can help you create your own illusions.

Persona. What personality do you intend to project on stage? Does your wardrobe align with that persona? If your stage persona is fun and hip, do your clothes communicate that image? Although there are times when playing against type is effective, your attendees should be able to discern your basic persona by the way you dress.

Sharpness. Do you properly maintain your stage clothing? Are they free of tears, missing buttons, and loose threads? Are they clean, starched, and sharply ironed? Are your shoes polished? Are they silent—no squeaking or clicking—as you walk?

Color. Do the colors you wear align with your look? Carole Jackson popularized the theory that divides people into the four seasons—spring, summer, autumn, and winter—based on look.


Appropriateness. Is your wardrobe appropriate for your audience? Do you look like you belong in front of the group you are training? It is always wise to dress like your attendees, but one notch above and with a more professional look. In this way, you demonstrate respect for your audience and communicate that you are the trainer or facilitator.

Jewelry. Are your watch, rings, cufflinks, necklace, and earrings sharp, impressive, and color coordinated? In my many years working in Walt Disney World training, we taught cast members to eliminate distractions, especially jewelry, that interfered with a guest’s ability to focus on a cast member’s face. Your jewelry is not the focal point of your presentation and should not distract attendees from focusing on you.

Grooming. Your grooming should, like your clothing, reflect your persona. A conservative presence will vary from a more edgy persona. Your hair should be neat and appropriately trimmed.

Aroma. Smell is an uncomfortable but necessary subject. It is also easy to overcome.

• If you’re prone to bad breath, have mints at hand.
• If you smoke, cover your clothes before smoking.
• If people gag on your cologne, cut back.
• If you deliver a cornucopia of scents—different shampoo, hairspray, cologne, and body spray—opt for one or two multipurpose products.

Pockets. Pockets are not ideal for trainers and facilitators. To avoid jingling change, pocket bulges, and heavy items pulling down one side of your clothing, remove everything from your pockets before presenting.

Backups. All your best preparation can be for naught if the unexpected happens. The best defense is a back-up plan. Have a standby outfit in case your luggage is lost. Wear something other than your presentation clothes to breakfast on the morning of your presentation. Pack a sewing kit. Carry a small spray bottle filled with cleaning solution.

Door-to-door wardrobe. Finally, when traveling to deliver an event, plan a door-to-door wardrobe. You are on stage from the moment you leave your home—in the taxi, on the plane, at the airport, in the hotel—until you return to it. Look like the professional you are at every step in your journey.

The 10 points listed above will help you deliver a more successful event. You may not be able to deliver Disney-inspired pixie dust, but you might create your very own magic.
© 2017 ATD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.

About the Author
Lenn Millbower is a Disney speaker, presentation skills trainer, and author. He received his bachelor’s degree from Berklee College of Music and his master’s from Webster University. Millbower was honored by the Walt Disney Company with the prestigious Partner’s In Excellence lifetime achievement award. This internal employee award was granted in recognition of his training and leadership accomplishments as a member of the opening training team for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. He is a national board member of the International Alliance for Learning and the Contract Trainer’s Association, and a member of the National Speaker’s Association and ASTD.
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