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It's show time; where's your costume?

05 September 2014

When people speak on stage at shows and events, it seems that the more successful they are, the less formally they are attired, muses Peter Hancock

In one of her trademark moments of exaggeration, my wife recently told an important client that "Peter would go to the opening of a crisp packet", such is

I'm looking forward to playing a small part at a few over the coming months - the Annual Hotel Conference in Manchester (16 October) and a particular favourite of mine, the Independent Hotel Show at Olympia London (21-22 October) followed by The Caterer Summit (6 and 7 November) and HOSPACE (20 November). Then in January we have the General Managers' Conference organised by the Master Innholders, which never disappoints. All of this is, of course, in addition to the events that have already happened this year so perhaps I can claim to be a habitual attender after all.

This brings me to an observation about the way people dress when they have been asked to speak on stage. Time and again it seems the more successful a person is, the less formally they are attired. Entrepreneurs with squillions in the bank may saunter up to the lectern in jeans, an open-necked shirt and casual shoes; maybe even trainers and a T-shirt, whereas a person of standing in the trade and a position of much responsibility, but fewer squillions, will probably don a tailor-made suit with a nice tie, if male, or a very smart business ensemble if female.

The executive with more limited means might appear in something off the peg, but the shoes will still be clean and the hair immaculate, at least - these seem to be the generally accepted 'rules'. My theory is that the uber-casual speaker has dressed down to show that he doesn't need to impress anyone. He is so far removed from the actual delivery of hospitality in his business that no customer will knowingly meet his gaze. He is above conformity. This was evident when I interviewed the supremely relaxed Nick Jones at the Independent Hotel Show last year.

He viewed my regulation outfit with something close to sympathy until he spotted the one redeeming feature - red socks. Oh to have the confidence to break more rules. Anyway, I hope to see you at one of these forthcoming shows. I'll be the fellow in a cheap suit, by the way. I know my place.

Peter Hancock is chief executive of Pride of Britain Hotels

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