back to article Please no Basic Instinct flashing, HPE legal eagles warn staffers

Hewlett Packard Enterprises' legal and admin division – it is bigger than you might think – has issued guidance for staff presenting to colleagues, including some, er, dress code tips for male and female workers. Prep notes from the Office of Legal and Administrative Affairs run by John F Schultz have been seen by El Reg, …

  1. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge

    Sounds like...

    The stuff they tried to bludgeon into me in a million management courses.

    I'll get my (long, modesty-preserving) coat.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sounds like...

      Same: Did several training sessions on presentation and they all focused on keeping it simple, clean and informative: No more than 6 bullet points, 1-2 lines each and simple diagrams for slides: Keep hands out of pockets and stand facing the audience and to the side of the slides: Talk to the audience, not to the board or slide: If writing, stand so you don't block the board and so you don't have to step out of the way of the board after for people to read it (If right handed, stand to the right, if left handed, stand to the left, basically): Body language conveys around 60%* of your communication, tone is 30%* and words are 10%* so remember to be expressive: Rehears the presentation if possible so you know your timings and topics and so you don't need to read from a script - this makes the presentation go smoother.

      As for how to dress: Consider where you are presenting and who to: Consider the impression you wish to leave: Consider the environment of the presentation. So you might dress differently if you give a presentation before collegues in an office to if you give a presentation to a mixed audience from a stage to if you're in an auditorium.

      All that is from over 20 years ago, so it must have been sensible advice for me to recall it now.

      *as it was 20+ years ago, these are rough figures based on what I recall, not on current understanding of communications.

      1. ForthIsNotDead

        This will be why...

        ...I never really found a Stephen Hawking presentation particularly engaging.

        (just a joke friends, may the world's biggest genius finally find some very much deserved peace).

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Sounds like...

        The sad thing is that 20 years on these things still need to be said.

        Sadder still is how many teachers over the last couple of decades have had to sit through presentations by highly paid government and local authority approved external " trainers " that fail to meet these simple rules.Sometimes delivering an officially designed "training package". There probably isn't a teacher in the land that hasn't come out of several of these sessions over a number of years feeling truly gob-smacked at the appalling PowerPoint presentations packed with dozens of complicated, difficult to see, slides- full of lines and lines of print, read out to them word-by-word, and full of newly-minted acronyms that are never explained, in a monotone by a power-dressed trainer who has clearly no idea of what goes on in a real classroom and who isn't able to offer any evidence to support the assertions that the teachers are required to use in their practice.

      3. Kimo

        Re: Sounds like...

        This is pretty basic, and training is better than a memo. I tech this to a communications class of (mostly engineering) students. And they still have trouble with it because they see so many bad presentations that they son't get a feel for what is good practice or why it matters.

  2. Phalanx

    No pants, got it.

    1. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

      Didn't do Donald Duck or Yogi Bear any harm.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, but Yogi was smarter than the average bear.

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Ah yes, my kilt worn* the traditional way.

      Thanks, mine is the Prince Charlie jacket =>

      [*] of course when a Scotsman is asked what is worn beneath his kilt the correct answer is "Nothing, its all in perfect working order".

      1. Dr Scrum Master

        What do I wear below my kilt?

        Why, kilt hose of course!

    3. K Silver badge

      In my last role the MD forced us to have a "dress-up day" for charity, so men in penguin-suits and woman in dresses. What was more grinding though, is many staff had to specifically buy something for it, then on top of that, we had to pay for the privilege (we were "encouraged" to make a donation)..

      So I rocked in a lovely jacket, with bowtie and pressed white shirt regally tucked into... a pair of rather tight fitting black shorts (almost cycling shorts, but not quite as "clingy"). Personally I thought I looked awesome (give me a school cap, and I'd fit right in with AC/DC)

      I can't abide any employer who dictates how you should dress.. try forcing it on my and they'll regret it

      1. rmason Silver badge


        A similar thing happened at my old place of work.

        It was the "works do" type scenarios. One at xmas and one around bonus time (summer, weirdly).

        These things were *always* held at one or another very posh (read; expensive) venues in or around the towns the board lived in.

        This meant everyone else was offered hotel rooms at "reasonable" prices (again to a board member!) and a night of merriment in an establishment we couldn't afford to be in (not really). Almost obligated to go, as it was the team and individual awards etc, it was seen as very bad form to not attend.

        I £250+ night out might be perfectly normal to those in the c-suites, but to many or most others it was a proper embuggerance.

        It was an aerospace firm so had everything from multi-million pound salaries down to those on minimum wage. Most of the warehouse operatives etc made excuses, but those in team leader and management positions again felt obliged. They may have been on 14-18k and some were single parents.

        It took a great percentage of the company kicking off for that to change.

    4. Syn3rg

      Nae, kilt!

  3. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Annoying nasal whine acceptable?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If they want me to do a presentation it'd have be. Chances are they'd find someone else :)

  4. Simon Ward

    "It isn’t official company policy."


    Just give it time.

  5. Dan 55 Silver badge

    "Thou shalt not go commando"

    I wonder whose problem this is, the newest intake who are comfortably gender curious (or whatever the whippersnappers call it) and need reminding about things like this or micromanglement gone mad.

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: "Thou shalt not go commando"

      Given the tediousness of most presentations, a commando presenter (whatever gender, or are HPE being sexist by saying men cannot wear dresses?) would probably help prevent nodding off of some attendees

      1. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: "Thou shalt not go commando"

        > Given the tediousness of most presentations, a commando presenter (whatever gender, or are HPE being sexist by saying men cannot wear dresses?) would probably help prevent nodding off of some attendees

        Depending on the actual presenter, it certainly could have me standing at attention.

    2. Kimo

      Re: "Thou shalt not go commando"

      Is that camo pants, a dark tank top, greasepaint, and a Big Frelling Knife? Because we have a zero-tolerance policy on combat knives.

  6. Joe Werner Silver badge

    Two lines per bullet point?

    When learning about design / presentation methods we were told to have a single line per point.

    Also: not twenty different font sizes, weights, styles,.. (I'm looking at you, PowerPoint!). I think it makes sense.

    Ten slides for 30 minutes is not much, but as I understand I would probably give the same presentation in 15 minutes - if the audience has the background knowledge. Hell, I could do most stuff on a whiteboard which has the advantage that things are slowly developed into some mind-mapping-mystery. It also avoids overloading the audience with text. Note how it says "audience", meaning the people who listen, not read the novels you try to cram onto each slide!

    Sure, we now get some public outcry over the "dress code", butto me it makes sense: don't look like something the cat dragged in, you are not in academia[*], don't expose yourself, a business environment is not the place for that - and that is true as well if you are one of my students in a lecture or something[**], if you want to wear _that_ you should go to the beach!

    [*] I know what I am talking about, dresscode for geoscientists is cargo pants and t-shirt or a short sleeved hiking shirt... maths and physics are worse, some high profile scientists really look like hobos. Nothing wrong with that, but outside academia you might want to look neater.

    [**] no, I do not want you to turn up in a suit or dress or whatever, but I once had a gal in one of my tutorials where you could only wonder whether everything would all of a sudden fall out of the skimpy little outfit, and some guys looked like they just came out of the gym, sleeveless muscle shirts and sweat pants included.

    1. keithzg

      Re: Two lines per bullet point?

      If there's nothing wrong with it, why is it a problem? Other than the class LARPing that businesspeople do, of course.

    2. find users who cut cat tail

      Re: Two lines per bullet point?

      People who show pics worth a PhD may have something interesting to say -- and may not. But people showing pie charts never do.

      Similarly, give me equations, schematics, diagrams and code, not bloody bullet points.

      > maths and physics are worse

      And we want to keep it that way.

  7. Aitor 1 Silver badge

    Presentation voice

    When I go into "sales mode", I change my voice for a deeper tone, slow my talking speed a lot, and simplify my message.

    Served me quite well to sell IT stuff (consultancy, projects, etc). Doesn't work with my wife as she recognizes it instantly.. but otherwise, I sadly agree.

    Still, this is an argument for looks rather than content.

  8. wyatt

    'Helicopter View', snuck in with a ref to another big IT company by any chance!?

  9. Antron Argaiv Silver badge


    I find that wearing women's slacks helps me feel more confident.

    1. Roger Kynaston

      Re: Confidence!

      It must be a struggle remembering that the zip is on the other side.

      1. Andalou

        Re: Confidence!

        I have an anorak with a button flap in a customary direction but the fastener of the zip is on the 'wrong' side. It is crazily strange just how awkward it is to use the zip.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Confidence!

      iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiim a lumberjack and I'm oooooookkkaaayyy...

  10. CertMan

    Can be embarassing

    I was conducting an interview a couple of weeks ago when a young woman came in wearing an above the knee skirt (with matching jacket - so obviously intended to be a smart suit). I had to leave a note for my (luckily) female co-interviewer and made an excuse to leave the room. One minute later I returned and the interviewees knees were tightly clamped for the rest of the interview. I have no idea how I could have dealt with it if I was on my own, without all the possibilities of sexual misconduct that could have arisen if I had said anything, or couldn't keep my eyes on hers!

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: Can be embarassing

      I was conducting an interview a couple of weeks ago when a young woman came in wearing an above the knee skirt

      So it was 'one of those interviews' were the poor applicant is forced to sit six feet from the interviewers desks and in the middle of the room....?

      Those 'interviews' shouldn't be allowed the term, and more properly classed as 'interrogations'..

      I've been on those really uncomfortable appointments, always tempted to refuse anything but civy equivalent of name, rank and serial number....

      If she'd been closer to the desk in a more humane setting, any risque skirt motion would have been unnoticed, and you'd have to have settled with just trying not to stare at her chest.

    2. sisk Silver badge

      Re: Can be embarassing

      I have no idea how I could have dealt with it if I was on my own, without all the possibilities of sexual misconduct that could have arisen if I had said anything, or couldn't keep my eyes on hers!

      Are you still stewing in adolescence hormones? Because if not that shouldn't be a problem. By your mid-20s you should be able to choose which head is in charge. Granted, I'm of the opinion that short skirts are not professional attire, but that opinion has nothing to do with the reactions of men who lack self-control.

      1. ForthIsNotDead

        Re: Can be embarassing

        Speak for yourself. I'm 47, but when it comes to that sort of thing, I'm 18. If the goods are on show, I'm looking.


        I realise that's not the politically correct accepted viewpoint in todays mad world, but there it is.

        1. The Nazz Silver badge

          Re: Can be embarassing

          Yep, i'm with the looking too.

          It's not as though the woman chose that attire by accident now is it?

          ps didn't Monty Python have prior art on this, The Dept. of Stating the Bleeding Obvious". Thereabouts.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can be embarassing

      I do hope the unfortunate young woman was not unlucky enough to get the job and then have to work with YOU.

    4. DuchessofDukeStreet

      Re: Can be embarassing

      I'm not sure why you're accusing CertMan of lechery or misbehaviour - it might be an appealing sight to some of you and/or in certain circumstances, but probably not in anything resembling a professional environment (barring the oldest, I suppose). I had a similar experience when attending a meeting at a sister company office a few years ago and was sat in reception waiting for my host when a girl arrived to start her first day in a new job and was directed to take a (low) seat opposite me whilst waiting for HR. No. Just, no. In what universe is that appropriate for work, especially with a new employer? Having said that however, I did once flippantly describe the entire workforce of that office as being "either dressed by Primark or auditioning for a part in Geordie Shores"...

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Dave Gorman's latest tour is called:

    'With Great Power Point comes

    Great Responsibility Point'

    1. Colabroad

      Charles Stross said it better:

      Power corrupts

      Powerpoint corrupts absolutely

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lord of the Dance

    Made quite entertaining by sitting in row 'A'.

  14. Potemkine! Silver badge

    "Men should wear a jacket and tie"

    They should also consider wearing trousers, if the jacket is not long enough.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Men should wear a jacket and tie"

      Even if I've forgotten my pointer?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I Think I'm Going To Throw Up

    I agree with the points being made, but you don't rely on a memo for this type of thing. You train the people who will be doing presentations so they have done it all before in front of a friendly audience, have received constructive feedback and made any needed adjustments, and are ready to go on stage and present successfully.

    If anyone has ever found a way to eliminate the stomach-wrenching anxiety before actually presenting, I know we'd all queue up for THAT info.

    1. sisk Silver badge

      Re: I Think I'm Going To Throw Up

      If anyone has ever found a way to eliminate the stomach-wrenching anxiety before actually presenting, I know we'd all queue up for THAT info.

      In the words of my college theatre professor: "Everyone has butterflies in their stomachs. The trick is to teach them to fly in formation."

    2. Sam Therapy

      Re: I Think I'm Going To Throw Up

      Never had butterflies, anxiety or owt like that. Years of being a showoff and a singer in a band helps.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: I Think I'm Going To Throw Up

        Never had butterflies, anxiety or owt like that.

        Before I gave my first professional presentation, I was sure I'd be struck with stagefright, as I've never been the gregarious sort. But as it turned out I felt quite comfortable (if anything too eager), and I've always enjoyed presenting since. I ascribe it to my deep and abiding egotism.

        1. onefang Silver badge

          Re: I Think I'm Going To Throw Up

          It helps that I used to be in the school band. Once you have performed badly in front of your entire high school, everything else is easy.

    3. M Mouse

      Re: I Think I'm Going To Throw Up

      "You train the people who will be doing presentations so they have done it all before in front of a friendly audience,..."

      Wow, what luxury! Many years ago my manager "volunteered" me to present to about 100 industry peers concerning some technology we had developed (where I was a minion, coding about 30% of the software). We were at none other than Oxford University and I was pretty terrified.

      On the day, it went quite well, but no rehearsal, nor friendly audience beforehand.

    4. Kimo

      Re: I Think I'm Going To Throw Up

      Several points:

      1. Nervous energy and enthusiasm look very much alike. I encourage my students to use that to their advantage.

      2. Practice. David Byrne has a good bit in one of his books about how a presentation is really a performance. You don't expect people to just get up and play guitar for a group. You get better and more comfortable with practice. And like music, some people are just better at it. Use people's talents, don't expect everyone to have the same skills and abilities.

      3. Try not to have three points in a reply to a post or a slide.

      4. And figure out how to end it.

      5. Or you get stuck in a loop and the slide never ends.

      6. That's why numbering things is probably a bad idea.

      7. Where was I going with this?

      8. Will they have beer there?

      9. And maybe a burger.

      10. OK, I'll take questions at the pub...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    basic items

    These are all amazingly basic items, but I'm afraid they're all on the list because someone gave a presentation and didn't know about them.

    I'll add one more: voice projection! If you are speaking in a public setting, project. If someone puts a microphone in your hand or in front of you, it's not a magic make people hear you device, you still need to project INTO THE MIC! holding a cardioid mic down by your belt buckle and mumbling into the air is a recipe for feedback.

  17. JeffyPoooh Silver badge

    "...minimise their word count on slides..."

    Engineering - Issue Discussion

    * It's complicated

    - - - Yeah. It's Engineering

    - - - It's not that MBA fluff that can be summarized in three words

    * Drop by my office when you have time

    - - - Allow 45-60 minutes

    - - - Don't forget to bring an Attention Span larger than that of a moth

    * Have a nice day

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I used to work there

    Regularly the Vice President of Paperclip Purchasing (EMEA) or some equivalent dimwit would arrive to drone on for an hour about God knows what, and if you didn't attend you'd get bollocked. If you did attend you'd risk falling asleep.

  19. Richard Scratcher
    Thumb Up

    Keep your audience engaged with your presentation

    Hand out some "bullshit bingo" game cards before you begin.

  20. Frozit

    So why would someone create this?

    Because they had been suffering through miserable presentations. And wanted to improve their own life from Hell to just miserable.

  21. EveryTime

    I'm confused..

    The story states "bigger than you might think.."

    I imagine the legal and executive jet travel department of HPE is about half the company expenses.

    Is it actually larger?

    Or am I thinking of IBM?

  22. maestro1600

    dress code for Tesco

    Every year arond Glastonbury time, a sign goes up in the local Tesco that reads "Shirts and shoes must be worn in this store". Doesn't mention trousers, skirts etc. etc....

  23. handleoclast

    Camel toes

    The memo advised that women should think about line-of-sight and wear trousers if they are to appear on an elevated platform. But it didn't warn them to avoid the camel toe effect.

    For those who don't know what I'm on about, the camel-toe is explained here: (I didn't link it because it's not entirely suitable for work).

  24. EveryTime

    How many women that wear short skirts actually get to the stage of 'having a career' without being well aware of line-of-sight?

    I used to be pretty naive about these things. I asked a girlfriend why a woman was frequently adjusting her dress. She told me that it wasn't because I was looking, it was because I wasn't looking.

    I also eventually learned (from observation) that unwanted attention was often the desired attention from the wrong person.

  25. Zwuramunga

    Executive Summary

    #1 Look good!

    #2 Facts are unimportant.

  26. Sloppy Crapmonster

    "There should be no more than 10 slides for a half-hour presentation, and the message must be limited to six points per slides and one to two lines for each point, it added."

    Right, so PowerPoint is good, I can have however many slides I like, and I can put twelve lines of text on a slide. That sounds like an excellent way to get my point across. /s

  27. Rob D.

    Was there a point?

    In my advancing years it is nice to think that having the confidence to stand up to pitch almost anything at short notice is just a factor of the enormous natural talent I was born with rather than a learned skill evolved through the decades. (*)

    There are always people who are new to presenting and maybe, just maybe, some practical guidance on how to put together a not-toe-curlingly awful presentation for the newbies isn't a bad idea. Condescension aside, most of what was mentioned is simplistic but pretty relevant if you are newly faced with doing some stand-up and aren't taking to it like the proverbial 'duck to water' (or maybe just an old hand who's been a lifelong verbal sedative).

    (*) I do remember some early toe-curlingly awful attempts although I recall they involved a lot more acetate, coloured pens and a small sun in a glass-topped box.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unexpected Laughter

    Check your flies .... Jasper Carrot.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its one way to liven up the holiday snaps of Mijorca

    Limit the slides to 10 per presentation, so your colleagues don't go stir crazy and start flashing their personal bits or making out with the water cooler in their madness.

    That display might be somewhat interesting but for the fact that Jane showed her holiday on safari in Africa last week, and it went for 125 slides of the back of a range rover and bad reflections of the glass and few animals.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Its one way to liven up the holiday snaps of Mijorca

      Limit the slides to 10 per presentation, so your colleagues don't go stir crazy

      Ugh. Ten slides in a 40- or 60-minute presentation? If I'm in the audience, I'd much prefer a lot of slides that go by quickly, so I'm not staring at some three-bullet list of inane points for ten minutes.

      Even better, avoid bullets and lists as much as possible. For my corporate presentations I have to play by fairly traditional rules, but in my academic ones I often have no bullet points at all. I've seen some really great no-list / no-bullet presentations from academics.

      (Academic presentations tend to run the gamut. At one conference I saw a beautiful non-traditional one, and at the next talk one incompetent had nothing but five slides of URLs in purple on a black background.)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Its one way to liven up the holiday snaps of Mijorca

        Serious question. What is a PowerPoint slide with no-list, no-bulletpoints? Like can I see one?

        All the ones I've seen up to this point in my career have just had the bullet point hidden... but were still bullet lists.

      2. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: Its one way to liven up the holiday snaps of Mijorca

        > Ugh. Ten slides in a 40- or 60-minute presentation?

        Did you not read the article, or are you just unable to understand how time works, or are you unable to extend statements and deduce your own specific case from the guidelines?

        If it's the former, the article states, quote (emphasis mine):

        There should be no more than 10 slides for a half-hour presentation,...

        If it's the middle issue, difficulty with time, a half-hour is 30 minutes, which is less than "40-60 minutes". It is, in fact, half of 60 minutes (an hour), which is why it's called a half-hour, that is, 30 minutes.

        If it's the final issue, deduction, then if they recommend 10 slides per 30 minutes, logically, if you double the length of the presentation to 60 minutes, you'd also double the amount of slides to 20.

  30. FozzyBear Silver badge

    Ironically,Utilising powerpoint slides that were crammed with the whole text of the new "Code of practice". It was presented by a members of the legal team All dressed in drab grey business suits. Delivered in a dead pan monotone voice

  31. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    And NEVER

    Use the word "Leverage" as a verb

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