What is Presenting Technique?
Let’s be honest, presentation skills training often misses the mark. In fact, when it comes to presentation skills and communication skills training, there’s an awful lot of nonsense out there.
Everybody claims to have the ultimate trick which will set you free. So often training and trainers profess to possess the secret to unlocking your presentation skills; if only you’d apply their simple tools and techniques, your presentation skills and powers of communication would be transformed.
So much communication training is built on the application of what goes by the name of technique.
But what is presentation or communication technique?
Technique is a much misunderstood term, particularly in business training.
Technique is frequently regarded as a series of externally applied tools or skills which, when used in combination, add up to great presenting or communicating. For example, many trainers use NLP, a series of techniques which, advocates say, are the ultimate communication toolkit. There’s nothing wrong with this, many NLP tools are very useful.
Other simple presentation training tips, applied so often as to be cliché, include techniques such as ‘scan the room’, ‘make eye contact’, ‘stand up straight’, ‘speak twice as loud and half as fast’, ‘breathe deeply’, ‘use active listening’, ‘pause’, the list goes on and on and on and on!
Undoubtedly, these basics are useful, and guarantee you a certain level of performance.
But do they add up to technique?
The trouble with external techniques is that they can interfere. As soon as your audience can identify the technique being used, they know that the communication isn’t genuine, it is a mechanical act. There is something robotic about it. These skills only become technique when the presenter has fully assimilated them.
Imagine two pianists.
Pianist A is technically perfect; they play the music with absolute precision and skill. Like a computer might play the music. The sound they produce corresponds precisely with the sound described in the musical notation, but there is no danger, no edge, and no thrill.
Pianist B is completely instinctive, sometimes forgetting to read the music altogether. Often flying off into improvisation; sometimes angrily hammering the keys, sometimes playfully teasing them. Never predictable, never dull, often chaotic.
Which pianist is preferable? Both pianists will put some listeners off, and both pianists will garner some fans. But neither pianist is perfect, or has perfect technique.
Pianist A is too rigid; their technical mastery dominates their passion.
Pianist B lacks control, their mood and energy stamp all over the musical structure.
The perfect pianist treads the fine line between musical precision and instinctive flow.
Technique is nothing more, and nothing less, than that which enables a presenter to balance their inner and outer worlds.
No external tool in itself is the answer. Technique is always personal. It must be developed by the presenter for themselves as it is that which enables them to communicate their inner world.
One of the best analogies for this idea of technique comes from the world of dressage (yes, dancing horses!) and the concept of ‘throughness’.
Author Meg Rosoff talks about throughness when applied to writing, but it’s a great analogy for presentation technique too.
Throughness is the quality of communication between the horse and the rider. A horse and rider with a high level of throughness move in perfect synchronicity. The horse responds to the rider’s intentions with absolute correspondence, and the rider frees the horse’s energy and power with great dexterity.
In Rosoff’s analogy the horse is the writer’s subconscious, their writhing inner world, and the rider is the conscious mind, their external skill with language. As with the pianists mentioned earlier, if the rider is too much in charge, then the writing lacks life. However, if the horse is too much in charge then the inner chaos runs riot.
Technique is the skill with which anyone in any field of performance, be it presenting, playing the piano, writing or dressage, balances their inner depths with external control.
All presentation skills training should be geared towards helping trainees define their own technique.
In the words of Buddhist philosopher Thich Nhat Hanh,
“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.”
Maybe it’s a good place to start?