This week, I finished a two-part training course focusing on presentation skills run by Nick Washienko of Washienko Communications. Presentations aren’t something that I love to do, but I’m finding that I’m in that position more and more as I work on marketing projects. There’s a segment of the population that runs on PowerPoint, after all. And it seems like people can’t “get” what you’re talking about unless you literally draw it for them.
So, my presentation skillz were put to the test. Over the course of two sessions (1 session per week for 2 weeks), you stand in front of your class 8 times. Here’s the kicker: you’re videotaped each time and have to re-watch yourself talking, making strange gestures, looking at the back wall to avoid eye contact, etc. (It turns out that I turn into a human-size T-rex when I present. Somehow I lose my elbows and can only gesture from my forearms to my fingertips. Weird.)
The structure of both sessions was similar. Nick lectured, then showed us video clips of famous people who are either very good at public speaking (Bill Clinton, Tony Blair) or kind of bad (Richard Nixon), then gave us an assignment/additional direction for our next turn at the front of the room.
The one thing that stuck with me was the question Nick posed to the class: “How does this go from skill to art?” From skill to art … It’s not a concept I have thought about before now but it makes total sense. We spend our lives pursuing how to master a skill or a set of skills, but at what point does it turn into an art form, if ever? Really good presenters are artists. Whatever they are saying sounds like second nature and their gestures are totally relaxed and natural. It doesn’t seem forced or overly rehearsed.
So how does this go from skill to art? Practice. Lots and lots of practice. I’d like to think this applies to more than just presentation skills. I, for one, know that I should apply this thinking to my photography. My certificate courses are a pursuit of skill, but it’s up to me to turn what I learn into an art form.
But, for now, back to the PowerPoint …