If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it

by Michael Rickwood

How can the element of Air, and its properties, help us to become better presenters?

Picture courtesy of Pixabay

This quotation from late American novelist Toni Morrison, known for her critically acclaimed novels Song of Solomon and Beloved (the latter of which won her the Pulitzer prize), is a perfect introduction to the notion of harnessing the air. This line from Song of Solomon alludes that to take to the skies, to be carried by the air, comes at a cost. To be able to fly, you have to let go of the things that weigh you down. 

But the air and wind around us are uncertain, at times calm and at others volatile. However by acknowledging the currents, the patterns, how the air moves and turns, studying it and above all surrendering to it, we may be able to harness it. By reacting to life’s randomness and riding the gust of opportunity when the wind blows our way.

I would further add, for us land dwellers, flying is impossible. Yet aerodynamics have allowed us to achieve the impossible though ingenuity and design. We have built flying machines that defy gravity. That is why to harness the air we cannot choose to live a low-resistance existence but accept that sometimes, sometimes, we need to try to take flight and try something new. 

So from all of this, how can we harness the possibility of taking to the air for presenting? Here are 4 concept ideas for Air: 

  1. Air is about embracing innovation as a presenter.

As a speaker, tools to help develop speaking skills are important. Whether it’s the tools we need to create a great story, practice effectively in optimum conditions or design powerful visuals, what the concept of air inspires is theory and technology to excel. Like aerodynamics harnessed by a flying machine, we need to study and learn the science of communication and speaking. If we don’t understand storytelling, design principles and how to work an audience, how can we succeed? So we need to learn. Work with a teacher, master the craft of sequencing a story, understand the three axes of a powerful argument, how to find the right energy balance when connecting to a crowd of strangers, mastering technology tools when creating visuals and also accepting and experimenting with the newer technologies that come with the new hybrid media that we are all obliged to use today. 

  1. Air is about making decisions and seeking simplicity.

Simplicity and brevity are two important virtues for presenters. We must seek to simplify in order to help our audiences and make decisions on what they need to know and forget the rest. So that’s empathy, reflection and cutting stuff out! If we are lighter we fly better.

  1. Air is flexible: it fills voids and connects the dots. 

When we speak, story and ideas need to breathe. How can we recognize the creative mental flow of our ideas? Like air, our ideas flow from our mind and should be given the freedom to come and go, especially in improvisation. Air is letting go: this is a familiar theme in the elements but letting go as presenters is extremely important. As it is in life.

  1. Air is our fuel as speakers.

Without air we cannot live, think or speak. Our breath and the correct management of that breath are primordial for our success as speakers. When we train ourselves we must harness our breathing apparatus, understand it and use it to its maximum. Without breath we have no power, no energy and no authority. Air is life. Air is power. 

There are many powerful ideas here related to air. Ultimately, as with all of the elements, we must realize the philosophy of surrendering to currents, letting go of outcomes but also facing resistance when necessary by being clear about what we want and pursuing our objectives. All the four elements teach us this.