When developing presentation content, we often talk about the “big” things like introductions and conclusions and main points and stories and statistics. And we should. Those are all extremely important parts of presentation content. Once we’ve researched and written and laid out those items in order, we are ready to walk the audience with us through the content, right?
Not quite. Imagine those big parts of your presentation are like islands. You want to take the audience with you to visit each of those islands. The problem is, they can’t get there if you don’t build them bridges. Your transitions are those bridges, and they are crucial to the flow of your presentation. When you work to strengthen the transitional statements in your presentation, you can expect to see some exciting results.
Filler Words are Reduced
Most speakers don’t take time to write out and practice their transitions because they mistakenly think they will just naturally and effortlessly be able to move between points. Unfortunately, this isn’t typically the case. Those “in between the islands” moments of presentations are notorious places for filler words like “um” and “uh.” Contrary to popular belief, a few filler words won’t tank your presentation. In fact, studies show that having a couple in your presentation might help to make you seem more approachable and likeable to your audience since filler words are found all throughout everyday human conversation. But when they are used in excess and the audience notices them, they can begin to undermine your credibility and distract the audience. Writing out strong transitions will help you avoid unnecessary filler words and will keep the presentation flowing smoothly.
Audience Attention is Held
Professor and keynote speaker Alf Rehn says that “the average attention span among people who listen to speeches is estimated to be somewhere in the 5–10 minute span, and often towards the lower end of this.” If we continue with the islands metaphor, you can see that each island stop is the perfect place for audience members to get lost or left behind. When you write and deliver strong transitions, you grab them by the hand and lead them to the next island. Use transitional words like “first,” “second,” “next,” “finally,” and “moving on” to help maintain the audience’s attention and to tell them that it is time to move. Keeping your audience’s attention is not a matter of including more islands in the tour, it’s about building better bridges between the select ones you’ve chose to visit.
Important Connections are Drawn
If you have arranged the “islands” of your speech thoughtfully, you already know why you’ve ordered the information in a specific way. Your job is to help the audience see why. Strong transitions will highlight the relationships of the information for them. For example, say you’ve spent some time covering the statistical information of your last quarter sales. The audience might be thinking, “so what?” or “what does this mean for me?” You can use your transition to help draw the connection between the information you’ve just covered and the information that is coming up in a statement that sounds something like this: Now that we’ve looked our last quarter sales statistics, you might be wondering what that all means. Let’s take a look next at how those sales will directly affect our day-to-day operations in the upcoming quarter.
So in order to write strong transitions, you need to remember a few things. First, write them out and practice them. Second, make use of transitional words to let the audience know when it’s time to move. And finally, write transitions that point both backward and forward drawing clear connections so that your audience always has a sense of where they’ve been and where they are headed.
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