The Transition Conundrum! No audiences left behind!

Lost dogs

Churchill said, “Success is going from one failure to the next with no loss of enthusiasm.” Here is a sound bite from me! Using transitions in a presentation is going from one topic to the next with no loss of audiences! Tweet me!

So why are transitions so important during a presentation?

Imagine you are watching a movie on Netflix and the phone rings, so you answer it. You finish the conversation and two minutes later, you are now back to watching the movie. But wait! Are you having trouble following the story because your attention was diverted? No problem! Just rewind the movie and watch the part that you missed.

Same thing with books, read a hundred pages, and then when you think you need to get a better idea of how the plot developed, scan back and find the part that you want to revisit!

Those advantages that you have in recordings and in books are not available for you during a live presentation! Once the words have been spoken, that’s it! The audience cannot go back to listen to what you said. They have to be present and engaged when it happens!

That is why it is important for the presenter to be a constant guide and make sure that the audience is following the presentation and is not getting left behind when the presenter transitions from one idea to the next during her presentation.

Let me tell you a story about my friend Andrew.

One of the services I offer is speech evaluation for presenters that want to get some honest feedback. This is a story of one of those times where I was amazed at the quality of the presenter’s speech but the presentation fell flat because of a complete lack of transitions!

On this occasion, I was at a fancy hotel in Long Beach CA, attending a luncheon for a group of electronics professionals that met once a month and had a standard program that included a speaker for the event. I was there in a professional capacity as an evaluator. The speaker that day was a longtime acquaintance and business associate. Let’s call him Andrew for the sake of this story.

Now Andrew was an animated and dynamic speaker so he was off to a great start at the beginning! I was enjoying his material and he came out with a strong opening. I was discreetly taking notes on my tablet and was quite impressed with him.

In a few minutes though, I began having trouble keeping up with Andrew’s speech. He had all the right words, he had the facts, and they were in a certain order. But what Andrew failed to do was connect the pieces together to make a coherent story. Andrew went from talking about the business development efforts that his division was engaged in and without any notice or warning, immediately moved on to a new product they were marketing. And then he did it a few more times! So it was no surprise that  it took the audience some time to catch his drift! And that mistake cost him the attention of the hundred people sitting in the audience!

You may have experienced the exact same thing yourself. Wondering why you had to work so hard on following the speech. Even with an interesting presenter and a great speech, a lack of transitions can derail the presentation. A transition is like a bridge that connects thoughts and ideas to each other. Without the bridge, you miss the next thought or idea completely. Or sometimes you do get it, but too late! And then your mind spends the next two minutes trying to play catch up with the presenter’s mind.

Transition graphic2

Types of Transitions

Let’s look at some examples, shall we?

Create a sequence:

This is a very effective tactic because immediately, the audience feels like you are in control.
“I am going to share three ways that you can use to change your habits.” Hearing this immediately gets people on your side. They like that you know exactly what you are going to share and they are happy then, to join you on that journey. So when you say, “We have discussed two ways of changing habits. Now I am going to reveal to you the most effective way!” You have them eating out of your hands now!

Where we came from and where are we going next:

This is also a way that I like to use extensively. If you attend any of my seminars, you will see me employ this method most of the time. Here is what this sounds like:
“We just explored at length how our brain helps us form habits. Now we are going to look at the process that you go through to change your habits!”

Using a theme:

I conduct a seminar called the “7 Rules of Sticky Presentations” where I compare the different stages of a presentation to an airline flight! So as I move through the sections or key points of the presentation, I reference what happens in the airplane that is similar to a presentation. “We have just taken off from Los Angeles International Airport and we are headed to Dallas. The captain has announced that the safety belt signs are off and beverages are going to be served in the next 10 minutes. Just like during your presentation you would let your audience know what has happened so far and what is coming!”

Asking a Question:

Questions can be great for transitions. They get the audience involved and interested in what is coming next.
“We just took a look at how habits are formed, what do you think it takes to really change habits for good?” Wait for responses and then move into the next key point. “Let’s take a look at the different steps involved in changing habits.”

Transitions are even more effective if you use transition words and phrases. Words like next, first, lastly, however and finally come to mind. And there are lots of phrases that work well also. “Contrast that with the next point…” “That reminds me of …” “In addition to that idea…” They help the audience to understand exactly what you are doing and where you are taking them.

Last tip: Be generous with transitions during your presentation. The best way to determine whether a transition is required is to put yourself in your audience’s shoes! Ask yourself, “If I was sitting in the audience and the presenter said this, would I get it?” If the answer is no, Boom! Transition alert! Include a transition wherever and whenever you feel like your audience may not be able to follow what is coming next. When it comes to transitions, most times, more is better! Can you add to the conversation? Comment below.

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