Perhaps you have heard the traditional New England expression, “You can’t get they-ah from he-ah.” If not, you must first imagine a Maine fisherman uttering this expression in a very strong Boston accent to an out of town tourist.
It basically means there is no easy or direct route from where you are to where you are going.
Unfortunately, many people giving presentations ascribe to this old adage, resulting in rambling, disorganized, and/or dreadfully boring talks. Their presentations are often littered with vocal fillers such as, “uh,” “um,” “you know,” “like I was saying,” etc., as the speaker is searching for a way to tie the slides or ideas together. This results in a distracting, disjointed, and confusing presentation.
One of the most important things a speaker can do is to use transitional phrases effectively to connect the dots and alert the audience to important points, creating a cohesive and unified message.
We are not talking about reading the title on the slide or comments such as, “This slide shows,” and “Next...” offered in a never-ending loop.
Good transition statements help the audience follow the two or three main ideas of the presentation and see how the ideas on the slides are connected and relevant.
Here are a few tips for using transitional statements:
1. Try to keep the tone conversational. “Let’s begin with an overview of ...., followed by ....., and finally we will finish up with ...." This is preferable to “Here is today’s agenda for my talk.”
2. After you have presented one of your main ideas, summarize it for the audience, and highlight what will come next. For example, “Now that we have reviewed the rationale for our company’s new auditing program, let’s take a closer look at each of the components in this process.”
3. Use transitions as sign posts to alert the audience to key information. For example, “First, we will look at our company’s mission statement,” or “Finally, we will discuss how our company is positioned against our competition,” or even "The most important idea I want you to remember is....."
4. Signal when your talk is almost over, and let the audience know what is going to be expected of them. For example, “Before we finish up today, I want to remind you to keep your eyes open for an email from me in the next day or so. You will receive information about our follow-up meeting next Friday.
By using effective transition statements, you can “get there from here,” even without a GPS!