Tune Your Presentations with Strong Transitions by Chris King
many of you know already, I teach group fitness classes six days a week.
I find that many of the principles that I apply to leading these classes
also apply aptly to giving powerful presentations.
mention this here, because a woman in one of my classes told
me that another instructor was hard to follow because she was either jumping
from one move to another without warning, or taking so long to change
to another routine that the participants felt that they weren’t
getting a satisfying workout. Even though I have mentioned the importance
of successful transitions before, I decided that it was time to devote
a whole article on the what, why, when, where and how of using transitions
What is a transition?
is used when we change from one state to another, from one thought/idea
to another, from one topic to another, and from one method to another
– in other words, a transition serves as a bridge for change. It
can be smooth and effective. Or, it can be jarring and ineffective. Transitions
need to be well planned and rehearsed, so that they help our listeners
receive the full benefit of our presentations, which segues (transitions)
right into the next section of this article.
Why should we use transitions?
listeners aren’t as familiar with our material as we are.
Transitions serve as guides and bridges between the directions we are
going and know ourselves where we are going.
are often busy and distracted. So, by using smooth and effective
transitions, we can grab their attention, lead them into each new area
with ease and help them to latch onto our whole message.
we move to a new thought or topic, a listener may still be
thinking about our last statement. A well-placed transition will give
him or her time to catch up.
When, where and how do we use transitions?
first and most important transition is our opening. We must
transition our listeners from their daily lives, their conversations
with others and their present concerns into paying attention to us and
what we have to share. Once we are introduced it is now the time to
bring the audience focus onto us. That first impression will determine
whether or not they will listen to and trust us. If we don’t make
a striking first impression, we often lose them for the rest of the
say anything for several seconds. Give them some time to settle
down. Then, start with a compelling story, a meaningful – not
hackneyed – quotation, an interesting question to start participants
thinking, or a startling statement. Many speakers think that telling
a joke or saying something like, “I am so pleased to be here.
Thanks for inviting me,” is appropriate. Boring – don’t
if you have a sufficient amount of time you may start with an ice breaker.
See the article How to Break the Ice
When Presentingfor a plethora of icebreaker ideas. Just keep
in mind that some participants may not be ready this early on to take
part in an ice breaker, while others will be delighted, so choose carefully.
next transitions should occur between important points, thoughts and/or
topics. These transitions can be as simple and straight-forward
as, “And that brings me to the next point.” Or, they can
be much more creative which takes prior planning. I love to use stories
that relate to the next topic and I usually say, “Before I get
into the next point, let me tell you a story.” This never fails
to get their undivided attention (everyone loves a story) – and
also brings to life those who are close to dozing. Make sure, however,
that your story relates, is short, punchy and worthwhile. (I can’t
stress practice enough here!)
ideas for interactive transitions include participants turning
to the person next to them and telling them something that answers a
question you have posed, or sharing an idea that you have sparked, or
even having all stand up and stretch. Just remember, you will lose their
attention and will need a clever way to get them back – another
creative transition! I have experienced presenters who use a bell, whistle
or other musical instrument to signal the group that it is time to get
back on track. Again, as in the beginning, the polished presenter knows
that pausing for a short time will capture audience attention.
upon the time allotted and type of presentation, you may designate a
question and answer period. Even in workshops, I feel that
all of our transitions and strengths can be ruined if we let participants
continually interrupt us. I have learned – through unpleasant
experiences – to tell my listeners/participants that, “There
will be time for questions, so write them down as I go along.”
Or, if there won’t be time, that, “I will be here afterward
or during the conference, etc. if you have questions.” Again,
make sure that you know how long you have for questions and answers
and plan a clever way to transition everyone back to your presentation
when the time is up.
final, and important, transition is the close of your presentation.
Don’t start many minutes before saying, “Before I close.”
I know you have heard a speaker do this, and you keep waiting and waiting,
not even hearing what they are saying, thinking, “When will they
the close – the last transition – consider the
most important thought, idea and/or action you want your listeners to
leave with. The closing should never give the impression that you have
just run out of time and need to rush. So, have a rehearsed, memorized
and strong, strong closing prepared.
Remember that your transitions, well planned and strong, will add a smoothness
and professionalism to your presentations that will wow any audience.
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