April 8, 2008

Ten ways to transition to your next idea

We talk a lot about organizing our content, main points, opening and closing, but we rarely talk about how to get from one segment to the next.

How do you handle the spaces in between your points, stories, examples, and exercises? These are your transitions.

It's as important to plan your transitions as it is to plan the rest of your presentation. Clear transitions help the audience stay focused (and awake) and process your material. They're like links in a chain that keep your presentation cohesive and organized.

Here are ten ways to transition from one idea to the next.

1. Repeat and recap the main point you just covered.

2. Use humor or tell a joke that closes your previous point.

3. Show a slide or give a handout that gets the audience thinking about your next segment.

4. Ask a question that previews the next segment and write the answers on a flip chart.

5. Ask a question that gets the audience to respond to or summarize their learning from the last segment and write the answers on a flip chart.

6. Have the audience stand up and stretch.

7. Share a quote or story that summarizes your previous point or leads to the next one.

8. Use a logical chronology of points, or numbered points, so that transitions are clear (your talk goes from biggest to smallest, longest to shortest, outside to inside, general to specific, 1960 to 1980, etc.).

9. Pause or take a drink of water before moving to the next point.

10. Physically move to a different part of the room or stage.

Share your examples of effective transitions in the comments!

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3 comments. Please add yours! :

Unknown said...

I was in an accounting seminar once (yawn) that had several points to the overall seminar. After each point the speaker would have the participants grab the party horns that each one was given and blow their horns signifying the end of that section. It was a unique way to liven up a rather dull seminar.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

That's awesome, Tony! I have also used party horns and noisemakers in training. I had the audience blow them when we came to significant moments in the history timeline I was explaining.

And here I was thinking that I had invented blowing horns in training!

Anonymous said...

While I've never tried the horn method, Lisa's 10 points have reminded me of a few ways that I transition from point to point.


When you have just finished any topic and want to move to your next topic, what technique must you use? You must transition or segue. “Segue” comes from the Italian word for “to follow.” You want your audience to follow along with you as you transition from one topic area to another. Do you craft your segues? Are you even conscious of when you are making a segue? Most of us are entirely unconscious of our segues and it costs us dearly in trying to communicate effectively. Do you default to the standard statement segue, “The next point I want to address is … Now we will talk about …”? How do you craft more effective segues? Here are my 9 suggestions:

1.“VISUAL METAPHOR” In many ways, a visual image can help your audience hold attention better as you go into a transition. For example, a visual image of a bridge is a metaphor for segues. Just like a bridge, the purpose of a segue is to get your audience from one point of land to another.
Reiterate what you have covered so far in your presentation or demo, especially addressing the point you have just finished covering or tell them where you are going.
Baseball announcers periodically provide a summary of what has taken place so far in the game. “We are in the top of the fifth, New York is leading 5 to 3 following Jeter’s home run to center field. (Where we’ve been.)
Pettit is going to have to face the top of the Chicago line-up, and he will be facing some pretty hot bats. (Where we are going.)
He has had some control problems in the early innings, and this next inning is no place to continue to walk batters. (Sign Posting: the importance of what is to come – see below.)
All season the Yankees have finished well in the late innings; let’s see how they fare tonight. (Combining where we’ve been and where we are going.)
4.“SIGN POSTING.” The last thing I want to do is . . . (identify where in the sequence of your points you currently are focused).
5.“SPOT LIGHTING” The most dangerous point in the body of your presentation or demo is the one where you are most likely to lose your audience’s attention. If your audience is not following, you are not supporting the sales effort, in fact you are wasting your customer’s time as well as your own. Pay attention to this segue material.
I have just provided an example of spotlighting. You tell the audience with verbal emphasis, dynamic gesture and an energetic voice, “Hey, pay attention! This is an important point that we are going to talk about here!”
Show the relationship between an earlier point and your next point. For example, “Earlier we talked about how our product will deliver a return on your investment. You may be wondering, ‘What kind of investment can I expect?’ Studies by the Gartner group show …”
7.“ASK A QUESTION” or “CONDUCT A POLL” Questions tend to garner more mindshare than statements. Turn your statements into questions. Example: The statement, “Segues are an opportunity to grab your audiences attention again,” could become, “Does anyone know the point in a presentation/demo where you could grab you customer’s attention once more?”
You might take a poll of the entire group. “How many of you feel that XX is the most important aspect of the product’s capability?”
8.“PROVIDE CONTEXT” Put the point that is about to follow in context with the overall presentation or relate it to a point you have already made. Example: “Remember in my opening/story when I talked to you about XX? Here’s where that principle really applies.”
9.“IDENTIFY BENEFITS” There are techniques to segue that can be easily mastered, they merely require a little awareness. The benefit of knowing how to segue is that you can turn these high danger points into high opportunity points. Instead of segueing in ways that cause you to lose audience attention, you can make your segues points where you actually increase the mind share you have with your audience.

Thanks again Lisa for reminding about the importance of transitions.

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