Presentation Transitions – Omit Them at Your Peril!
“When deciding between giving a longer or shorter presentation, pick shorter. ‘I wish you had talked longer’ are six words you’ll seldom hear from audiences.”– Sam Harrison, author of Creative Zing! Spark Your Creativity & Powerfully
Transitions between the different parts of your presentation are essential for your audience to understand your message, realize its relevance, and implement what you say in their personal and professional lives.
Below, I will define what I mean by “presentation transition,” why you need them between the various parts of your presentation, and then outline a process to insert transitions into your presentations.
What is a Presentation Transition?
A presentation transition is a way of relating what you just said to what follows. For example, you should insert transitions between the following:
The opening story, quote, statistic, etc.
the rest of your opening
At the end of your opening
your first main point
Your first main point
your second main point
Your second main point
your third main point
Your third main point
summary of your main points in the closing
Summary of your main points in the closing
closing story, quote, statistic, etc.
Some examples will help you see the value of transitions.
Let’s say your presentation subject is inflation. Your three main points are: (1) What causes inflation, (2) How inflation affects all of us, and (3) What we can do to lower inflation.
Below are some presentation transition examples:
Between your opening and the first main point – “Let us now explore what causes inflation, how inflation affects all of us, and what we can do to lower inflation.
Between your first and second main points, “Since we now know what causes inflation, let’s now turn our attention to how inflation affects all of us.”
Between your second and third main points, “Now that we know how inflation affects all of us, what can we do to lower inflation?”
Now that you know what a presentation transition is, let’s turn to why you need transitions between the parts of your presentations.
Why Do You Need Presentation Transitions?
Have you ever had a conversation with another person, and suddenly, the other person switched to an unrelated conversation topic? Do you feel a mental “whiplash?”
That mental “whiplash” is what your audience feels if you don’t transition between the different parts of your presentation.
The lack of transitions in your presentations is distracting to your audience. You know that anything distracting your audience allows their minds to wander away from your message. So you are trying to avoid the audience’s minds wandering.
Transitions provide a way to bridge the gap between the last part and the next part of your presentation.
Can you imagine reading a mystery novel where the author doesn’t relate the previous scene to the present scene? My guess is you would stop reading the book.
Can you imagine watching a movie where the parts of the film do not seem to flow together? You would walk out of the theater.
Can you imagine a YouTube video explaining how to use a software package where what the teacher says one minute does not logically flow into the next subject? You would immediately stop watching the video.
So, you know what a presentation transition is and why you need them.
So, what is the process for inserting transitions between the different parts of your presentation?
What is the Process to Insert Presentation Transitions?
Before you insert transitions into your presentation, you must ensure you have relatable main points. This may sound like “what came first, the chicken or the egg.” However, stick with me; you will see why you need relatable main points.
Always start with your three main points, the anchors of any presentation you deliver.
Inserting transitions between your three main points will be very hard if they are (1) the GDP of Japan, (2) the production of Japanese cars in the U.S., and (3) Japanese golfers in the PGA.
You can readily see these main points are too far apart to relate. Moreover, your message would be too broad to affect your audience even if you tried to connect them.
Change your main points if you cannot think of transitions between your main points within a short time. Remember, your main points are the anchors of your presentation.
Many presentations fail because the main points are too far apart.
The transition between your opening and your first main point can always be a summary of your three main points. Of course, as you gain experience speaking, you may want to embellish this a bit; however, telling your audience your main points explicitly in your opening should be standard in your presentations.
Ensure the transitions occur between (1) your opening story, quote, statistic, etc., and the rest of your opening, (2) between your main points, (3) between your third main point and the beginning of your closing, and (4) between the first part of your closing and the ending story, quote, statistic, etc. are smooth. By smooth, I mean logically bridging the two parts of your presentation.
You now know what a presentation transition is, why you need them in your presentations, and have a process for inserting them.
Use transitions in your presentations to significantly improve your audience engagement!
Call to Action
Select your main points that are close to each other in meaning but far enough apart so you can talk about them separately and not seem duplicative
Approach your presentation knowing several places in your presentation require transitions
Implement the presentation transition insertion process mentioned above
“Engaging in lifelong learning to improve your public speaking skills is far from drudgery. It can lead to a better job, higher profits, more donations, and public policy objectives. That sounds like fun to me.”― Ed Barks, The Truth about Public Speaking: The Three Keys to Great
Frank DiBartolomeo is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and award-winning speaker, presentation and interview skills coach, and Professional Member of the National Speakers Association. He was awarded Toastmasters International’s highest individual award, Distinguished Toastmaster because of his outstanding work in public speaking and leadership.
Frank formed DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI), LLC (www.speakleadandsucceed.com) in 2007. The mission of DCI is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence their colleagues and other technical professionals by improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence. Reach Frank at email@example.com and (703) 509-4424.
Don’t miss Frank DiBartolomeo’s latest book!
“Speak Well and Prosper: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Better Presentations”
Available now at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com