Have you ever heard a speaker tell 2 great stories or give 2 great pieces of advice, only to leave you wondering, “How do they go together?”. Have you ever heard a speaker fumble from one point to the next, or just abruptly move right into another idea without first explaining where they were going or why they were headed there?
Have YOU ever had these situations happen to you? I have...
Early on in my speaking journey, I received a piece of advice that I have always remembered. An audience member came up to me after my talk and said, “Kwesi, I really loved your ideas, but I'm not sure how they were connected.” I have never forgotten that advice.
Transitions are like the oil in your engine. Your car may work without them, but not for long. Transitions are the glue that holds your speech together. When you speak, you want the listener to be connected to your ideas, as you say them. You do NOT want a person thinking “How does this point fit in?” or “That was a strange connection!” when you are already onto your next point. You want them with you at every stage of the ride, until you are ready to let them off.
Here are 3 ways to ensure that your audience flows with you as you go through your speech:
Think of your transitions as your appetizer or tease to the next part of your talk. For example, if you have 2 parts of your speech – one for the audience to Decide on something, and the other for them to actually Do it – your transition should tease your audience with curiosity as to what is coming next. For this example, once you tell your story about Deciding, and make your point, your transition should lead naturally to your next step, while making the audience wonder and wait for what is next. An example line could be:
“Now that you have decided on your plan of action, the course has been set. However, it makes no sense to stop there. You must actually take action and DO it! So what is the first step? Well....” Then go onto your second point.
Remember to serve an appetizer before your next story/point, so that your audience knows that a new segment of your talk is approaching.
The next way to use transitions is even easier...
A much easier way to remember your main points – and an easy way to build transitions into your speech – is to use an acronym. For example, if you want to tell people how NOT to fail, you may want to make FAIL an acronym. Thus, when you speak about the F in fail, you can simply transition to the “A” by saying “the “'A' in Fail stands for Advance”. This moves you to your next point logically, it makes sense to your audience, and helps you to remember your talk.
Another way speakers often use this strategy is to use the same letter repeated, such as a talk by one of my online mentors, World Champion Speaker Craig Valentine's keynote “The 4 R's to Remarkable Results”.
The importance of transitions cannot be overstated. Many speakers neglect this key element, thinking “My content is great enough”. But I promise you this – your audience will be distracted by a sloppy transition, and when they notice the mess, they will miss your message.
Transitions, use them or lose them....your audience that is...
Use the 3 “A”s to Transitions, and see your audience follow you gladly throughout all of your successful speeches.
Kwesi Millington helps speakers to connect with their audiences and master their messages using the power of storytelling in their speeches & presentations. He is a Certified Public Speaking Coach & Youth Mentor.