You're on a roll. You've entered the presentation zone. The words flow, your audience glows and then all of the sudden your presentation blows. Your mind goes blank, the stammering starts, you scramble for your notes and you know – you've entered into the transition zone.
Much like the Twilight Zone – the Transition Zone is that other dimension between the point you're currently making and the next idea. You've got your big idea, sexy sizzling hot speech organization, an introduction that wins and a powerful conclusion – but now you're stuck putting those all together.
Transitions are the connective tissue in presentations. These small sound bites determine presentation success or speech mess.
The poor, neglected transition
Let's face it, no one thinks about transitions. It's not fun, and lots of people think, “I'll be able to wing it.” My clients will spend hours crafting their introductions or developing their main points. Together, we write and rewrite those. They rarely think about how to get to from point A to point B in their speech. Until they start practicing their presentation. They feel great about the content and delivery until they have to move from the introduction to the first point and realize Porky Pig is more fluent than they are!
Plan transitions in advance
One you've got your speech chunked out or written out – go back and think, “How I am going to get from my intro to this first point?” If the speech is well organized, writing a transition should be a breeze. If not, you've got some re-organization to do. Planning out those transitions is a great test of the organization and logic of your content. If you can't transition easily, your audience isn't going to be able to switch gears simply either.
Speaking of switching gears
My favorite podcast is BlogcastFM. Whenever the host, Srini Rao, wants to transition to a new question or topic, he says, “Let's switch gears.” In fact, he uses that connective phrase so much there's a drinking game around it. Now, I'm not suggesting you use the same transition over and over, but what we can learn from Srini is that transitions are simple. It could be “switching gears” or summarizing your last point and introducing the next. For example, “Now that you know X, you can see how important my next point is.”
Polish or perish
Great transitions are the secret to presentation polish. If you know what's coming next and how to get there, your audience sees you as confident, clear and crazy good at speaking.
Don't you want to be crazy good at speaking? If your answer is, “Yes, Ma'am,” look for your stumbling blocks and replace them with smooth transitions.