Have you ever been listening to a presentation or a lecture and found yourself thinking, “I am so lost!” or “Where the is this speaker going?” Chances are one of the reasons you were not sure what the speaker was talking about was that the speaker did not effectively keep the presentation moving. When we are reading and encounter something we do not understand, we can reread the paragraph and try to make sense of what we are trying to read. Unfortunately, we are not that lucky when it comes to listening to a speaker. We cannot pick up our remote and rewind the person. For this reason, speakers need to really think about how they keep a presentation moving so that audience members are easily able to keep up with the presentation. In this section, we are going to look at four specific techniques speakers can use that make following a presentation much easier for an audience: transitions, internal previews, internal summaries, and signposts.
Transitions between Main Points
A transition is a phrase or sentence that indicates that a speaker is moving from one main point to another main point in a presentation. Basically, a transition is a sentence where the speaker summarizes what was said in one point and previews what is going to be discussed in the next point. Let us look at some examples:
- Now that we have seen the problems caused by our company’s lack of social media use policies, let us examine how policies could benefit our company.
- Thus far we have examined the history and prevalence of invasive plant species in the Midwest, but it is the impact that these species have on the health of native vegetation that is of the greatest concern.
- Now that we have thoroughly examined how these two supplies are similar to one another, we can consider the many clear differences between the two suppliers.
- Although Widget World was one of the most prolific distributors of widgets prior to COVID, Widget World continued to distribute during the pandemic as well despite supply chain disruptions.
You will notice that in each of these transition examples, the beginning phrase of the sentence indicates the conclusion of a period of time (now that, thus far). Table 7.1 “Transition Words” contains a variety of transition words that will be useful when keeping your presentation moving.
Beyond transitions, there are several other techniques that you can use to clarify your presentation organization for your audience. The next sections address several of these techniques, including internal previews, internal summaries, and signposts.
An internal preview is a phrase or sentence that gives an audience an idea of what is to come within a section of a presentation. An internal preview works similarly to the preview that a speaker gives at the end of a presentation introduction, quickly outlining what he or she is going to talk about (i.e., the presentation’s three main body points). In an internal preview, the speaker highlights what he or she is going to discuss within a specific main point during a presentation.
Ausubel (1968) was the first person to examine the effect that internal previews had on the retention of oral information. Basically, when a speaker clearly informs an audience what he or she is going to be talking about in a clear and organized manner, the audience listens for those main points, which leads to higher retention of the speaker’s message. Let us look at a sample internal preview:
To help us further understand why starting a recycling program on campus is important, we will first explain the positive benefits of student-led recycling programs and then explore how recycling can help our campus.
When an audience hears that you will be exploring two different ideas within this main point, they are ready to listen for those main points as you talk about them. In essence, you are helping your audience keep up with your presentation.
Rather than being given alone, internal previews often come after a speaker has transitioned to that main topic area. Using the previous internal preview, let us see it along with the transition to that main point.
Now that we’ve explored the effect that a lack of consistent recycling has on our campus, let us explore the importance of recycling for our campus (transition). To help us further understand why starting a recycling program on campus is important, we will first explain the positive benefits of student-led recycling programs and then explore how recycling can help our campus. (internal preview).
While internal previews are definitely helpful, you do not need to include one for every main point of your presentation. In fact, we recommend that you use internal previews sparingly to highlight only main points containing relatively complex information.
Whereas an internal preview helps an audience know what you are going to talk about within a main point at the beginning, an internal summary is delivered to remind an audience of what they just heard within the presentation. In general, internal summaries are best used when the information within a specific main point of a presentation was complicated. To write your own internal summaries, look at the summarizing transition words in Table 7.1 “Transition Words” Let us look at an example.
To sum up, workplace bullying is a definite problem. Bullying in the workplace has been shown to be detrimental to the victim’s performance, job satisfaction, and organizational loyalty.
In this example, the speaker was probably talking about the impact that bullying has on an individual victim in the workplace. Of course, an internal summary can also be a great way to lead into a transition to the next point of a presentation.
In this section, we have explored how bullying in the workplace has been shown to be detrimental to the victim’s performance, job satisfaction, and organizational loyalty (internal summary). Therefore, workplaces need to implement organization-wide, comprehensive antibullying programs (transition).
While not sounding like the more traditional transition, this internal summary helps readers summarize the content of that main point. The sentence that follows then leads to the next major part of the presentation, which is going to discuss the importance of antibullying programs.
Have you ever been on a road trip and watched the green rectangular mile signs pass you by? Fifty miles to go. Twenty-five miles to go. One mile to go. Signposts within a presentation function the same way. A signpost is a guide a speaker gives her or his audience to help the audience keep up with the content of a presentation. If you look at Table 7.1 “Transition Words” and look at the “common sequence patterns,” you will see a series of possible signpost options. In essence, we use these short phrases at the beginning of a piece of information to help our audience members keep up with what we are discussing. For example, if you were giving a presentation whose main point was about the three functions of credibility, you could use internal signposts like this:
- The first function of credibility is competence.
- The second function of credibility is trustworthiness.
- The final function of credibility is caring/goodwill.
Signposts are simply meant to help your audience keep up with your presentation, so the more simplistic your signposts are, the easier it is for your audience to follow.
In addition to helping audience members keep up with a presentation, signposts can also be used to highlight specific information the speaker thinks is important. Where the other signposts were designed to show the way (like highway markers), signposts that call attention to specific pieces of information are more like billboards. Words and phrases that are useful for highlighting information can be found in Table 7.1 “Transition Words” under the category “emphasis.” All these words are designed to help you call attention to what you are saying so that the audience will also recognize the importance of the information.
- Transitions are very important because they help an audience stay on top of the information that is being presented to them. Without transitions, audiences are often left lost and the ultimate goal of the presentation is not accomplished.
- Specific transition words, like those found in Table 7.1 “Transition Words”, can be useful in constructing effective transitions.
- In addition to major transitions between the main points of a presentation, speakers can utilize internal previews, internal summaries, and signposts to help focus audience members on the information contained within a presentation.