Why Are So Many People’s Slide Decks Lackluster? One Reason: No TRANSITIONS!
Most people use PowerPoint in a truly feeble way — and I’m not talking about the overcrowded slides, incomprehensible charts, irrelevant data, and disorganized images that we see so often in presentations.
We’re not even going into those things (at least not here!) because I know that you would never insult your audience by using PowerPoint as a data dump, right?
Nope, what I’m talking about when I say that most people’s PowerPoint decks seem lame is the aimless and random way that presenters move between their slides.
Want to Improve Your Presentation? Learn to Transition, and Take Your Audience With You
Here’s why your ability to transition (and take your audience with you) is so important:
- If you move between slides in a hesitant or uncertain way, you’re letting the audience know that you haven’t mastered your speech and aren’t sure what you’re going to talk about next;
- If you jump from one slide to the next in a random, arbitrary way, you’re telling the audience that your slide content doesn’t fit together tightly, and isn’t going to tell them a story; and
- If you advance your slides in a lackluster, bored way, you’re… well, you get the picture!
The way you transition between PowerPoint slides signals your attitude about this speech to the audience — and if your attitude is random, hesitant, lackluster, or boring your audience is likely to snooze!
Before You Can Transition Well, Your Presentation Needs a Basic Overview
First, you can’t guide an audience through your presentation unless you know the presentation’s basic structure.
So take a few minutes to look at your slides — preferably in Keynote’s “Light Table” or PowerPoint’s “Slide Sorter” View features.
- How many sections are in my presentation?
- Where (on which slide) does each section begin and end?
- What’s the logical connection between each section and the next one?
Now that you know the lay of the land (also known as the structure of your presentation), focus on moving between one section and the next.
To Create Transitions, Think Functionally
Transitions are literally statements that take you from one place to the next place. They don’t need to be (in fact, probably shouldn’t be) clever, original, literate, or nuanced.
Here are some examples of transitions that work well:
- “We’ve talked about Point A. Now let’s think about Point B.” [click to the next slide]
- “Based on what you’ve just heard, you might think that X is true. But it’s not. In fact, what’s true is that [click to the next slide] Y is your best option.”
- “How do we know this? We know, because… [click to the next slide]…”
In each of these cases, your transition is doing a simple job, and doing it well.
Very well, because each of these transitions contains:
- A recap of what you’ve just heard,
- A statement setting up what’s next, and
- A little rhythmic kick [your click to the next slide] that adds emphasis.
Making your transition rhythmic is a great way to tease what’s coming next and pique your audience’s curiosity.
Do I Need This Kind of Transition to Speak Well?
Remember that your #1 job as a public speaker is to connect with your audience and deliver information that is valuable to them!
Transitions are the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.
To Create Rhythmic Transitions, Practice With a Clicker
“Clickers” — more formally called “presentation remotes” and sometimes, unaccountably, called “pickles” — are the devices that tell your computer to advance to the next slide.
To the best of my knowledge, these are all simple hand-helds that communicate with the USB port on your computer. (You plug the attachment into your USB port, and you’re good to go.)
My favorite clicker is the lowest-cost Kensington Presentation Remote, which fits well into my hand, works smoothly with both Apple and PC computers, and has a range of 50 feet.
When I’m practicing a presentation, I practice using my clicker to advance slides at the same time. In this way, the click becomes comfortable, and becomes part of the rhythm of my talk.
I even get a jump-start on this process by writing the word [click] into my speaking notes or scripts, because it’s never too soon to start feeling the rhythm of your speech!
After the Transition, What Do You Do?
When your next slide comes up on screen, you pause!
This gives your audience time to look at the slide, see what it contains, read the printed words, puzzle out the picture, and then return their attention to you.
Ideally, you won’t start talking until you have their attention, and if your transition has been clear or intriguing enough, their attention will quickly snap back to you.
The pause also gives you a chance to regroup before you launch into your next slide or segment, as I explained in Public Speaking Tip 68: To Make Your Words Memorable, Put Pauses in Your Public Speaking.
The Magic Formula: Transition. Click. Pause.
Once you understand the simple elegance of this approach, you’ll find that a small amount of practice will make it almost automatic for you.
- Your simple, unassuming transitional comment spells out the connection between this idea and the next one (even if the connection is just that the next idea comes next!),
- Your click adds a little rhythmic pizzazz, and
- The pause you take when the new slide appears allows your audience to orient themselves visually before you bring them back to attention.
Try this approach with a familiar presentation, and I think you’ll find that the Transition-Pause-Click sequence can add power and memorability to any speech!