One of the prices paid by being a Communication Trainer is that I rarely listen to other people’s presentations without making a performance assessment with some suggestions for improvement.  It may be good practice, but it means I can focus on the delivery and miss the enjoyment.

Sometimes I am not the only one!!

Recently I went to hear a presentation on a topic I am very interested in, and I really tried to focus on the information and to stop looking for ways in which the speaker could improve. So I settled in and focused on listening. I heard the first really interesting part of the speech, full of pertinent facts and colourful mental pictures – so far so good; and then I heard “Okay?”

I shuddered – but still determined to do the speaker justice I shook off my training hat and concentrated again- “Okay?” 

There it was again – and again, and again and …..

By this time everyone in the audience was alert to that insidious word creeping into all the information, linking all the points and filling all the spaces.  In fact many of the audience were audibly counting.

I gave up all pretence and concentrated on another aspect of her speech – when did she use the word “Okay”; was there a link between the process and the word? 

And of course there was; every time she wanted to change from one idea to another, from one point to another or move from one fact to another she prefaced that transition with the word “Okay”!  It wasn’t that she was actually checking that we understood her so far, it was merely a filler word that was used to fill the space until she could think of how to make the transition.

And right there is the problem – creating smooth transitions.  I am fine with the first point, and I know exactly how to discuss my second point; but how do I move from one to another smoothly?

We are very familiar with the process of a speech, Opening : Body and Conclusion, but we may not be familiar with the internal process of Preview and Summaries of our main points.  It is these factors that can create our smooth transitions.

A transition is simply the words and phrases which indicate to our audience that we have finished this point and are about to embark on that point.

So one of the easiest ways to create the transition is to complete our first point with what is known as an Internal Summary.

“So I hope you can now understand some of the problems of gambling addiction and how it impacts on lives and families’

If the material has been complex your Internal Summary can be used to clarify and reinforce your information:

“Let’s pause for a moment and revisit the effects of extreme heat on the body:  First we found that…”

If we use the Internal Summary instead of “Okay” we are much more likely to have our audience’s agreement!

So if an Internal Summary is a simple recap of what you have just covered, what do you think an Internal Preview could be? 

Of course, it is a very brief introduction to your next main point. Taking our gambling Internal Summary as an example we could segue like this:

So I hope you can now understand some of the problems of gambling addiction and how it impacts on lives and families. And understanding those difficulties surely we must ask the question what can be done to assist them in overcoming their problem?” 

Here we have a smooth transition from the problems to the suggested solutions. And not a single “Okay” was needed.

Using the simple Internal Summary and Preview we can move smoothly through our speech without distracting our listeners with useless words that catch their attention and lead them away from our topic.

And as we are speaking of transitions, let’s not be afraid to be so obvious as to actually lead them by the hand.

The term Speech Sign Posts merely indicated words that tell you listeners where they are; keeping them on track so they can follow the logical sequence of your information:

First, let us consider the cost to the family of unrestricted gambling” – here the speaker clearly tells the audience that this is only the first of her points, but it probably will be one of the important ones.

“Secondly, we cannot overlook the cost to the community “ – the audience now knows that we have reached a supporting argument that will build on the previous information.

“And finally ….”  now we know we are on the last lap, and our speaker will be bringing it all together.

Simple sign posts, used with internal summaries and previews allow any speaker to move smoothly through their speech, keeping their listeners focused on their information and easily able to follow the logic and reasoning.

Now that has got to be Okay!
Michele @ Trischel

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