Dale Ludwig - Aug 25, 2009

Using PowerPoint Transitions

Question:
I really like the way some presenters use PowerPoint to transition from one topic to the next.  They seem so smooth.  What can I do to be more like that?

Answer:
PowerPoint transitions can look very nice, but don’t assume they replace the work you have to do as you move from one section of your presentation to the next.  In fact, many well-planned PowerPoint transitions fail during delivery because presenters get too wrapped up in the process to remember how to use them.  As a result the transitions get in the way and annoy everyone.

Remember, a good transition connects what has been said to what’s coming up.  That does a couple things.  First, it reinforces the logical flow of your argument.  Second, and this is what a lot of presenters don’t think about, it also reinforces the structure of your presentation.  What’s the difference between the two?

The logical flow of your presentation has to do with how the ideas you’re presenting build on each other.  Obviously you didn’t organize the information you’re presenting randomly.  It’s in the order it’s in because it makes sense that way, or because it’s more persuasive that way.  Whatever the reason behind how the data flows, a good transition refers to it.  For example, “The next thing I’d like to talk about is how we reach the second quarter goals I’ve listed here.”  You don’t need a PowerPoint transition to communicate that idea.

Reinforcing the structure of your presentation is slightly different.  It’s like a chapter break in a book, or a number in an outline.  It lets listeners know where you are in the overall presentation.  This is important because it makes you sound organized and gives listeners a sense of how much longer your presentation will be (and let’s face it, that’s important).

The thing to do is to stay engaged with your listeners and do what you can to lead them through the presentation.  Always assume they’re a little distracted and need a little help connecting the dots.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Written by Dale Ludwig

Dale Ludwig has a Ph.D. in Communication and, prior to Turpin, taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He founded Turpin Communication in 1992 with the mission to provide the best presentation and facilitation skills training possible. Since then he has worked to do just that. In addition to being one of Turpin’s lead instructors, he also serves as our Chief Learning Architect when tailoring learning engagements for our clients. Dale is a frequent blogger and the co-author of the book "The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined." He’s excited about his latest book, also co-authored with Greg Owen-Boger, "Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide to Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning."