Achieving persuasion in public speaking is, as Hamlet said, "a consummation devoutly to be wished." Millions of speakers, every day around the globe, hope to accomplish that goal. (Want to speak for true leadership? Discover how: download my free cheat sheet, "Leadership Skills: The 5 Essential Speaking Techniques").
Persuasiveness isn't only the domain of a persuasive speech, however. In many instances, informative speeches—as well as inspirational talks, sales pitches, comments at meetings, and other speaking situations—include efforts to convince and achieve agreement.
Advice for being persuasive in public speaking appearances isn't hard to discover, either. But in this blog, I'd like to mention an important component of persuasiveness that often doesn't show up in discussions of persuasive speaking: the need to use effective transitions.
You Know Your Message Points, But Your Audience Doesn't!
A simple realization should bring home why transitions are vital to clear and persuasive speaking: your audience doesn’t know your talking points beforehand, as you do. To convey your message and have listeners follow where you’re going, you need to make logical connections among the different elements of your talk. You will also benefit from understanding your audience's needs and preferences. Learn how to conduct an audience analysis.
Logic is the concept to bear in mind here. Since you’ve conceived your presentation and know where it’s going (or needs to go), you understand how the elements of the argument you’re constructing fit together. But how will your audience understand this if you don’t make it clear to them?
Intuitive leaps and “obvious” connections have no place here. Your audience needs to be led carefully through what might otherwise be a thicket of information and causal relationships. Occasional reminders of what the overall topic at hand is, and referring back to a point you made previously, can aid your audience’s comprehension. So can specifically mentioning how your previous point is related to the point you’re about to make, through the use of summaries and previews.
Internal Summaries and Internal Previews
Let’s say you’re discussing your plan for increasing your company’s profitability through a top-to-bottom makeover of the way your firm does business. You’ve laid out three main points at the beginning of your presentation: better quality control, improved distribution, and more responsive customer service. You’ve just been talking about that first main point, greater focus on quality control. You’re now ready to discuss distribution. Clearly, this is the first major transition of your talk.
Rather than saying (as some speakers do), “Now I’d like to talk about distribution,” or pointing out (as even more speakers do), “Okay, the next slide is about distribution”—you can use an internal summary combined with an internal preview, like this:
“So I think you’ll agree that better quality control will go a long way toward giving our customers more satisfaction in the products they’re purchasing.” (You’ve just summarized your previous point.) “But of course, great quality mean little if you don’t have a distribution system that quickly and reliably gets those products to market. That’s the second element of more streamlined operations that I’d like to talk about now.” (You’ve given listeners a “preview” of what you’re about to discuss, and you’ve shown them the logical connection between your first two main points.)
For an audience to be persuaded by what you’re saying, they need to be able to follow each point as you logically and convincingly develop it. That means using transitions as a key public speaking tool. Be strong in your transitions, and you’ll be a leg up on speakers who have great content but haven’t found a way to keep audiences with them as they make their argument, every step of the way.
Key takeaways from this blog:
- Persuasion is important in all presentations, not just persuasive speeches.
- Logic is a key tool in helping your audience follow where you’re going.
- Listeners need to be carefully led through the connections you find obvious.
- Internal summaries and internal previews help explain those connections.