“What do I say now?” How good segues strengthen your ideas, make your slide transitions sing, and add meaning to your stories.
“I was just listening to the BBC and they were doing a story on a 14 year old girl killed by cannibals in prehistoric America. Next thing I knew they were talking about wine. For just a second I thought the were recommending the best wine to go with human flesh, then I realized I must have missed the segue between the two stories.” Reddit Post, 2013
Yes, segues are important. Not only for the BBC but for presenters everywhere.
First of all… what is a segue?
A segue is an uninterrupted transition from one piece of music or film scene to another. We English speakers borrow the word segue from the Italian verb, seguire, which means to follow. Segue is the third-person singular form, “he follows” or “she follows.” As we can see in the Reddit post above, without a good segue, he or she most certainly doesn’t follow.
But is the segue only needed in music and film? No. Perfect Pitch would like to take this opportunity to add “idea, slide, or story” to “pieces of music or film scenes”. You need segues to help your audience follow your ideas, your slides and the meaning of your stories.
Some presenters like “With that” as a segue. Others don’t use them at all.
Remember the definition is uninterrupted transition. The word “uninterrupted” is important. When presenters finish one idea, stop, and abruptly move to another, they interrupt the audience. How is it possible to interrupt the audience? The audience is busy thinking about the idea they just heard. Suddenly, the presenter interrupts with a jarring change of direction. It’s a lot like enjoying the scenery outside a car window when the driver suddenly swerves around a corner and changes the view. With no explanation given about how the ideas are connected, new information seems out of place and harder to follow.
“With that” isn’t much better. It’s more filler than segue because it does nothing to transition smoothly or in a meaningful way. So, how can a presenter craft a better segue than “With that”? Let’s go back to our analogy about the car window and a “change of direction”. That might be a helpful way to think about segues in a presentation.
Your presentation is a journey.
Think of your ideas, slides, and stories as physical locations along your presentation journey. Stop screeching around corners with no warning!
The same way you would tell your passengers, “We’re turning left because I want to show you the beautiful park by the lake,” you can tell your audience, “We’re looking at a photo of our Moose Jaw site because I want to show you this process in action and the impact it can have on production.”
Are you about to talk about something that relates to something you’ve said before? Try, “Let’s back up to that earlier idea about revenue growing faster in the spring than in the summer.”
Are you about to show something that contrasts with what you have just shown them? Try, “Now that we’ve seen what a project timeline can look like without any delays in engineering, let’s look at what our project timelines have actually looked like with the engineering slow downs we’ve experienced.”
Are you closing off an idea and starting another? Create a link between to the two to strengthen your overall message and help your audience to follow along. Try, “Now that we have a way to redraw the sales territories, let’s tackle how we will serve some customers in those territories with our new remote team.”
Every time you deliver a strong segue that helps an audience understand the journey, you strengthen your ideas, make your slide transitions sing, and pump your stories full of meaning. And once you visualize your presentation as a physical journey, with ideas and slides as landmarks along the way, there is no end to the segues you can craft. You just have to tell the audience where you’re going and why. Segues provide direction.
Your slides can be your segue cheat sheet.
There is an easy way to remember your segues. Put them right at the top of your slides. Slide titles can become headlines that summarize the main idea of the slide and build on the idea that came before. Look at your slides in slide sorter view. Does every slide naturally flow into the following one? Would the gist of your story be easy to follow without you presenting?
If you answer yes, you have done a good job of crafting segues.
And finally, practice, practice, practice.
Out loud. It can’t be overstated how important it is to practice your presentation out loud. When you have trained your brain to send the right signal to your mouth and vocal cords, it’s hard to be stumped when you’re in front of your audience and feeling nervous. When the stakes are higher and your adrenalin is pumping, your blood-starved brain won’t be wondering where to turn next. And your audience will be happy passengers, buckled in and knowing where they’re going and why.