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The importance of using 'Link Phrases'

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Once you've created the visuals to help deliver your verbal message (remember: NEVER the other way round), you'll end up with a set of 5, 10, 15, 20 (or whatever slides). If we think of the presentation as a wall and the words/accompanying slides as its constituent building blocks, we need some mortar to hold the whole thing together.

The mortar is link phrases - words that enable you to move seamlessly logically and effortlessly from one slide to the next.

Most people present in a very similar manner. They click on a slide and say, "This slide is about . . ." and then talk about its content. Then they click on to the next one and say, "This slide is about . . ." And so on, with each slide being introduced with the same phrase. Maybe it's "Now I'd like to talk about . . ." instead, but the effect destroys all continuity and flow.

It's as if each slide is a stand-alone presentation in its own right, with no connection between them and no indication for the audience how they relate to each other.

There are two types of link phrases: internal and external. The former link the content/slides to other parts of the presentation, the latter to the audience. Let's look at External Link Phrases first, because they're fairly self-explanatory:

External Links

Immediately after you've used a powerful opener (see How to grab 'em by the throat), you'll give the audience a very brief overview of the presentation and tell them why it's important/interesting/relevant to them (see Answering "What's In It For Me?" - The Importance Of Having A Compelling Audience Benefit (C.A.B.)).

External link phrases should be used throughout the presentation to refer back to the CAB, constantly reminding them why each segment is important. Use phrases such as:

  • So what does this mean to you?’
  • ‘You may be wondering what this has to do with you. I’ll tell you …’
  • ‘Why should you care? Because …’
  • ‘So what, you might ask. Well, here’s what …’
  • ‘The importance of this is …’

Internal Links

1. Refer to the flow: If we think as each individual slide as being a tree, doing this gives the audience a repeated reminder of what the forest looks like. So if you've chosen a Numerical Flow and said there six points you want to cover, constantly remind them where you are in he presentation by saying, "Now for point three . . .", or "I said before I had six points to make, so let's look at point five."

If you've chosen Problem/Solution as your flow (see Why pain outweighs gain in persuasion), constantly refer back to the problem that your solution solves.

2. Cross-reference: This refers either back to something you've mentioned earlier, or forward to something you're going to cover later. So saying, "The total saving would be about $250,000, but I'd like to deal with how I arrived at this figure later on," is a forward cross-reference. Referring to this later on by saying, "Now let's look at that projected saving of $250,000 mentioned earlier" is a backward cross-reference.

You can use cross-references very effectively when talking about other presenters who've preceded or are about to follow you, if it's a team presentation or when you are just one speaker amongst a number at a conference, e.g. "Jane will go through these numbers in more detail later; this is just the bottom line," or "As John said earlier . . ."

3. Rhetorical Questions: Here you pose a question that naturally flows from the previous slide or logically leads to the next one, and then provide the answer, such as, "That's the effect on sales, but how about the effect on profitability?" or "Now you might be saying to yourself, 'That's all very well and good Nick, but this doesn't look cheap. What's this going to cost?' So let's look at the financials . . ."

4. Summary: No matter how intelligent, streetwise or tech-savvy your audience is, they will often struggle to assimilate your data or ideas as fast as you are presenting them. A summary link phrase gives your audience a chance to pause cleanse their mental palates, without actually using a pause. So say, "OK; so far we've looked at the consumer research, the potential size of the market and projected unit sales. Now I want to move on to the marketing support and profit margins," or "So . . . that's a possible market of 1 million units, a realistic market share of 10% and potential sales of 100,000. All in all, a fantastic opportunity. Now let's have a look at how we're going to realize it."

5. Logical: This is the simplest type of link phrase and involves stating the logical connection between one slide/segment and the next, e.g. "So that deals with unit sales and potential market share. But the really exciting thing is this product's effect on our profitability, so let's have a look at the financials."

6. Thematic: This refers to a theme that runs constantly through the presentation. Let's say you've chosen a Problem/Solution flow and the problem is how the company/department is going to save $x thousand/million. You are now about to make several recommendations, which you'll present in simple numerical format (i.e. Opportunity 1, Opportunity 2, etc., etc.). After each recommendation you could link them a phrase such as, "The result? A saving of $120,000 . . . . The result? A saving of $225,000 . . . The result? . . . "

General Points on Phraseology: A few 'don'ts'

1. Don't say "Now I'd like to look at profitability . . ." The presentation shouldn't be about you, it's about them. Instead, use the word "Let's . . ." which is much more inclusive, and invites the audience to join you in doing something.

2. Don't say (when using a cross-reference link), "As I said earlier . . ." Include the audience by saying "We saw earlier . . ." or "You'll recall that . . ." or "Remember . . ."

3. Don't use phrases such as "Let me tell you very quickly about . . ." or "I want to canter through a few financial slides . . ." By doing so you are apologizing, saying that the next slide isn't very interesting or important, so you're going to rush through it so they don't get bored.



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