The main points you make in any critical conversation or speech are, of course, huge. But let me suggest the connecting words are just as important. Think of your main points as the vital organs in the body and the connecting words are the veins and arteries which make them all work. Yet, how many times are we stopped by this thought: “Okay, how am I going to connect these ideas?” If the connection fails, you have lost your audience all together. It is for that reason I’ve decide to spend a few minutes focusing on making your connection words stronger.
The first two laws of the connecting words are they must be conversational and logical. Anything that falls outside this comfort zone will likely sound jarring and out-of-synch. Often people who handle this skill well are said to be “smooth.” What does that really mean? It is the sense that everything fits. It all makes sense and hangs together. But, how do we get this magical place? Let’s dive in.
Where are you going? In the ideal world, one thought naturally leads to the next. To get there you’ll need to really think through your main points. In what order should they be presented? Is there a logical roadmap for your listener to follow? Are you building something here or is there more context that is necessary to get from “A” to “B”? As you search for the perfect connecting words, context can often be your savior. You would make your first point, offer some context, then move on to point two.
When a left turn is necessary: Alas, such order is not always possible, so you must make a left turn. Here connecting words are your savior. From simply warning your listener “Now I have a left turn coming up, but let me explain why,” to “The logical next thought might be ‘X’ but let me introduce a new idea here.” Bottom line for the left turn? Make sure you put up a big sign letting your audience know they’ll need to think differently for a minute. Also, take it slow and make sure they are with you before you move on to your next point. It’s also a great time to ask for questions.
Landing the plane well: Even if the ride is a bit bumpy and your connecting words have not hit the mark as well as they should, if you land the plane well you can make up for previous issues. Always have a plan for the close of the conversation and make sure it pulls together the sometimes-wandering path the previous process has taken.
The bottom line for any of this is to know and think about the connecting word process. Realize just as much effort needs to be put in on the connectors as the big ideas in some cases. The time is well spent. In the end, a smooth, clear conversation or speech will be judged as much on the connectivity of the whole as on any one big idea.
Follow along with Cary on Twitter @CaryPfeffer
Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting, www.clear-comm.net, a Phoenix, AZ-based communications consulting firm which is helping people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: [email protected]