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As public speakers, none of us wants to lose our listeners. One way to avoid that is to use signposts. When speakers use signposts effectively, they assist their audience in staying engaged and focused.
It isn’t recommended to begin your presentation by saying “Today we’ll discuss…” or “I plan to cover the following…” While those are clearly examples of signposts, it isn’t a good idea to begin with words like those because you run the risk of boring listeners by sounding like so many others. Do your best at the outset to be unique, bold, and captivating.
Once you begin your presentation, you’ll want to emphasize certain points and one way to do that is by using a signpost such as “What you’re about to hear is important.” or “Please note the following…” The goal for any speaker is to make it easy to be followed. Therefore, you may choose to connect the dots to help listeners make a meaningful connection between points they heard as well as further their understanding of them. When you’re moving on to a related topic, that’s another point when using a signpost comes in handy by saying “Now that you understand X, let’s move on to Y.” or “There’s more to say on this subject so now let’s look at it more closely.”
As you conclude your presentation you may wish to include a signpost like “You’ve now learned how to…” or “When it comes to ____ each you is now well-prepared.” That helps listeners feel organized and like they’ve achieved or learned something useful. We know that listening is pretty hard work and as a result, your audience most likely won’t attend to everything you say. That’s one reason that using signposts is essential. It’s another tool you can add to your communication toolbox.
Think of how often you use signposts when traveling or driving. They usually keep us on track and often guide us. That’s exactly why it pays to include signposts as a public speaker. What’s your signpost?
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