Something as simple as transitions can make or break your next presentation

Follow a senior leader’s journey as he experiences an Executive Presentations Coaching session.

Joseph presented his baseline presentation (the initial presentation before coaching) during the Executive Presentations Coaching session while Joseph’s coach, Ibrahim, took notes. Under ‘transitions’ (the things people say to transition from one thought to another or from one slide to the next), Ibrahim gave Joseph a big fat ZERO.

After Joseph finished his baseline presentation, Ibrahim got up and said, “Here is what you are doing that you will never do again.” 

Ibrahim takes the remote clicker from Joseph, places his foot one in front of another, puffs up his chest, and then puts on his best Joseph impersonation. In a deeper voice, Ibrahim repeats Joseph’s presentation;


“This is slide one, talk talk talk talk. Okay, next.”


“This is slide two, talk talk talk. Right, next”


“This is slide three, talk talk talk.”


Ibrahim abruptly changes his stance. It’s a signal that he is no longer Joseph. He says to Joseph, “You should NOT do that again.”

Joseph was puzzled; his face said it all, and his wrinkles mirrored the curves of question marks as he tried to understand what his coach had just said. Finally, he asked, “What was wrong with my presentation?”

Joseph had given himself a 4 out of 5 when it came to transitions when he didn’t do any transitioning at any point of his baseline presentation. So Ibrahim was right to give Joseph a zero for transitions. 

Ibrahim cut through Joseph’s quizzing look with a booming, authoritative voice, “Now, here’s another way. It’s slightly better, BUT this way is not for you either.”

Ibrahim then gives a demonstration of what seems to be ‘slightly’ better transitions: 

Ibrahim clicked to the first slide and then talked about the cats on the roof. As he approaches the end of the first slide, he goes, “Now that you know about the cats on our roof, next, we’re going to talk about the dogs in the basement.”

Ibrahim clicks to the second slide and then talks about the dogs in the basement. As he approaches the end of the second slide, he goes, “Now that you know about the dogs in the basement, next we’re going to talk about the elephant in the room.”

Ibrahim clicks to the third slide…

Joseph exclaimed, “That’s nice!”

Ibrahim stops in his tracks. He shakes his head and declares, “No, no! The first way you demonstrated in your baseline presentation is not to be done again. Tell your direct reports.” 

“As for the second version, which I just demonstrated, this is for amateurs, beginners, and novices! That’s not you. Because you’re presenting multi-million-dollar solutions to clients.”

“With the first version, there’s a crack at the end of every slide – the audience falls in, then must climb up again for the next slide. They fall, 

climb up, 


climb up. 

How many times before they decide to avoid more pain and run away?”

Ibrahim can see Joseph’s mind ticking away; he’s trying to figure out how to cement all the cracks.

“In the second version, the one that starts with cats moves on to dogs and then to elephants; it’s as if each slide is an entire movie: it starts, builds, and ends, all in two minutes. 

Then another movie starts immediately.

Then another.

And another. 

Thirty movies later, the audience is exhausted. There are only so many movies an audience can watch in an hour. So we can’t blame them for switching off halfway through.

When Ibrahim and I were discussing transitions, it occurred to me that Ibrahim sees a space between slides. 




An actual physical space. 




Imagine your deck in the ‘slide sorter’ view in PowerPoint. There is a space between each. To Ibrahim, this is an accident waiting to happen. So to prevent presentation trainwrecks from happening, he builds a bridge to span the space. So the listener has a better experience instead of leaving the audience to fall off a cliff every few minutes, only to painfully and exhaustingly climb up from the valley of lost ideas. At every bridge, Ibrahim wants his listeners to do something different: stroll across, skip, hop, run, slide down, or glide. And so, listeners go on a journey with him. Who wouldn’t want to run across a bridge in glee to explore what awaits on the other side?

Ibrahim shows Joseph how to construct a simple, solid bridge: “Since you know what the next slide is, if you figure out what might be on your listener’s mind at the end of your current slide, you could simply say it, and just like that you’ve created a bridge.”

For example:

“Now, I know what’s on your mind; you must be asking, how can ferocious cats befriend other animals?”

“I’d like to introduce you to a dog called Happy… (clicks to the next slide).”

Joseph gives it a go and manages to get some transitions immediately. He is beaming: on his subsequent presentations, he can hear that he is different. He can feel that he is different. Ibrahim, listening intently, tells him he feels different too. 

He has successfully used transitions to build a bridge for his audience, a bridge that they hop across one time, leap across another, run, skip, and cartwheel across the other times. 

As I understood more of what Ibrahim does, I realised he is determined to help his coachee to elevate their listener’s experience. His transitions get the listener involved. When they’re deeply involved, it’s as if the audience sheds their skin and becomes something different: they’re no longer listeners; the audience has become fellow adventurers. 

I once sat next to our client at the back of a training room; we were observing Ibrahim’s class. Towards the end of the class, as he delivered a transition, she must have whooshed down the bridge he’d built because she leapt out of her chair and cheered as he clicked to the next slide. 

“I’ve never been so glad to get a zero,” Joseph says, “I don’t care if it takes me a year. I’m going to work until I can do what you do.”

This article was adapted from the soon-to-be-released e-book ‘What’s there to do for four hours? – Inside an Executive Presentations Coaching session with Ibrahim J. Mariwa’ by Marianne Vincent, People Potential’s director of training quality. Sign up for our newsletter if you’d like to receive the e-book when it’s released.

To explore Executive Presentations Coaching (EPC) and how we can work with your senior leaders to raise their impact, please contact Mints at [email protected] 

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