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Talk the talk
Talk the talk

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2.1 Guiding listeners through the main part of your talk

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Figure 1

With written text, it is usually easy for the reader to refer back to things from earlier in the text.

In a talk, however, what has been said only exists in the memories of the listeners, so you have to take much more care in making sure it is clear where you are in terms of what has gone before. You need to use a lot of signposts that point both back and forward in your talk to keep listeners with you.

Look again at Bill Davenhall’s talk [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   and observe how he uses linking phrases to make it clear how one part of his talk relates to another.

Rewatch the three short segments from the middle part of Bill’s talk listed below and read the relevant parts of the transcript.

Which parts of these do you think are designed to link the paragraph with the earlier parts of the talk? Note down the key words or phrases and see if you can identify what common elements there are. If you can think of similar words or phrases, note those down too. These will all be useful as you develop your own talk.

From 2:04 to 2:19 on the timer

This is my life. These are my life places. We all have these. While I'm talking I'd like you to also be thinking about: How many places have you lived? Just think about that – you know, wander through your life thinking about this – and you realise that you spend it in a variety of different places. You spend it at rest and you spend it at work, and if you’re like me, you’re in an airplane a good portion of your time travelling some place.

From 2:52 to 3:21 on the timer

Now I’m going to take you on a little journey here. I started off in Scranton, Pennsylvania. I don't know if anybody might hail from north-eastern Pennsylvania. But this is where I spent my first 19 years with my little young lungs. You know, breathing high concentrations here of sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide and methane gas, in unequal quantities – 19 years of this. And if you’ve been in that part of the country, this is what those piles of burning, smouldering coal waste look like.

From 3:21 to 3:53 on the timer

So then I decided to leave that part of the world, and I was going to go to the mid-west. Okay? So I ended up in Louisville, Kentucky. Well, I decided to be neighbours to a place called Rubbertown. They manufacture plastics. They use large quantities chloroprene and benzene. Okay, I spent 25 years, in my middle-age lungs now, breathing various concentrations of that. And on a clear day it always looked like this, so you never saw it. It was insidious, and it was really happening.

Now that you’ve seen how Bill guides his audience through the main part of his talk, start preparing the middle part of your own talk.