Along with confidence and credibility, coherence is a quality the audience looks for in a speaker and in their presentation. The Concise Oxford dictionary says that the adjective "coherent" describing a speech means that it is "logical and consistent; easily followed". Language provides us with many devices we can use to show how our ideas are connected so that our thinking is easily followed. In my experience, however, these devices are not always readily available to us when we are speaking our second or third language.
During the past couple of weeks I've been working with a client who, like most English speakers, did not have English as his mother tongue. We had noted that his presentations sometimes lacked coherence even though his thinking was logical and were working together to improve this. I was reminded of how valuable it is to show how ideas are connected, in other words to show our thinking.
My client achieved great results simply by using linking words and phrases to show how his ideas were connected and point to his thinking. At once his seemingly disconnected and random points hung together like beads on a thread. The flow of his speaking became easier as well and he was able to speak more comfortably without referring to his notes as often as he had been.
Whether or not you are a first language English speaker you might find it helpful to use more of these words and phrases to connect your ideas and show the logical structure of your presentation. Of course, you can use them in your writing too.
Beware! Using a few linking words here and there is not a magic cure-all for poor thinking, inadequate research and lack of planning and certainly won't make a brilliant presentation out of a few random bullet points. However, especially if English is not your first choice of language to speak in then these words and phrases may be helpful to you.
SOME EXAMPLES OF LINKING PHRASES AND WORDS
To extend the idea: further; furthermore; in addition; as well as this; firstly . . . secondly
To state the idea again in another way: that is; in other words
To show contrast in ideas or to note exceptions: however; on the other hand; nevertheless; unless; either . . . or; neither . . . nor
To explain a cause or reason: because; for this reason; owing to; for this/ these reason/s
To show results: as a result; for this/these reason/s; consequently
To introduce an illustration: for example; for instance; this can be seen in; as shown in; as shown by
To introduce a similar idea: this is similar to; similarly; in the same way; also; not only . . . but also
To reach a conclusion: therefore; thus; finally; in conclusion; to summarise; to sum up; from this we may conclude that ...
To join one section to the next: "Having covered ... I'm now moving on to discuss ..."; "This brings me to ..."; "That brings us to ..."
If you'd like more clarity on using words to show logical thinking you might like to browse this article.