9 Transitions: Bridging Ideas for a Seamless Presentation

Lynn Meade

Picture of a person sitting on a bridge

 

 

Good transitions
can make a speech more important to the audience
because they feel they are being taken
to a positive conclusion
without having to travel a bumpy road.
– Joe Griffith

Transitions

The difference between a novice speaker and an advanced speaker is in how they bridge the gap between ideas. Learning to use transitions effectively will help take your speaking to the advanced level. Transitions can be one word, a phrase, or a full sentence.

The audience is dying to know the relationship between ideas. Their brains are hard-wired for that. It’s more important when you are speaking than when you are writing because the listeners can’t go back – they have to get it when it happens. If the brain is bored, or gets tired because it’s overwhelmed, or gets confused – it can’t stay in that place, so it daydreams, creating its own interest.
Speech Coach Max Dixon, Westside Toastmasters.

So, let’s get started. I have included various transition types for you to consider. These do little good if you read them and do not use them. This list works best if you read it now and then revisit it every time you write a speech.

Beginning

  • Let’s begin with…
  • First, I’d like to share with you…
  • Now that you’re aware of the overview, let’s begin with…
  • Our first stop is…
  • I will first cover…
  • My first point covers…
  • To get started, let’s look at…

The Order of Things

  • After that…
  • Next…
  • Second thing…
  • Our next stop is…
  • Let me tell you about your next step.

Steve Jobs Commencement to Stanford University

Steve Jobs clearly previews his main points, “Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.” He flows smoothly between points with clear transitions.

  • “The first story is about connecting the dots.”
  • “My second story is about love and loss.”
  • “My third story is about death.”

Watch Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Address

 

Between Similar Points

  • In the same way…
  • In addition…
  • Likewise…
  • Similarly…

Between Disagreeing Points

  • Conversely…
  • Despite this…
  • The flip side of the issue…
  • However…
  • On the contrary…
  • On the other hand…
  • However …
  • On the other side …
  • Yet, we cannot ignore …
  • The opposing argument …
  • If we examine the opposite side, we see …

Introduce an example

  • This is best illustrated by an example…
  • For instance…
  • Take the case of…
  • For example…
  • To understand this…
  • Let me illustrate this by…

Introduce Research

  • To make the point…
  • As illustrated by…
  • For instance…
  • Case in point…
  • To solidify this point…
  • As researched by…

Cause and effect

  • Therefore…
  • Thus…
  • Consequently…
  • As a result…
  • This is significant because…
  • Hence…
  • Resulting in…
  • For that reason …
  • The effect is…

Elaboration

  • Also…
  • Besides…
  • What’s more…
  • In addition/additionally…
  • Moreover…
  • Furthermore…

Transition to a Demonstration

  • Let me show you how this works…
  • Let me demonstrate this…
  • Now that we’ve covered the theory, let’s see it in action …
  • Next, I’d like to let you see this for yourselves…

Introducing Your Visual

  • As you can see from this chart…
  • I’d like you to notice that…
  • The table indicates…

Questions as Transitions

  • Now that you know the problem, what do you think will solve it?
  • What do you think will solve this crisis?

 

 

Vocabulary

A chain that symbolizes connection

Connective:
A word or phrase that connects the ideas of a speech and indicates the relationship between them.

Transitions:
A word or phrase that indicates when a speaker had finished one thought and it moving on to another.

Internal preview:
A statement in the body of the speech that tells the audience what the speaker is going to discuss next.

Internal summary:
A statement in the body of the speech that summarizes the speaker’s preceding point or points.

Signpost:
A very brief statement that indicates where a speaker is in the speech or that focuses attention on key ideas.

From the Art of Public Speaking by Stephen Lucas

 

 

THOUGHTS FROM A FORMER STUDENT

One thing I learned in class that made me a better speechwriter was to pay attention to the transitions. In our outlines, there was space for our main points, but also our transitions between them.  At the beginning of the semester, I thought this was a waste of time planning out my transition for a speech and that I would just wing it the day of, but I soon realized how important they were. Transitions are like the finishing touches that make everything fall together in a speech.

You may have some interesting points or facts to give to your audience, but without transitions, you have nothing to connect your points and create a narrative. An audience is much more interested in a talk if there is a continuing idea or theme, and transitions help create this. I found this out by watching the other students in my class as they learned to use transitions as well. I loved the speeches that were clearly organized and had a common idea with transitions.

Zoe Lawless, Honors Public Speaking, University of Arkansas

 

 

Baseball diamond
Imagine the stage as a baseball diamond. Move to each base as you move between speech points. Begin and end at home plate.

Movement as Transition

Many people don’t think about movement as a type of transition, but it can be a very powerful way to help your audience transition between ideas.

  • Setting out a visual or putting it away signals a change in ideas. 
  • Some speakers will imagine a baseball diamond laid out on the floor and move to each base throughout the speech. Their opening comment is at home plate. Point one is delivered on first, point two on second, and point three on third. They stand back on their home plate to deliver the final closing statements.
  • One speaker that I met said he always has a special place that is his big idea place. He may move around during his speech but when he wants the audience to know it is an important point, he stands in the big idea place.

Silence as a Transition

John Chappelear, speech consultant, suggests that the use of silence can be powerful. It is powerful,  but it is not easy. Being able to stand silently in front of a large audience for 15-45 seconds requires practice. Sometimes you can use silence as a way to let the audience catch up and think deeply about what you just said. 

Transitioning Between Slides

  • As the next slide shows…
  • As you can see…
  • Next, I will show you…

Transitioning to Visuals

  • As you can see from this chart…
  • I’d like to direct your attention to…
  • This diagram compares…
  • Now, I’d like to illustrate this with…

Signaling the End is Near

  • In conclusion…
  • To sum it up…
  • Lastly…
  • In a nutshell…
  • To recap…
  • I’d like to leave you with…
  • Finally, I’d like to say…
  • The takeaway from all of this is…
  • In conclusion…
  • To summarise…
Panel discussion

Moving to the Next Speaker

  • I told you about the most credible theories about climate change, now John will share with you some examples of what you can do.
  • I’m going to turn it over to Malachi, who will take you through the next few points.
  • Next, Angie will come up and talk about…
  • To help us understand this topic better, we have Beatrice, who will talk us through…
  • Look to the next speaker and motion towards them as they walk to the podium, Twila will tell you more…

License

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Advanced Public Speaking (BETA) by Lynn Meade is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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