Speech transitions: words and phrases to connect your ideas


June 28, 2018 - Gini Beqiri

When delivering presentations it's important for your words and ideas to flow so your audience can understand how everything links together and why it's all relevant.

This can be done using speech transitions because these act as signposts to the audience - signalling the relationship between points and ideas. This article explores how to use speech transitions in presentations.

What are speech transitions?

Speech transitions are words and phrases that allow you to smoothly move from one point to another so that your speech flows and your presentation is unified.

This makes it easier for the audience to understand your argument and without transitions the audience may be confused as to how one point relates to another and they may think you're randomly jumping between points.

Types of transitions

Transitions can be one word, a phrase or a full sentence - there are many different types, here are a few:

Introduction

Introduce your topic:

  • We will be looking at/identifying/investigating the effects of...
  • Today I will be discussing...

Presentation outline

Inform the audience of the structure of your presentation:

  • There are three key points I'll be discussing...
  • I want to begin by..., and then I'll move on to...
  • We'll be covering... from two points of view...
  • This presentation is divided into four parts...

Move from the introduction to the first point

Signify to the audience that you will now begin discussing the first main point:

  • Now that you're aware of the overview, let's begin with...
  • First, let's begin with...
  • I will first cover...
  • My first point covers...
  • To get started, let's look at...

Shift between similar points

Move from one point to a similar one:

  • In the same way...
  • Likewise...
  • Equally...
  • This is similar to...
  • Similarly...
Presentation transitions at a meeting

Shift between disagreeing points

You may have to introduce conflicting ideas - bridging words and phrases are especially good for this:

  • Conversely...
  • Despite this...
  • However...
  • On the contrary...
  • Now let's consider...
  • Even so...
  • Nonetheless...
  • We can't ignore...
  • On the other hand...

Practice your speech transitions in our VR course. Click here to learn more.

Transition to a significant issue

  • Fundamentally...
  • A major issue is...
  • The crux of the matter...
  • A significant concern is...

Referring to previous points

You may have to refer to something that you've already spoken about because, for example, there may have been a break or a fire alarm etc:

  • Let’s return to...
  • We briefly spoke about X earlier; let's look at it in more depth now...
  • Let’s revisit...
  • Let’s go back to...
  • Do you recall when I mentioned...

This can be also be useful to introduce a new point because adults learn better when new information builds on previously learned information.

Introducing an aside note

You may want to introduce a digression:

  • I'd just like to mention...
  • That reminds me...
  • Incidentally...

Physical movement

You can move your body and your standing location when you transition to another point. The audience find it easier to follow your presentation and movement will increase their interest.

A common technique for incorporating movement into your presentation is to:

  • Start your introduction by standing in the centre of the stage.
  • For your first point you stand on the left side of the stage.
  • You discuss your second point from the centre again.
  • You stand on the right side of the stage for your third point.
  • The conclusion occurs in the centre.

Emphasising importance

You need to ensure that the audience get the message by informing them why something is important:

  • More importantly...
  • This is essential...
  • Primarily...
  • Mainly...

Internal summaries

Internal summarising consists of summarising before moving on to the next point. You must inform the audience:

  • What part of the presentation you covered - "In the first part of this speech we've covered..."
  • What the key points were - "Precisely how..."
  • How this links in with the overall presentation - "So that's the context..."
  • What you're moving on to - "Now I'd like to move on to the second part of presentation which looks at..."
Speech transitions during a team meeting

Cause and effect

You will have to transition to show relationships between factors:

  • Therefore...
  • Thus...
  • Consequently...
  • As a result...
  • This is significant because...
  • Hence...

Elaboration

  • Also...
  • Besides...
  • What's more...
  • In addition/additionally...
  • Moreover...
  • Furthermore...

Point-by-point or steps of a process

  • First/firstly/The first one is...
  • Second/Secondly/The second one is...
  • Third/Thirdly/The third one is...
  • Last/Lastly/Finally/The fourth one is...

Introduce an example

  • This is demonstrated by...
  • For instance...
  • Take the case of...
  • For example...
  • You may be asking whether this happens in X? The answer is yes...
  • To show/illustrate/highlight this...
  • Let me illustrate this by...

Transition to a demonstration

  • Now that we've covered the theory, let's practically apply it...
  • I'll conduct an experiment to show you this in action...
  • Let me demonstrate this...
  • I'll now show you this...

Introducing a quotation

  • X was a supporter of this thinking because he said...
  • There is a lot of support for this, for example, X said...

Transition to another speaker

In a group presentation you must transition to other speakers:

  1. Briefly recap on what you covered in your section: "So that was a brief introduction on what health anxiety is and how it can affect somebody"
  2. Introduce the next speaker in the team and explain what they will discuss: "Now Gayle will talk about the prevalence of health anxiety."
  3. Then end by looking at the next speaker, gesturing towards them and saying their name: "Gayle".
  4. The next speaker should acknowledge this with a quick: "Thank you Simon."

From these examples, you can see how the different sections of the presentations link which makes it easier for the audience to follow and remain engaged.

Practice your speech transitions in our VR course. Click here to learn more.

Anecdotes

You can tell personal stories or share the experiences of others to introduce a point. Anecdotes are especially valuable for your introduction and between different sections of the presentation because they engage the audience. Ensure that you plan the stories thoroughly beforehand and that they are not too long.

Using questions

You can transition through your speech by asking questions and these questions also have the benefit of engaging your audience more. There are three different types of questions:

  • Direct
  • Rhetorical
  • Loaded

Direct questions require an answer: "What is the capital of Italy?" These are mentally stimulating for the audience.

Rhetorical questions do not require answers, they are often used to emphasises an idea or point: "Is the Pope catholic?

Loaded questions contain an unjustified assumption made to prompt the audience into providing a particular answer which you can then correct to support your point: You may ask "Why does your wonderful company have such a low incidence of mental health problems?".

The audience will generally answer that they're happy. After receiving the answers you could then say "Actually it's because people are still unwilling and too embarrassed to seek help for mental health issues at work etc."

Speech transitions during a conference

Transition to a visual aid

If you are going to introduce a visual aid you must prepare the audience with what they're going to see, for example, you might be leading into a diagram that supports your statement. Also, before you show the visual aid, explain why you're going to show it, for example, "This graph is a significant piece of evidence supporting X".

When the graphic is on display get the audience to focus on it:

  • The table indicates...
  • As you can see...
  • I'd like to direct your attention to...

Explain what the visual is showing:

  • You can see that there has been a reduction in...
  • The diagram is comparing the...

Using a visual aid to transition

Visual aids can also be used as transitions and they have the benefit of being stimulating and breaking-up vocal transitions.

You might have a slide with just a picture on it to signify to the audience that you're moving on to a new point - ensure that this image is relevant to the point. Many speakers like to use cartoons for this purpose but ensure its suitable for your audience.

Conclusion

Always summarise your key points first in the conclusion:

  • Let's recap on what we've spoken about today...
  • Let me briefly summarise the main points...

And then conclude:

If you have a shorter speech you may choose to end your presentation with one statement:

  • In short...
  • To sum up...
  • In a nutshell...
  • To summarise...
  • In conclusion...

However, using statements such as "To conclude" may cause the audience to stop listening. It's better to say:

  • I'd like to leave you with this...
  • What you should take away from this is...
  • Finally, I want to say...

Call to action

Requesting the audience to do something at the end of the presentation:

  • You may be thinking how can I help in this matter? Well...
  • My aim is to encourage you to go further and...
  • What I'm requesting of you is...

Common mistakes

When transitions are used poorly you can annoy and confuse the audience. Avoid:

  • Using transitions that are too short - transitions are a key part of ensuring the audience understands your presentation so spend sufficient time linking to your next idea.
  • Too many tangents - any digressions should still be relevant to the topic and help the audience with their understanding, otherwise cut them out.
  • Incompatible transitions - for example, if you're about to introduce an example that supports your statement you wouldn't introduce this by saying "but". Use transitions that signify the relationship between points.
  • Over-using the same transition because this is boring for the audience to hear repeatedly. Ensure that there is variety with your transitions, consider including visual transitions.
  • Miscounting your transitions - for example, don't say "first point", "second point", "next point" - refer to your points consistently.

Speech transitions are useful for unifying and connecting your presentation. The audience are more likely to remain engaged since they'll be able to follow your points. But remember that it's important to practice your transitions beforehand and not just the content of your arguments because you risk looking unprofessional and confusing the audience if the presentation does not flow smoothly.