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.
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.
Transitions can be one word, a phrase or a full sentence - there are many different types, here are a few:
Introduce your topic:
Inform the audience of the structure of your presentation:
Signify to the audience that you will now begin discussing the first main point:
Move from one point to a similar one:
You may have to introduce conflicting ideas - bridging words and phrases are especially good for this:
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:
This can be also be useful to introduce a new point because adults learn better when new information builds on previously learned information.
You may want to introduce a digression:
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:
You need to ensure that the audience get the message by informing them why something is important:
Internal summarising consists of summarising before moving on to the next point. You must inform the audience:
You will have to transition to show relationships between factors:
In a group presentation you must transition to other speakers:
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.
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.
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 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."
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:
Explain what the visual is showing:
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.
Always summarise your key points first in the conclusion:
If you have a shorter speech you may choose to end your presentation with one statement:
However, using statements such as "To conclude" may cause the audience to stop listening. It's better to say:
Requesting the audience to do something at the end of the presentation:
When transitions are used poorly you can annoy and confuse the audience. Avoid:
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.