3 Simple Steps to Smoother Transitions in Your Speech

Jumping between topics in a speech without thoughtful transitions can make it tough for your audience to follow along. The Public Speaker has 3 easy tips for creating smoother transitions for a better flow.

Lisa B. Marshall
3-minute read
Episode #258

Today we’re going to talk about why smooth transitions are important in public speaking. Next we’ll talk about the different types of transitions. Next we’ll look at transition words. And next we’ll . . . wait a minute: all those "nexts" are really annoying, aren’t they?.

We all know a presentation needs to have a clear beginning, middle, and end. But the way you transition between sections is equally important. Transitions tell your audience that you are about to wrap up one point and move on to the next. They let your listeners know you’re moving on.

I started today’s talk with the overuse of “next” because I wanted to show you how useless it is as a transition by itself. When I hear someone telling me what’s coming by starting each new point with “next”, my first thought is that the talk must be poorly organized if I am going to need all those "nexts" to help me navigate through it.

Let’s look at some more compelling ways to transition when you give a speech:

Review What You’ve Covered and Preview What’s Coming

I first introduced my listeners to this technique in a podcast called “How to Present with another Speaker.” When there are two or more people presenting together, this is an effective way to transition between speakers. Instead of saying something like, “And now I’ll turn it over to Dr. Perry,” or "Dr. Perry, you’re next, right?,” end your part by summarizing your main points and then briefly introduce the next speaker and topic.  The new speaker would then briefly thank the first speaker and dive right into their topic.

The review-preview transition works well for a single speaker, too. Before you move on to a new topic, summarize what you’ve just talked about and then briefly introduce what’s coming. For example, "As you just saw in the video, providing books to low-income children is critically important to wiping out illiteracy. How can you be part of this movement? I want to talk next about how our company is helping provide free books for kids and how you can get involved.”


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.

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