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
Episode #258

Use Transition Words or “Signposts” to Signal a Change  

Transitions words are simple words that convey to the listener that you’re changing topic. My colleague, Grammar Girl, published a list of words that create smooth transitions. Here are some of the words she mentions:

  • But
  • Yet
  • However
  • Nevertheless
  • Still
  • Instead
  • Meanwhile
  • Later Today

Words like “however” and “but” indicate your next topic will contradict your previous topic. To the listener, these are “signposts” that your message is changing course. Phrases like “on the other hand” or “that being said” can also indicate that a message change is upcoming.

Practice Your Transitions

It’s important to practice transitioning smoothly. Pay attention to your tone, your speed and your volume level. Practice using a pause before your transition for effect.

“I’m sure most of you agree with my last point that too much standardized testing can be harmful to elementary school students. [pause] THAT BEING SAID, now I want to look at a couple of reasons why testing is important to education.”

Pausing before the transition and then using a higher pitch or higher volume to deliver your signpost phrase, “that being said,” gives emphasis to the transition and alerts the audience that a contrasting viewpoint is coming. Practice your transitions into a recording device or in front of another person so you can see how well the transition works.

In Conclusion...

Smooth transitions are key in public speaking. I recently attended a local history talk that was nearly impossible to follow. Although the speaker had a strong background in the subject and interesting information to share, she jumped around so much without transitions that most of us gave up trying to follow her. 

As you can see from my tips, it’s easy to create a smooth transition: Simply use the right words and phrasing, and practice doing it well. 

Presentation panel and mirror cartoon images courtesy of Shutterstock


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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