Article Category: Speechwriting

Speech Transitions:
Magical Words and Phrases


 

Speech transitions guide your audience

When listening to a speech, have you ever:

  • wondered “how does this relate to that?”
  • felt the speaker jumped randomly from one point to the next?
  • gotten totally lost?

If you’ve experienced this, there’s a very good chance that the speaker failed to use appropriate speech transitions.

In this article, we define speech transitions and learn why they are so critical. In addition, we provide dozens of speech transition examples that you can incorporate into your speech.

What are speech transitions?

Speech transitions are magical words and phrases that help your argument flow smoothly. They often consist of a single transition word or a short transition phrase, but occasionally form an entire sentence. In a written speech, speech transitions are generally found at the start of paragraphs.

Speech transitions smooth over the boundary between two ideas, and reveal the relationship between the words just spoken and those about to be spoken. In this way, speech transitions help your audience understand your message.

Types of Speech Transitions

There are many types of speech transitions. Each type highlights a different verbal relationship. For example, one type of transition highlights the contrast between two different ideas.

Each of these types is cataloged below. For each type, we list just a few of the possible words and phrases. Can you think of others?

1. Transition between Similar Ideas or Points

  • Likewise …
  • Similarly …
  • This is just like …
  • In a similar way …
  • We see the same thing if we consider …

Speech transitions smooth over the boundary between two ideas, and reveal the relationship between the words just spoken and those about to be spoken.

2. Transition between Contrasting Ideas or Points

  • However …
  • Conversely …
  • On the contrary …
  • On the other side …
  • On the other hand …
  • If we flip that around …
  • Yet, we cannot ignore …
  • The opposing argument …
  • If we examine the opposite side, we see …

3. Transition to elaborate upon an idea

  • Also …
  • Moreover …
  • In addition …
  • Furthermore …
  • In other words …
  • Not only that, but …

4. Transition to Numbered Ideas or Points (or Process Steps)

  • First … (The first step is …)
  • Second … (The second step is …)
  • Third … (The third step is …)
  • Last … (The last step is …)

5. Transition to show Cause-Effect Relationship

  • Therefore …
  • As a result …
  • Consequently …
  • For that reason …
  • This is important because …

6. Transition to a Supporting Example

  • For instance …
  • For example …
  • As an example …
  • To illustrate this …
  • What’s an example of this? …
  • But does this happen in real life? Yes …

7. Transition to a Supporting Demonstration

  • Now that we’ve covered the theory, let’s see it in action …
  • To reinforce what we’ve learned, let’s see a demonstration …
  • I’ve prepared a demonstration to show how this works.
  • Let’s see a demonstration which applies what we’ve learned.

When executed well, speech transitions help make a speech understandable.
When executed poorly, speech transitions can obscure meaning and frustrate audiences.

8. Transition to a Supporting Quotation

  • X said: …
  • In 1968, X said: …
  • This idea was expressed clearly by X who said …

9. Transition from Introduction into Speech Body

  • Let’s begin …
  • To get started, let’s examine …
  • Let’s get started talking about …
  • Now that we’ve given an overview, let’s start with …

10. Transition from Speech Body into Conclusion

For a short speech, you might conclude with a single statement:

  • In short …
  • In summary …
  • In conclusion …

In a longer presentation, your conclusion might include a review of a the key points:

  • Let’s summarize the key lessons …
  • Let’s recap what we’ve covered today …

11. Transition to Another Speaker

In a team presentation, it is necessary to transfer control between speakers.

The abrupt way to do this is to simply have one person stop talking, and then have the other person start talking. It is much smoother, however, to pass the verbal baton to the next speaker (X):

  • To talk about our next topic, we have X
  • I’ll pass the microphone to X who will describe …
  • To guide us through a demonstration of this, we have X
Want to learn more?
For more on mastering team presentations, read How to Deliver Group Presentations: The Unified Team Approach.

12. Transition Back to an Earlier Point

There are many occasions when you need to jump back to an earlier idea to add additional information. e.g. after a break, following an exercise, or returning from an unplanned interruption

  • Let’s return …
  • Let’s revisit …
  • Let’s go back to …
  • We introduced X earlier; let’s explore that further now.

Avoid Faulty Transitions

When executed well, speech transitions help make a speech understandable.

When executed poorly, speech transitions can obscure meaning and frustrate audiences.

Beware these three types of faulty transitions:

  1. Miscount Transition
    This faulty transition occurs when a speaker begins counting main points, but does not do so consistently. (e.g. First, Second, Next, Next, Third, Third, …) Faulty counting can also occur when a speaker tries to number both the main points and the sub-points and gets mixed up.
  2. Incompatible Transition
    This faulty transition occurs when a speaker uses a transition word or phrase which doesn’t match the relationship. (e.g. they start with the word “however”, but they follow it with an example)
  3. Tangential Transition
    Transitional phrases like “That reminds me…”, “Ironically…”, or “As an aside…” are dangerous because they often lead to an off-topic diversion which blurs the focus of the speech and wastes time for you and your audience. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

 

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Comments icon6 Comments

  1. Harry dhillon says:

    Wonderful summary of transitions! Thank you so much for the article.

  2. Hi Andrew, how useful! I always see transitions like signposts point the audience in the direction that I want to go next, but some of these will be really useful at other times during a speech, thanks these will be a great resource. Recently, when speaking on a sensitive subject where I had pointed out a number of problems which the audience identified with i transitioned to the solution section by saying, “isn’t it good to know we are not the first people to have suffered with these issues and questions,” people were then expecting a move towards a solution phase and it worked well. I will keep these as a reference for the future, thanks!

    1. Andrew Dlugan says:

      Indeed. Transitional words and phrases are minor signposts. I have a broader definition of signposts, however, which I plan to expand upon in a future article.

  3. Excellent post, Andrew. I’ve definitely witnessed too many presentation with disjointed ideas and seemingly no connection to the subject matter, leaving me with that “What’s he talking about?” feeling.

    One additional thought about (#11) “Transitioning to Another Speaker” – which I often do in my workshops. Rather than announcing that you’re about to pass the mic to Speaker X, you can actually set them up for success using one of the other transition types. For instance:
    (#7)- “We’ve now discussed a method for delivering effective feedback, let’s see it in action”… pass the mic.
    (#9)- “We know we want our employees to be motivated, let’s explore some practical ways we can inspire our team to achieve greater levels of success”… pass the mic.
    In each example, we’re handing the ball off (or throwing an Alley-oop pass) to Speaker X for a smoother (and less abrupt transition). It can be incredibly effective.
    Good stuff!

    1. Andrew Dlugan says:

      Yes, the other transition examples can absolutely be used to transition to another speaker.

  4. It is so important to be consistent with the way one enumerates their points. For example, we don’t say first, then, finally but first, second, and third. That way the audience is not confused about when the speaker is near to completing his/her well organized speech. Excellent article!

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