Transitions are an integral part of a smooth flowing presentation, yet many speakers forget to plan for these transitions. Failure to practice this seemingly insignificant part of the presentation can actually lead to anxiety for the speaker if they begin fumbling and awkwardly scrambling to move from one topic to the next. Not only can poor transitions lead to uncomfortable silence, but they can also make it difficult for the audience to follow along and figure out how all of the points are connected.
Much like those “You are here” signs on a map, transitions serve as a spoken “You are here” sign to direct audiences from one point to another. Transitions can be a word, phrase, question, or statement and they can be subtle and overt or purposefully shocking, depending on the speaker’s purpose. In any case, transitions serve a very important purpose of guiding the audience and without them, the audience can feel lost. Here are a few tips for avoiding those awkward pauses and using transitions effectively during your presentation.
Plan for Words or Phrases that Serve a Purpose
The last thing you want to do is find yourself in front of an audience, unsure of how to get to the next point. That’s why it is imperative that you plan for your transitions when you outline your speech. Not only will this guide you on knowing what to say to smoothly transition from one topic to the next, but it will also help you guide your audience to follow along with you. There are several words or phrases that make great transitions so choose the ones that best suit your purpose.
To elaborate further on a topic:
“A recent experience I had serves as an excellent illustration of this point…”
To link similar ideas:
“In the same way…”
“Just as (blank) happened, a similar (blank) happened because…”
To move from one point to another:
“This brings us to our next point…”
“Now that you see what challenges we face, let’s look as how we can overcome them.”
“I am telling you this because…”
“What can we learn from this?”
As you can see, planning for these transition phrases in your outline can help seamlessly move from one topic to the next.
Other Ways to Effectively Use Transitions
Aside from words and phrases, there are other ways to lead your listeners from one idea to another and these transitions should also be planned and rehearsed in advance.
When done with confidence and intent, pausing can be a simple yet powerful tool. Be careful not to fill the silence with filler words like “Um” and “Ok.” Rather, make eye contact with your audience for a few seconds so they know the pause is intentional and then move on to the next topic.
Tell a Story
The use of a story, especially if it is personal, can be a highly effective technique used by speakers to transition. It is a great way to capture your audience’s attention and lure back any stragglers you may have lost.
It can also be useful to change the location of your body when you are changing to a new thought or idea. Perhaps you might walk to a new location on the stage or you might step away from your podium to a new location. Again, do so with purpose and intent and you will take your audience with you as you move on to the next thought.