Have you ever encountered a presenter who jumped randomly from one point to another, with no sensible train of thought in sight? Unfortunately, some presenters fail to recognize the vital importance of smooth transitions – and then wonder why the audience looks so puzzled, and why their talks never seem to make a lasting impression. At least not a positive impression!
What is a Transition?
A transition is a word or phrases that connects two separate thoughts. Transitions help your audience follow your presentation’s flow – the logical progression of ideas you’re putting forth.
In order to determine the best transitional word or phrase to use at any point in your presentation, you’ve got to consider the relationship between the two thoughts or messages you want to connect. How are the two related? What are you trying to accomplish with the way you have arranged them? For example:
- The two points you’re working to connect might be related in that they concern similar subject matter.
- The second may be the logical result or consequence of the first.
- You might be using the second as an example, illustrating the first.
- Or you might be including the second to highlight a contrast, or an unexpected connection.
Whatever the relationship, the right word or phrase will give you a smooth transition, and keep the audience “tracking” with you, engaged and interested.
Transition Words and Phrases
Here are some examples of useful transitions, grouped according to the relationship of the second idea to the first:
|Addition||furthermore; in addition; additionally; not to mention; on top of that; apart from that|
|Time||in the meantime, subsequently, simultaneously, eventually, in the long run, from there on|
|Clarification or simplification||in other words, to put it another way, simply put, to rephrase that, in plain English|
|Illustration||for instance, for example, as a case in point, specifically, to demonstrate, to illustrate|
|Comparison (positive)||similarly, likewise, in like manner, in the same way, in similar fashion|
|Contrast||on the other hand, in contrast, on the contrary, in spite of that,|
|Intensification||without a doubt, indeed, of course, in fact|
|Flashback||as mentioned earlier, as you’ll remember, if you recall, to refresh your memory, in retrospect|
|Cause & Effect||therefore, hence, thus, for this/that reason, in consequence, as a result|
|Summary||to summarize, in a nutshell, to sum things up, in brief, in short|
|Conclusion||in conclusion, to wrap up, overall, bringing all this together|
Other Forms of Transition
When delivering a presentation, it’s also possible to shift to your next point with the help of non-verbal techniques.
- Presentation slides. Slides can include design elements that facilitate a smooth transition. For instance, you can use a consistent color scheme in the slides covering one point, then change to new colors when you introduce the next point. As another example, if your talk is laying out the stages of a long process, you could begin with a process diagram slide that lays out the whole process; then, as you come to each new step in your presentation, you could show the diagram again, showing clearly the stage you’ve now reached and reminding of the stages already covered.
- Pauses. Short periods of silence can be effective transitions, if used in moderation. A pause gives your listeners a moment to process what you have discussed, and encourages them to focus on what you’re about to say. Take care in using this technique, though; too many pauses may bore or annoy your audience.
- Physical movements. You can also use stage movements and gestures to point up shifts between ideas. For example, when enumerating three critical reminders, you can raise a hand and count off the points on your fingers. Moving from one spot to another on stage can also signal a change and prompt the audience to refocus their attention.
How Not to Make Transitions: Clichés
There’s one type of transition you should make every effort to avoid: the cliché. As you’ve no doubt noticed, certain words and phrases “come into fashion” with speakers and writers – then rapidly become painfully overused. Some listeners barely notice (the same ones who use clichés themselves!) but most people cringe at the lack of originality and professionalism when a speaker trots one out. The user probably hopes to give the impression of being “with it” or cool; unfortunately, the effect is the opposite.
Recent examples include “the bottom line,” “at the end of the day,” and “that being said.” New clichés pop up routinely, while others (mercifully) fade from common use. Just be aware of them, and don’t be guilty of using them yourself. Be creative, original and expressive in what you say.