Woman delivering a speech.As the speaker continues to fill in the outline with main points and supporting material, the information should begin to “flow” together. However, before going much further, consider the elements of speech composition that help tie each of these various points together seamlessly. Those are called transitions. Ideally, transitions should sound conversational, so as to make the speech feel effortless as the audience listens. At the same time, transitions must guide and direct listeners toward where the information is headed. A speaker could do this by explicitly announcing that transition to a new point: “For my second main point, I would like to cover…” However, avoid using such obvious transitions. They sound mechanical and stiff while adding a proverbial speed bump to the flow of information. They should sound effective and clear while at the same time appear seamless and conversational.

One helpful technique for transitioning between points involves creating a single sentence that links prior information with a preview of upcoming information, often called a bridge. To do this, create a sentence with two parts, or clauses, where the first half of the sentence provides a summary of the previous topic, and the second half of the sentence gives a brief preview of the next talking point. For example:

Main Point I: Public speaking provides us with a way to learn about how to communicate in front of groups.

  1. Most of us suffer from varying degrees of public speaking anxiety, requiring us to learn how to overcome this anxiety so that we might effectively communicate our ideas with others.
  2. Many of the lessons we learn in public speaking impact our ability to write, as well as interact with people on a daily basis.

Transition: Speaking in front of groups can truly be nerve-wracking, but there are times when speaking to just one person can be equally daunting.

Main Point II: Interpersonal communication gives students the opportunity to learn about one-on-one communication in a variety of contexts.

Man delivering a speech.In this example, the first half of the sentence “Speaking in front of groups can truly be nerve-wracking…” summarizes the supporting point the speaker just made, while the second half of the sentence “…but there are times when speaking to just one person can be equally daunting” previews the next point regarding interpersonal communication studies. With practice, these types of transitions can easily become second nature to speakers, and some may even become clever enough to compose and use them on the spot!

Transitions can also come in the form of a signpost, and just as with an actual signpost on a road, these phrases signal listeners, in a literal or explicit sense, to the direction of the speech. For example, if a preview of points states that a speech will inform the audience about: “First, public speaking, second, interpersonal communication, and third, intercultural communication,” then between each of those main points, speakers could signal where they are headed by inserting a signpost such as, “Moving on to our second topic of the day…”

Finally, the last transitional device is the spotlight, which shares similarity to the eye-catching headlines broadcast on a viral social media article: “What this public speaking class taught me was more important than anything I had ever learned before.” Note that this sentence builds curiosity through suspense, but at the same time, spotlights the upcoming information will concern public speaking.


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Messages that Matter: Public Speaking in the Information Age - Third Edition Copyright © 2023 by North Idaho College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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