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12.6 Transitions

Learning Objective

  1. Understand and demonstrate how to use transitions effectively within your speech.

By now you have identified your main points, chosen your organizational model, and are ready to begin putting your speech together. If you were going to build a house, you would need a strong foundation. Could the columns and beams hold your roof in place without anything to keep them from falling down? Of course not. In the same way, the columns or beams are like the main ideas of your speech, and identifying them is one important step. Another is to consider how to position them securely to rest on a solid foundation, have sufficient connection to each other that they become interdependent, and to make sure they stay where you want them to so your house, or your speech, doesn’t come crashing down.

TransitionsBridges between ideas, thoughts or concepts; words, phrases, or visual devices that help the audience follow the speaker’s ideas, connect the main points to each other, and see the relationships in a speech. are words, phrases, or visual devices that help the audience follow the speaker’s ideas, connect the main points to each other, and see the relationships you’ve created in the information you are presenting. They are often described as bridges between ideas, thought or concepts, providing some sense of where you’ve been and where you are going with your speech. Transitions are used by the speaker to guide the audience in the progression from one significant idea, concept or point to the next issue. They can also show the relationship between the main point and the support the speaker uses to illustrate, provide examples for, or reference outside sources. Depending your purpose, transitions can serve different roles as you help create the glue that will connect your points together in a way the audience can easily follow.

Table 12.7 Types of Transitions in Speeches

Type Definition Examples
1. Internal Previews An internal preview is a brief statement referring to a point you are going to make. It can forecast or foreshadow a main point coming in your speech. If we look ahead to, next we’ll examine, now we can focus our attention on, first we’ll look at, then we’ll examine
2. Signposts A signpost alerts the audience that you are moving from one topic to the next. Signposts or signal words draw attention to themselves and focus the audience’s attention. Stop and consider, we can now address, next I’d like to explain, turning from/to, another, this reminds me of, I would like to emphasize
3. Internal Summaries An internal summary briefly covers information or alludes to information introduced previously. It can remind an audience of a previous point and reinforce information covered in your speech. As I have said, as we have seen, as mentioned earlier, in any event, in other words, in short, on the whole, therefore, to summarize, as a result, as I’ve noted previously, in conclusion
4. Sequence Transition A sequence transition outlines a hierarchical order or series of steps in your speech. It can illustrate order or steps in a logical process. First…second…third, furthermore, next, last, still, also, and then, besides, finally
5. Time A time transition focuses on the chronological aspects of your speech order. Particularly useful in a speech utilizing a story, this transition can illustrate for the audience progression of time. Before, earlier, immediately, in the meantime, in the past, lately, later, meanwhile, now, presently, shortly, simultaneously, since, so far, soon as long as, as soon as, at last, at length, at that time, then, until, afterward
6. Addition An addition or additive transition contributes to a previous point. This transition can build on a previous point and extend the discussion. In addition to, furthermore, either, neither, besides, moreover, in fact, as a matter of fact, actually, not only, but also, as well as, not to mention
7. Similarity A transition by similarity draws a parallel between two ideas, concepts, or examples. It can indicate a common area between points for the audience. In the same way, by the same token, equally, similarly, just as we have seen, in the same vein
8. Comparison A transition by comparison draws a distinction between two ideas, concepts, or examples. It can indicate a common or divergent area between points for the audience. Like, in relation to, bigger than, smaller than, the fastest, than any other, is greater than, both, either…or, likewise, even more important
9. Contrast A transition by contrast draws a distinction of difference, opposition, or irregularity between two ideas, concepts, or examples. This transition can indicate a key distinction between points for the audience. But, neither…nor, however, on the other hand, although, even though, in contrast, in spite of, despite, on the contrary, conversely, unlike, while, instead, nevertheless, nonetheless, regardless, still, though, yet
10. Cause and Effect or Result A transition by cause and effect or result illustrates a relationship between two ideas, concepts, or examples and may focus on the outcome or result. It can illustrate a relationship between points for the audience. As a result, because, consequently, for this purpose, accordingly, so, then, therefore, thereupon, thus, to this end, for this reason, as a result, because, therefore, consequently, as a consequence, and the outcome was
11. Examples A transition by example illustrates a connection between a point and an example or examples. You may find visual aids work well with this type of transition. In fact, as we can see, after all, even, for example, for instance, of course, specifically, such as, in the following example, to illustrate my point
12. Place A place transition refers to a location, often in a spatially organized speech, of one point of emphasis to another. Again, visual aids work well when discussing physical location with an audience. Opposite to, there, to the left, to the right, above, below, adjacent to, elsewhere, far, farther on, beyond, closer to, here, near, nearby, next to
13. Clarification A clarification transition restates or further develops a main idea or point. It can also serve as a signal to a key point. To clarify, that is, I mean, in other words, to put it another way, that is to say, to rephrase it, in order to explain, this means
14. Concession A concession transition indicates knowledge of contrary information. It can address a perception the audience may hold and allow for clarification. We can see that while, although it is true that, granted that, while it may appear that, naturally, of course, I can see that, I admit that even though

Table 12.7 "Types of Transitions in Speeches" is a summary of fourteen distinct types of transitions. As you contemplate how to bring together your information, consider how you will use various transitions, and note them on your outline.

Key Takeaway

A speech needs transitions to help the audience understand how the speaker’s main ideas are connected to one another.


  1. By visiting the library or doing an Internet search, find a speech that teaches you one new skill or idea. The speech may be published in a book or newspaper, recorded in an audio file, or recorded on video. Read or listen to the speech and identify the transitions the speaker has used.
  2. Listen to your favorite comedian. Write a brief summary of how they transition from topic to topic. Share and compare with classmates.
  3. Listen to a conversation with friends and observe how they transition from topic to topic. Write a brief summary. Share and compare with classmates.