Michael H. Schaefer, DTM

One on One Coach, Keynote Speaker, Leadership Trainer

Transitions, Effective and Otherwise

You are intelligent. You are wise. You have more experience than you realize.

You may say to yourself: Michael H. Schaefer, Executive Speaker Coach, communications consultant and keynote speaker, thank you for saying so. But are you just polishing my apple? Is there a point to all this flattery?

Well, it’s a two way street. IF you believe, like P.T. Barnum, that there’s a sucker born every minute, your speeches will bore the rest of us.

Don’t assume what used to connect with audiences still works today. Our collective understanding of communication has become highly sophisticated. We speak more to the point, recognize when we’re being pitched, and demand more zing in what’s being delivered to us more that ever before.

Transitions in the middle of speeches have become just as fluid. Gone are the days when speakers felt obligated to bridge one topic to a new one with a connecting thought. (As in the Old School: ‘…So that’s what’s so healthy  about apples. Speaking of round juicy fruit, oranges are another good source of vitamin C.’ In fact, anytime you utter the phrase ‘speaking of’ you should red flag yourself.)

Nowadays, transitions are best created in the change in your delivery when you change the subject. Stand up comics use virtually no transitions between comic bits. We take it in stride when he or she veers completely off on a new tangent.  Watch one on TV or in a club and you’ll see.

Exceptions exist. Formal settings may require a more measured transition between ideas. But as much as is practical omit phrases or wording that doesn’t actively connect with or persuade your audience of your main idea.

How To Transition Without Using a Transitional Phrase or Sentence

Pauses  The simplest, least distracting way to change gears. Plus, they have other great benefits, calming the nerves and building an audience’s anticipation.

Moves  Move to a new space on the stage then talk about something new. Voila: transition without distraction.

Vocal Changes  If you’ve got a naturally energetic voice, find larger contrasts in tone or pace or volume at the beginnings of new ideas or paragraphs. Even if your voice is a little flat most of the time, these are great moments to do a little something different. Stretch a bit.

Turn a page If you (God forbid) have to read a speech, format it so your main paragraphs finish near the bottom of a given page. Then take the time to slowly turn to the next page to create a pause and a transition because of it. It’s a great visual metaphor.

Next time, for example: This last line provides a hint at what’s coming up content-wise in the next newsletter…

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