- Understand the importance of transitions within a speech.
- Identify and be able to use a variety of transition words to create effective transitions within a speech.
- Understand how to use a variety of strategies to help audience members keep up with a speech’s content: internal previews, internal summaries, and signposts.
Have you ever been listening to a speech or a lecture and found yourself thinking, “I am so lost!” or “Where the heck is this speaker going?” Chances are one of the reasons you weren’t sure what the speaker was talking about was that the speaker didn’t effectively keep the speech moving. When we are reading and encounter something we don’t understand, we have the ability to reread the paragraph and try to make sense of what we’re trying to read. Unfortunately, we are not that lucky when it comes to listening to a speaker. We cannot pick up our universal remote and rewind the person. For this reason, speakers need to really think about how they keep a speech moving so that audience members are easily able to keep up with the speech. In this section, we’re going to look at four specific techniques speakers can use that make following a speech much easier for an audience: transitions, internal previews, internal summaries, and signposts.
Transitions between Main Points
A transition is a phrase or sentence that indicates that a speaker is moving from one main point to another main point in a speech. Basically, a transition is a sentence where the speaker summarizes what was said in one point and previews what is going to be discussed in the next point. Let’s look at some examples:
- Now that we’ve seen the problems caused by lack of adolescent curfew laws, let’s examine how curfew laws could benefit our community.
- Thus far we’ve examined the history and prevalence of alcohol abuse among Native Americans, but it is the impact that this abuse has on the health of Native Americans that is of the greatest concern.
- Now that we’ve thoroughly examined how these two medications are similar to one another, we can consider the many clear differences between the two medications.
- Although he was one of the most prolific writers in Great Britain prior to World War II, Winston Churchill continued to publish during the war years as well.
You’ll notice that in each of these transition examples, the beginning phrase of the sentence indicates the conclusion of a period of time (now that, thus far). Table 10.1 “Transition Words” contains a variety of transition words that will be useful when keeping your speech moving.
Beyond transitions, there are several other techniques that you can use to clarify your speech organization for your audience. The next sections address several of these techniques, including internal previews, internal summaries, and signposts.
An internal preview is a phrase or sentence that gives an audience an idea of what is to come within a section of a speech. An internal preview works similarly to the preview that a speaker gives at the end of a speech introduction, quickly outlining what he or she is going to talk about (i.e., the speech’s three main body points). In an internal preview, the speaker highlights what he or she is going to discuss within a specific main point during a speech.
Ausubel was the first person to examine the effect that internal previews had on retention of oral information (Ausubel, 1968). Basically, when a speaker clearly informs an audience what he or she is going to be talking about in a clear and organized manner, the audience listens for those main points, which leads to higher retention of the speaker’s message. Let’s look at a sample internal preview:
To help us further understand why recycling is important, we will first explain the positive benefits of recycling and then explore how recycling can help our community.
When an audience hears that you will be exploring two different ideas within this main point, they are ready to listen for those main points as you talk about them. In essence, you’re helping your audience keep up with your speech.
Rather than being given alone, internal previews often come after a speaker has transitioned to that main topic area. Using the previous internal preview, let’s see it along with the transition to that main point.
Now that we’ve explored the effect that a lack of consistent recycling has on our community, let’s explore the importance of recycling for our community (transition). To help us further understand why recycling is important, we will first explain the positive benefits of recycling and then explore how recycling can help our community (internal preview).
While internal previews are definitely helpful, you do not need to include one for every main point of your speech. In fact, we recommend that you use internal previews sparingly to highlight only main points containing relatively complex information.
Whereas an internal preview helps an audience know what you are going to talk about within a main point at the beginning, an internal summary is delivered to remind an audience of what they just heard within the speech. In general, internal summaries are best used when the information within a specific main point of a speech was complicated. To write your own internal summaries, look at the summarizing transition words in Table 10.1 “Transition Words” Let’s look at an example.
To sum up, school bullying is a definite problem. Bullying in schools has been shown to be detrimental to the victim’s grades, the victim’s scores on standardized tests, and the victim’s future educational outlook.
In this example, the speaker was probably talking about the impact that bullying has on an individual victim educationally. Of course, an internal summary can also be a great way to lead into a transition to the next point of a speech.
In this section, we have explored how bullying in schools has been shown to be detrimental to the victim’s grades, the victim’s scores on standardized tests, and the victim’s future educational outlook (internal summary). Therefore, schools need to implement campus-wide, comprehensive antibullying programs (transition).
While not sounding like the more traditional transition, this internal summary helps readers summarize the content of that main point. The sentence that follows then leads to the next major part of the speech, which is going to discuss the importance of antibullying programs.
Have you ever been on a road trip and watched the green rectangular mile signs pass you by? Fifty miles to go. Twenty-five miles to go. One mile to go. Signposts within a speech function the same way. A signpost is a guide a speaker gives her or his audience to help the audience keep up with the content of a speech. If you look at Table 10.1 “Transition Words” and look at the “common sequence patterns,” you’ll see a series of possible signpost options. In essence, we use these short phrases at the beginning of a piece of information to help our audience members keep up with what we’re discussing. For example, if you were giving a speech whose main point was about the three functions of credibility, you could use internal signposts like this:
- The first function of credibility is competence.
- The second function of credibility is trustworthiness.
- The final function of credibility is caring/goodwill.
Signposts are simply meant to help your audience keep up with your speech, so the more simplistic your signposts are, the easier it is for your audience to follow.
In addition to helping audience members keep up with a speech, signposts can also be used to highlight specific information the speaker thinks is important. Where the other signposts were designed to show the way (like highway markers), signposts that call attention to specific pieces of information are more like billboards. Words and phrases that are useful for highlighting information can be found in Table 10.1 “Transition Words” under the category “emphasis.” All these words are designed to help you call attention to what you are saying so that the audience will also recognize the importance of the information.
- Transitions are very important because they help an audience stay on top of the information that is being presented to them. Without transitions, audiences are often left lost and the ultimate goal of the speech is not accomplished.
- Specific transition words, like those found in Table 10.1 “Transition Words”, can be useful in constructing effective transitions.
- In addition to major transitions between the main points of a speech, speakers can utilize internal previews, internal summaries, and signposts to help focus audience members on the information contained within a speech.
- Using the main points you created earlier in this chapter, create clear transitions between each main point. Look at the possible transition words in Table 10.1 “Transition Words” See which words are best suited for your speech. Try your transitions out on a friend or classmate to see if the transition makes sense to other people.
- Take your most complicated main point and create an internal preview for that main point and then end the point with an internal summary.
- Think about your current speech. Where can you use signposts to help focus your audience’s attention? Try at least two different ways of phrasing your signposts and then decide which one is better to use.
Ausubel, D. P. (1968). Educational psychology. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.