When writing a speech, often you will have several points to discuss all of which are connected to the theme of your speech. When passing from one point to another it is important to make a smooth transition. This smooth transition is called the segue (pronounced seg-way)
Transitions can be made in a large number of ways. Mostly though, it comes down to your choice of words. This choice of words, combined with the context in which you speak them, provides the transition or segue to keep your speech flowing and the audience following you.
At this point, you may be asking yourself, ‘how do I make a segue?’.
The easiest way to explain how to insert a segue into your speech is to end one paragraph on the topic you want to next talk about, and then begin the next paragraph with that same topic.
For example, let’s say you are making a speech about growing soy beans in the Amazon rainforest. You are at a point in your speech where you have given the motivations for clearing out the rainforest to make way for the soy beans, now you want to talk about how much of the rainforest is being cut down to make room for the soy beans. Your speech may go something like this.
As the demand for ethanol has risen to provide fuel for motor vehicles, the demand for the soy beans that make the ethanol has caused a rise in soy bean production.
To give you an idea of how much production has risen, in the years between 2001 and 2004 the land area cleared for agricultural use increase by 3.6 million hectares.
So you can see in the two paragraphs above we transitioned the audience from something abstract to a point of fact. We used an illustrative device to make the transition.
How do we make use of segues?
There are three major ways you can use to transition your audience from one idea to another.
I love using this technique in my introductions. Foreshadowing is giving your audience a hint of what is yet to come. As an example, you may be giving a speech about a topic that requires the audience to have information about your point before you give it. Lets say you’re talking about finance, you have an audience in front of you who expect you to talk about investment returns of their portfolio. Before you can let them know about the returns in their own portfolios it may be necessary to tell them about what is in their portfolios. Here’s how foreshadowing may be useful:
… Each of you can expect to make a 9% return on your portfolio made up from 5% capital growth and 4% dividend income.
I’ll get to why you can expect those returns in a moment, first I need to explain why we have selected the assets in the portfolio…
- Asking a Question
Posing a question to the audience can be a great device to make them think the same way as you. You may also anticipate the questions the audience will ask and include those answers in your speech. Using the same same financial speech example above, lets say you have given this speech before and know that the audience will ask you why is the expected return 9%? The speech may go something like this:
…I’ve already mentioned that you can expect a 9% return. Why 9% you may ask?
We’ve made a detailed study of the assets in the portfolio and find that on average, over the last 90 years, these assets have returned 9% per year. We expect that average to remain the same in the foreseeable future.
- Word choice
The transition that you need largely drives the segue you will use. In the next section we discuss 10 types of transitions and provide some keywords for each type that you can use in your own speeches.
10 types of segue you can use in your speeches
Now that we’ve seen how a segue works, lets have a look at some useful techniques to incorporate into your own speeches.
- Illustrative Segues
Like in the soy bean example above, the illustrative segue uses imagery to construct the transition. Particular words and phrases that may be useful to make an illustrative segue include, ‘for instance’, ‘for example’, ‘to illustrate’, ‘in particular’, ‘specifically’. All these examples are words that require you to enter further explanation about something. Upon hearing these words your audience will know that any information they may be lacking is coming up next and their brains will prepare to accept that incoming information keeping them focused on your speech.
- Contrasting Segues
Some speeches will require that you give pros and cons, or explain conditions like, if this then that. Contrasting segues are made up of words and phrases such as, ‘on the other hand’, ‘counter to’, ‘at the same time’, ‘rather’, ‘in spite of’, ‘conversely’, ‘while it is true that…’. When an audience hears you speak any of these words or phrases they expect that you will explore the other side of your point.
- Additional Segues
Sometimes a speech contains points that require explanation before moving on to another point. A useful segue in this speeches is to use words that let the audience know that you are about to give some extra information that may or may not be related, but is required for them to understand you. Some key words and phrases might be, ‘in addition to…’, ‘equally as important is…’, ‘secondly’, ‘similarly’, ‘as a result of’, ‘because of’, ‘as well as’.
- Time Based Segues
Many speeches follow a particular time sequence, especially when telling stories about ourselves or our work. When giving speeches that have a timeline it is important to let the audience know when you are following a sequence, and when you are backtracking for whatever reason. Some good keywords and phrases for time based segues are, ‘formerly’, ‘rarely’, ‘usually’, ‘at the same time’, ‘ordinarily’, ‘eventually’, ‘simultaneously’.
- Spacial Segues
Whenever we give a story about a particular place, especially when we don’t have pictures to show, we must describe to the audience where we are talking about. Spacial segues help the audience to understand the layout or location of objects in your speech. Some keywords to use when describing such spaces include, ‘at the left’, ‘to the right’, ‘surrounding’, ‘opposite’, ‘in the distance’, ‘close by’, ‘around the corner’, ‘within earshot’, ‘out of sight’.
- Concessional Segues
Sometimes, we have to give up something to get something better. These transitions are referred to as the concessional segues. they may include words and phrases like, ‘at least’, ‘at any rate’, ‘although’, ‘still’, ‘even though’, ‘of course’.
- Comparative Segues
When giving a speech, often we a trying to get a particular idea across to the audience, and we want to convince them to adopt our point of view. In these speeches, quite often we need to give an explanation why one method or action is better than another. To transition from one to another, try these keywords and phrases, ‘similarly’, ‘likewise’, ‘in the same manner’, ‘just as we’.
- Consequential Segues
More often than not, we will give a speech where we expect to convince the audience that our idea is the idea to follow. People won’t follow you if they don’t know what they are getting themselves into, so it is important to disclose any consequences or results from following your idea. Some keywords and phrases to help you put across your ideas may include, ‘as a result’, ‘accordingly’, ‘for this reason’, ‘therefore’, ‘due to’, ‘in other words’.
- Suggestive Segues
When you attempt to call an audience to action, then you may find yourself trying to suggest ways they can perform your wanted action. Some keywords and phrases you may find useful for transitioning from the one paragraph of your speech into a suggestion include, ‘for this purpose’, ‘to this end’, ‘with this in mind’, ‘may I suggest that’.
- Summary Segues
All good things must come to an end, and your speeches are no different. One of the transitions people find most difficult is how to transition into your conclusion. To help, you may find these keywords and phrases useful, ‘finally’, ‘in short’, ‘in conclusion’, ‘to sum up’, ‘in brief’.
As you can see, there are as many ways to write your transitions as there are transitions in the world. One thing is for sure, the better you make the transitions in your speeches, the better the audience’s response will be to your speech. Best of luck with you segues, and please, leave a comment below with any questions you have.