Tips for Transitions: How to Move From One Topic to the Next

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You don’t want to lose your audience. But every time you move from one topic to the next, you notice participants’ attention begins to wander: they start checking their email, glancing at the clock, or putting their microphones on mute.

That’s why strong transitions are essential. Moving from one topic to the next without missing a beat is a skill even seasoned professionals often envy. But with the following tips in hand, you’ll be better able to transition from one topic to the next—and bring your participants with you.

How to Move From One Topic to the Next

Transitions are a way of keeping your participants tuned in to your training goals, reassuring learners that this new topic is just as valuable and relevant as the last.

1. Use Verbal Transition Phrases When You’re Switching Topics

It may seem a little rote or cliche, but using transition phrases can help you signal to learners that you’re moving on to a new and substantially related topic. These phrases provide valuable thematic and contextual connective tissue, so learners are less tempted to check email or glance at the clock.

Consider phrases such as:

  • “Now that we’ve found a solution for ______, we can apply that to the following situations.”
  • “So, we’ve identified the problems that drive _____. But what can we find out about solutions?”
  • “We’ve identified the first aspect of _____. Let’s turn now to the second, _______.”
  • “What can I clarify?” (Wait at least 12 seconds before using this one.)

These are, of course, broad examples. But they can give you the basic framework for your own unique verbal transition phrases.

2. Introduce New Topics During Breakout Sessions

Transitions may work better when they’re learner-led and participant-focused. That’s why many trainers will use breakout sessions to introduce new topics. Small groups of learners can discuss what’s been learned or talk about their expectations regarding a newly introduced topic.

Depending on the group and the topic, you may want to provide groups with guided discussion questions. When the small groups come back, they’ll be ready to smoothly transition to the new material.

3. Engage the Senses with Fun Visual Transitions or Musical Cues

When participants are engaged, their attention won’t wander; visual and musical cues are an incredibly effective way to generate that engagement. From Powerpoint transitions to Spotify playlists, modern technology makes it easier than ever to orchestrate a sensory transition experience. Consider:

  • Using a mysterious image that starts conversation or gets participants asking questions. Build a sense of curiosity!
  • A musical cue that’s thematically relevant to the next topic.
  • Playing a short video that sums up one topic or starts broaching the next.

4. Take Advantage of the Break

Managing transitions isn’t always about moving seamlessly from one topic into another without pausing for a breath. Sometimes the best way to manage a transition is to take advantage of the break. Here are a few ideas:

  • Schedule breaks: Every training session needs regular breaks. Consider scheduling yours around those moments when you’re going to switch topics.
  • Play some games! Asking trivia questions or organizing virtual whiteboard competitions can help participants bond, regroup, and refocus.
  • Review information: A break can provide a perfect moment to pause and review everything your training session has covered. You can use this moment to ask questions and summarize important concepts.

A Natural Transition

Planning transitions that feel natural takes a fair amount of thought and planning—you may even want to write your transitions down! You can later evaluate which transitions worked and which ones you might want to revise.

When you take a participant-centered approach to planning for those participants, you can create strong opportunities to improve your training—and your outcomes.

You can learn more about creating transitions and improving your training craft in our Presentation Skills workshop or Virtual Presentation Skills Crash Course.

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