Chapter 3: Preparing for Your First Speech

17 Connective Statements: Signposts and Transitions

At this point, you may be thinking that preparing for public speaking does not always follow a completely linear process. In writing the specific purpose statement, you might already have a predetermined structure, and if so, the central idea or thesis sentence flows simply from the specific purpose statement and structure. In other instances, the process may not be as direct and you will need to think more deeply about the best way to organize your speech and write your central idea. Some of the examples shown above, such as the one about the chambers of the heart, fall into the “easy-to-follow” category, but others, such as the development of the Civil Rights movement, would be less easy to follow.

Also at this point, we have worked on the core of the speech: the purpose, the main idea or thesis, and the key main points, also referred to as “Roman numerals” because traditional outline format uses I. through V. for them. You will notice that we have not addressed the introduction or the conclusion. You will find that information in upcoming chapters. That information is in a separate chapter and placed later because it is important and needs special emphasis, not because it is unimportant. Basically, you cannot write an introduction if you do not know what you are introducing. For that reason, even if you are tempted to write your introduction first, you should probably wait until the “core” or “body” of your speech is fairly solid in your mind.

However, there is one aspect beyond the introduction and conclusion that you should prepare and not leave to chance or “ad lib” during the speech. (In fact, you really should not leave anything to chance or “ad lib” in this stage of your development as a public speaker.) That aspect is the connec- tive statements, the subject of the next section.

Connectives or “connective statements” are broad terms that encompass several types of statements or phrases. They are generally designed to help “connect” parts of your speech to make it easier for audience members to follow. Connectives are tools that add to the planned redundancy, and they are methods for helping the audience listen, retain information, and follow your structure. In fact, it is one thing to have a well-organized speech. It is another for the audience to be able to “consume” or understand that organization.

Connectives in general perform a number of functions:

•      Remind the audience of what has come before

•      Remind the audience of the central focus or purpose of the speech

•      Forecast what is coming next

•      Help the audience have a sense of context in the speech—where are we?

•      Explain the logical connection between the previous main idea(s) and next one or previous subpoints and the next one

•      Explain your own mental processes in arranging the material as you have

•      Keep the audience’s attention through repetition and a sense of movement

Connectives can include “internal summaries,” “signposting,” “internal previews” or “bridging statements.” Each of these terms all help connect the main ideas of your speech for the audience, but they have different emphases and are useful for different types of speeches.

Types of connectives and examples

Internal summaries emphasize what has come before and remind the audience of what has been covered.

“So far I have shown how the designers of King Tut’s burial tomb used the antechamber to scare away intruders and the second chamber to prepare royal visitors for the experience of seeing the sarcophagus.”

Internal previews let your audience know what is coming up next in the speech and what to expect with regard to the content of your speech.

“In this next part of the presentation I will share with you what the truly secret and valuable part of the King Tut’s pyramid: his burial chamber and the treasury.”

Transitions serve as bridges between seemingly disconnected (but related) material, most commonly between your main points.

“After looking at how the Cherokee Indians of the North Georgia mountain region were politically important until the 1840s and the Trail of Tears, we can compare their experience with that of the Indians of Central Georgia who did not assimilate in the same way as the Cherokee.”

At a bare minimum your transition is saying, “Now that we have looked at (talked about, etc.) X, let’s look at Y.”

Signposts emphasize the physical movement through the speech content and let the audience know exactly where they are. Signposting can be as simple as “First,” “Next,” “Lastly” or using numbers such as “First,” “Second,” Third,” and “Fourth.” Signposts can also be lengthier, but in general signposting is meant to be a brief way to let your audience know where they are in the speech. It may help to think of these like the mile markers you see along interstates that tell you where you are or like signs letting you know how many more miles until you reach your destination.

“The second aspect of baking chocolate chip cookies is to combine your ingredients in the recommended way.”

Bridging statements emphasize moving the audience psychologically to the next step.

“I have mentioned two huge disadvantages to students who don’t have extracurricular music programs. Let me ask: Is that what we want for your students? If not, what can we do about it?”

There is no standard format for connectives. In any speech there would be multiple ways to help the audience move with you, understand your logic, keep their attention, and remind them of where they have been and where they are going. However, there are a few pieces of advice to keep in mind about connectives.

First, connectives are for connecting. They are not for providing evidence. Save statistics, stories, examples, or new factual information for the sup- porting points of the main ideas of the speech. Use the connectives for the purposes listed above (review, psychological emphasis, etc.) not to provide new examples, facts, or support.

Second, remember that connectives in writing can be relatively short—a word or phrase. In public speaking, connectives need to be a sentence or two. When you first start preparing and practicing connectives, you may feel that you are being too obvious with them and they are “clunky.” Some connectives may seem to be hitting the audience over the head with them like a hammer. While it is possible to overdo connectives, and we have heard speakers do so, it is less likely than you would think. The audience will appreciate them, and as you listen to your classmates’ speeches, you will become aware of when they are present and when they are absent.

Lack of connectives results in hard-to-follow speeches where the information seems to come up unexpectedly or the speaker seems to jump to something new without warning or clarification.

The third piece of advice is that your instructor may want you to include connectives on your outlines in some way to help you start thinking about them. More experienced public speakers have developed the ability to think of transitions, internal previews and summaries, and signposts on the spot, but that skill takes many years to develop.

Fourth, you will also want to vary your connectives and not use the same one all the time. A popular transitional method is the question, such as:

“Now that you know what was in the first chamber of the King Tut’s tomb, you are probably asking, what is in the second tomb? I am glad you asked.”

While this method can occasionally be clever, usually it is not; it is just annoying. The audience didn’t ask, so you don’t want to put words in their mouths. Or this:

“The first, outer layer of the skin is the epidermis, the protection for what lies beneath. But what does lie beneath the epidermis?”

You should also want to avoid the word “so” too much or repeatedly.

Finally, up to this point we have only discussed connectives between the main points. In reality, you will want to think in terms of connectives between any list of subpoints. For example, going back to the example Problem-Solution speech about music in the high schools, you would want a shorter connecting phrase between Subpoint A and B under Main Point I.

“Not only do students without band or choir have lower standardized college test scores, they get involved in more unhealthy activities.”

Admittedly, preparing connectives between subpoints is more difficult, but you also want to avoid jumping to the next idea without warning.

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Fundamentals of Public Speaking by Lumen Learning is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book