Online Collaboration Series: Successful Transitions and Handoffs


By Robert Bud James, PhD

John: “And to better address that topic, I’d like to have Jill comment on it.”

Jill:  (silence as Jill is fumbling with the camera button)

John: “Jill are you there?”

John: (Finally sees Jill onscreen) “Ok Jill, go ahead”

Jill:  (Jill talking but is still on mute)

John: “Jill, I think you are on mute.”

Jill: (Looks flustered, takes herself off mute) “OK, John, what was the question?”

We’ve all experienced poor introductions, handoffs, and transitions in online interactions. It’s no fun being on a video call when this type of thing happens, especially in important meetings with clients or your boss. How do the Pros make it look so easy?

Here are a few Best Practices to Successful Online Transitions

The secret to successful transitions and handoffs is timing and preparation – but likely not the type that first comes to mind.  As the host, if you are going to handoff the presentation to another speaker, you need to make sure they are ready and able to speak. Interestingly enough, that is YOUR job, not the new speaker’s job.

Just like in baseball, basketball, track, and many other sports, you can’t just throw the ball or baton and expect the other person to catch it.  They must be ready, in the right place, at the right time, with the right tools. Yes, all that sounds like their job, but you must still execute a solid handoff to make it happen. Even if thrown in the right direction, you can pass it too soon, too fast, or too slow.

What can you do as a professional to make sure the transition is fluid and flawless? You can help them be prepared by queuing them with adequate timing.  Further, the tone and tenor that you use to present the next speaker will directly influence whether your audience tunes-in or tunes-out.

Here are two simple ways of helping the next speaker be successful.

  • The first is a more formal method that a Master of Ceremony would use when introducing a Speaker or Instructor.
  • The second is useful in web conferences where you may have different members of your Team present a portion of the overall presentation

 Formal Introduction

To make this fluid, fill in the <blanks> and find or create the format you like. Write it down and practice it out loud. Make sure you let the speaker review the intro in advance.  This helps them be prepared so they can support your timing. When you start the intro, that becomes their queue to go off mute (and turn on their camera if it is off) and start talking after your warm introduction.

Choose one of the options that works for you and practice it out loud.

The Setup

Briefly review what is happening right now, and what is next. It can be a big introduction or a simple time check.  Just do it with enthusiasm!


      1. “Thank you for joining us.”
      2.  “Now that we are back from break,”
      3. “Wasn’t that great?”

And “The next thing we want to talk about is <XYZ>

The Speaker’s Name & Background

Let your audience know you are happy to make this announcement and that the next speaker has the right background to address the topic. Just focus on the simplest portion of their resume that supports their expertise on <XYZ>


    1. “Today we are pleased to welcome <speaker’s name>, a special guest from <place/organization>.”
    2. “<speaker’s name> from <place/organization> has something important to share today.”
    3. “<speaker’s name> is a <speaker’s title> in our <company/division>

And “His/her specialty is <topic related to their speech>”

The Pitch

Answer the question that every audience member has in their mind right now: 
“What’s in it for me?”


    1. “Understanding how to <XYZ> may be the most important thing you learn today!”
    2. “I think we all agree that knowing more about <XYZ> will help us be better prepared/ more successful for/with <topic area>”
    3. “I find that his/her approach to <topic area> incredibly useful, and I think you will too.”

Call to Action

    • Get the audience to participate in the introduction and subtly direct their full focus to what’s next.
      • “With that, I ask that you give your full attention to <speaker’s name> and help me in welcoming him/her to your screen!”

<Speaker’s Name!>

    • Pause and say their name authoritatively, energetically, and briefly applaud if appropriate
    • Make sure they start talking and acknowledge any compliment or acknowledgment the speaker may give you with a simple thank you.
    • Mute your mic ASAP, and if appropriate, turn-off your camera. But be ready to jump back in on a moment’s notice. 

Team Introductions

If you are working with multiple speakers, such as a Panel Discussion or a Sales Presentation, you will want to create a sense of camaraderie and authority, and also give your Teammates adequate queuing and timing to properly respond.

Prepare your Teammate

Say your Teammate’s name as soon as possible in your first sentence.  That becomes their queue to go off mute (and turn-on their camera if it is off) and start talking after your brief introduction.


      1. “<speaker’s name> from our <department/division> will be addressing <XYZ> <this topic> in just a minute.
      2. “Thank you for asking that question, I’ll have <speaker’s name> address it in just a minute.”
      3. “That sounds like a question for <speaker’s name>. Let me give you a brief introduction.

 The Speaker’s Background

Let your audience know that the next speaker has the right background to address the topic. Just focus on the simplest portion of their resume that supports their expertise on <XYZ>


      1. “<he/she> has a lot of experience dealing with <XYZ>, and successfully addressed it/used it on <project names>
      2. “In fact, his/her specialty is <topic related to the question>.”
      3. “(<speaker’s name> or <he/she>) is a <speaker’s title> in our <company/division>”


    • Invite the speaker to take the mic with a simple request.


      1. “<speaker’s name> would you like to share your insights with us?”
      2. “<speaker’s first name>, could you address <restated question>/ that concern?”
      3. simply say <speaker’s name> authoritatively
    • Make sure they start talking and acknowledge any compliment, question, or acknowledgment they may give you.
    • Mute your mic ASAP, and if appropriate, turn-off your camera. But be ready to jump back in on a moment’s notice. 

Transitioning back to the Host

Once the new speaker is done, there are a few very simple steps they should perform.

      1. Pause for a breath after your last point
      2. Use the Host’s name and indicate that you are done, or that it’s the host’s turn to present again.
      3. Wait to see if the host has anything else for you.
      4. When it is obvious that you are clear, mute your mic, and if appropriate, turn-off your camera


      • “<host name>, unless there are any questions, I would like to hand this back to you.”
      • “<host name>, that concludes my answer, back to you.
      • “<host name>, I’m handing this back to you.
      • Note: If you are passing the presentation to a different Team Member, you get to do a brief intro for them!

A Professional Handoff

John: “I’d like Dr. Jill Johnson from our Security Department to answer that question.

Before she takes the mic, let me tell you a bit about her background.   Dr. Jill has been with Acme for the last 10 years and is a highly published Security Expert.  She has been the Keynote Speaker at several high-level OpSec Conferences in the last few years and is currently writing a book on the subject, one we should likely all read.

Dr. Jill, could you please share your insights on secure computer environments?”

Jill: “Thanks for that, John. To restate your question, what you are asking is what is the most secure computer environment? Well, to be honest, one that is powered off and is sitting in a bank vault. Short of that, there are a few Best Practices that you could implement…”


If you want to present like a professional, and make your Team look great, spend just 5 minutes creating a Transition Masterpiece. Practice it and share it with the people you are hosting on your presentation. Everyone will feel engaged, collaborative, and look forward to fluid, effective, and even fun handoffs in your next online event.

For more information on professional transitions and other online collaboration tools and tips, click here.  

Happy Transitions!

Robert “Bud” James, Ph.D. is a skilled orator and instructor, and in addition to teaching Scuba Diving for decades with over 4,000 dives, he is a sought-after speaker and motivational coach. He has appeared on television (TechTV, UPN, & Microsoft TSP-TV) and numerous talk radio shows on various Internet security topics.  He has been on several panels and conferences as a keynote speaker and presenter (Oracle Open World, VMworld, StorageWorld, Microsoft Global Briefing, and others). Dr. James is a Corporate Trainer and Vice President for Memory Spring, an organization focused on enhancing people’s memories, learning skills, job performance, and brain health.

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Michael Green
Michael Green
3 years ago

Awesome article Bud!!!

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