Present with Impact: Top 10 tips for effective communication

By Anne Sexton - Last update

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Love it or hate it chances are you will be asked to present or speak in public at some stage in your professional or personal life. Here Isobel  Tynan talk you through top ten tips to make sure your presentation has impact. The tips are broken down into chronological order and all are immediately applicable. Some are posed as questions to get you thinking. Others are designed as simple reminders. Like all tips try out what appeals to you, observe the results and then adapt them to your particular needs. Most importantly, remember you are the message and your audience want you to succeed.

1. Know your purpose

What do you want to achieve by delivering this presentation? Typically, we present to an audience to convince, inform, motivate or entertain them or a combination of purposes.

2. Know your audience

What are their knowledge levels? Are they likely to be better informed or less well-informed than you on the topic you are speaking about? And what are their likely expectations of the talk?

3.  Message: Project the value of this presentation to your audience

Your audience will want to know what they are going to gain by listening to you. So, do tell them what the purpose of your presentation is and why you are the person presenting. Why should they listen to you? What is your message and what exactly will you cover during your presentation. This will generate interest in your presentation and keep your audience informed, throughout, of what they can expect.

4. Opening

Have an attention-grabbing opening. E. g. you could start with statistics/facts or an interesting story about your topic to generate interest in your presentation. Or, you might decide to start with a thought provoking question. If it’s an external presentation and you’re not being introduced the following is the acceptable format to follow: your name, the name of your company, the topic you are presenting, its relevance to the audience and why it’s you who will be presenting (i. e. your qualifications/experience and those aspects of your background that are relevant to the topic and the occasion). Let the audience know if you are happy to take questions as you go through or if there will be time for questions at the end.

5. Evidence

To establish credibility and to reinforce your presentation topic use convincing evidence; what relevant examples facts, statistics, testimonials, analogies, case studies exist that you could consider using?

6. Delivering your presentation

You will build rapport with your audience by being relaxed and natural. Depending on your audience, some quick ways to build rapport could include:

  • Get to know the audience, arrive early and greet them personally.
  • Make eye contact with your audience, interact with them e. g. through asking questions: make the
  • presentation a conversation
  • Mention the names of some of the audience if appropriate
  • Say ‘we’, not ‘you’


6.   Visual Aids

While a detailed overview of visual aids is beyond the scope of this article if you are using Power Point the following guidelines are useful:

  • Use PowerPoint sparingly: 3 slides in five minutes and use more graphs or images than text
  • Follow the 6 x 6 rule:not more than 6 lines per page ands 6 words per line
  • Use headings not sentences on your slides


7.   Timing

Depending on the length of your presentation you might decide to break it down into distinct parts; e. g. if your presentation is an hour long you might break it into three distinct parts, do a short summary of what you’ve covered at the end of each part and then begin again. Keep it short and simple. Remember always stick to the allocated time frame.

8. Effective Communication

In addition to considering the presentation content we need to also focus in on the tone of our voice and non verbal communication.


The intonation, volume and projection of the voice and word enunciation all add considerably to the impact of the delivery.

Word emphasis

Stressing key words, phrases and ideas e. g. you may decide to emphasise certain words/phrases to focus attention in on that point.


Rests or stops that aid understanding; it’s important to allow your audience time to take in what you’ve said


Variations in the speed of delivery; e. g. if you are talking through a list of items where they’re all about equally important you may decide to talk relatively quickly through it; if you are introducing a new topic or have made a key point and want your audience to reflect on it you may decide to slow down or even pause.

Voice Modulation

This refers to varying your voice tone e. g. you may decide to speak a little more softly if you want to draw your audience in; after a break to bring your audience back you may decide to speak a little more loud.

Voice projection

Practicing out loud and ideally had someone else listen to you is important to ensure you’re aware of how you project your voice; often we can sound louder to ourselves than we actually are.

Non-verbal Communication

Refers to our posture, eye contact, gestures and movement.


If it’s a formal presentation and you will be positioned at a lectern or behind a table at the beginning of your presentation you may wish to move forward and use the open space, walk around in that space, make eye contact and engage with the audience. It’s essential to remember that you are the most powerful visual of all so use your body movement and position well e. g. Be aware of how you stand, your overall posture and what modifications if any you need to make (from your preparation this will hopefully be obvious to you)  e. g. are you inclined to slouch, do you cross your legs, are your hands in their pockets. If you’re standing behind a lectern do you hold onto it (as though it’s your last remaining buffer between you and your audience).


Are you someone who uses their hands when they speak? If yes, you can use them to illustrate your points e. g. if you’re referring to topic matter that’s big you may consider exaggeratedly stretching your arms out wide. It emphasises your point and doesn’t appear as exaggerated to your audience.

Eye Contact

Maintain eye contact with your audience; however it’s a good idea to scan the room to make sure that you face both sides of your audience; however, don’t eyeball someone in the audience-it’s very disconcerting!

9. Closing/Questions and Answers

If you have allotted time form questions and answers at the end the following format works well.   Summarise the main points covered and communicate clearly to the audience how much time is now available for questions and answers. This helps to keep questions and answers short and to the point. Asking ‘Whose got the first question’ is stronger than the traditional ‘Anyone got any questions?’ as there’s an implied assumption that there will be questions. Once you have heard and understood the question, turn to the rest of the audience and paraphrase the question; paraphrasing allows you time to gather your thoughts and ensure everyone else has heard the question.   If you do not know the answer to a question say so-honesty gains respect. Finally, it’s a good idea to always prepare a couple of questions yourself- e. g. you might say a question I am often asked is “…. ”When the allotted time for questions is about to run out ask “who has the final question?”This signals to the audience that answering questions is about to come to an end. When we have answered the final question, gracefully thank the audience for its interest.

10.  Practice, Practice, Practice

  • Become accustomed to the sound of your own voice, get a feel for the timing, amend and refine your presentation.
  • Seek constructive feedback. Ask someone (ideally who understands the subject matter and will be honest) to listen and watch you practice. Ask for their comments about how you can improve-specifically your posture, the pace of the talk, how you project your voice, and how well they understood your points.
  • Record your presentation. Having your practice talk recorded and played back is a really powerful way to self-correct your presentation style and delivery. This practice is essential to build your competence and to practice the pace and timing of your presentation. It’s also the best way to minimise any nervousness.

Anne Sexton

A guide to identifying and leveraging your personal brand
The QFA qualification for a career in financial services


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