10 Simple Rules for Effective Communication During a Presentation

October 31, 2017 - Dom Barnard

The way you speak to someone in private is not the same as addressing an audience. Your aim is for the audience to understand what you're saying, to be persuaded by you and to remember your key message(s) afterwards - effective communication is necessary to achieve this.

In this article, we list 10 simple rules to help you effectively communicate when speaking in public. Read over the list and make sure you have considering all of the points when preparing for and delivering your speech.

1. See yourself as others see you. Hear yourself as others hear you

Think carefully about how you look to your audience:

  • Is your body language positive?
  • Are your presentation slides clear?
  • Are you dressed appropriately for the situation?

All these visual aspects influence how your audience perceives you and your credibility.

Also consider how you sound to the audience:

  • Do you need to speak louder because the room is large?
  • Are the audience native English speakers?
  • Are you talking quickly because you are nervous?
  • Are you amplifying your breathing and mouth noises by being too close to the microphone?

2. Know your objectives

Before you start writing your speech, consider what you are saying and why you are saying it:

  • What would be a positive outcome for you? Are you looking for new clients or funding?
  • What message do you want your audience to take away with them?
  • Why are you speaking at this event, are you an expert in this industry?

3. Have an overall picture in mind before starting on details

Make sure you have the core of the speech prepared, including facts you want to add and visual aids that will assist in the delivery. You’ll need to consider:

  • How long does the presentation need to be?
  • The audience size and demographic
  • The core message you are trying to convey to your audience
  • How are you presenting, is it part of a panel, solo or some other format?

4. Work out the framework for your presentation

  • What three things do you want your audience to remember?
  • How can you design your presentation around these points?
  • How can you explain these points in the introduction and conclusion
  • Should you cover the three points together or in a logical order?

5. Lead the audience along with you

You want to make it as easy as possible for the audience to follow along. Storytelling, audience questions and a clear structure are key to achieving this. You’ll want to consider:

  • Whether to include a table of contents to help the audience follow along?
  • Breaking up the presentation into a small number of sections, with the current section stated on each slide
  • After each section, show which sections have been completed and which are coming up
  • How much time will you leave for questions? Will you allow questions throughout the presentation or only at the end?

6. Rehearse aloud and get feedback

Practice is the key to good communication. Try and rehearse with a colleague or friend, in virtual reality, or even to yourself with a camera or voice recorder. You need to consider:

  • How will you get constructive feedback, particularly if you are rehearsing alone?
  • How you will practice so that you don’t learn the speech in a rigid order, meaning that any interruptions on the day won't throw you off

7. Win hearts then minds

Never forget your humility. Sincerity (or not) is easy to spot so be sure to thank the audience for their time and be polite when answering any audience questions, no matter how hostile they are.

8. Keep it simple

No matter how complex your presentation might be, try to use words and analogies everyone in the audience will understand. Keep to the following:

  • Clarity of narrative with an easy to understand presentation structure
  • No (or few) acronyms if possible
  • Explain any diagrams used (including any graph axes)
  • Keep text to a minimum, it will make it easier for the audience to follow what you are saying

9. Be enthusiastic

If you’re not interested in your own speech, why should the audience be? It’s particularly important to start and end with a flourish, so make sure when you prepare you really focus on those two areas. You’ll need to think about:

  • Volume of your voice, particularly at the start if you haven’t spoken for a while
  • Keeping your body language positive and smiling
  • Sustained energy throughout the speech
  • Note key areas to pause and emphasise when preparing to engage more with the audience

10. Be yourself

It’s important to remember certain points about the presentation:

  • Where you are
  • What you are doing
  • Why you are saying what you are saying
  • Why the audience needs to hear what you are saying