Communicating Through Business Presentations

Cite this article as:"Communicating Through Business Presentations," in The Business Professor, updated October 13, 2019, last accessed August 3, 2020,


A Business presentation is a means of exchanging info for decision-making and policy developing, relating the benefits of the services offered and sharing our goals, values, and visions.

  • Formal Presentations – Allow time and planning. Ex. Presentation during a scheduled meeting.
  • Informal Presentations (Oral Briefings) – Less formal presentations that entails a short update on a current project. Ex. Update requested during a meeting with little or no notices. Ex. Informal update in the boss’s office.

Identify Your Purpose

Understanding the purpose you hope to achieve and conceptualizing your audience will enable you to organize the content in a way that is understood and accepted.

Technique 1: “At the end of my presentation, the audience will ________.”

Technique 2: “What is my Message?” – Develop a phrase, single thought, or conclusion you want the audience to take away from the presentation. Imagine your audience summarizing your message – what do you want to hear them describe as your central purpose.

Know Your Audience

Don’t presume you know the audience – find out about them.

The audience wants to know, “What’s in it for me”. Determine what motivates your audience, how they think, and how they make decisions. Who is the audience, and who requested the presentation? Why is the topic important to the audience? (What will they do with the information).

Helpful Info: Age, gender, occupations, education level, attitude, values, broad and specific interests, needs. Keep in mind the occasion or location of the presentation.

Environmental factors affecting presentation will reveal whether the environment is intimate or remote; the audience is receptive and alert or non-receptive and tired; whether you will need additional motivation or persuasion tactics:

  • # of people in the audience.
  • Are there any other presenters?
  • Where and at what time does my presentation fit into the agenda?
  • How much time will I have?
  • How will the audience be seated? And what is the layout? (Podium, microphone, seated.)

Organizing the Content

The standard format is:

  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Close

The dominant technique is:

  • Tell the audience what you will tell them.
  • Tell them.
  • Tell them what you told them.


Goals of the Introduction:

  • Capture attention and involve the audience.
  • Establish rapport.
  • Present the purpose statement and preview the points that you will develop.

Capture attention and involve the audience. Choose an attention-getter that is relevant to the subject and appropriate for the audience. Techniques:

  • A shocking statement or startling statistic. Ex. “Lack of personnel management costs companies $200 Billion in the US every year, and is among the most wasteful aspects of any business.”
  • Quotation by an expert. Ex. “Attracting quality people to your business is the life of any business” – Sir Richard Branson.
  • A rhetorical or open-ended question that generates discussion from the audience. Ex. “Do you want to spend time building your business, or worrying about payroll administration?”
  • An appropriate joke or humor. Used to break the ice. Self-denigrating is often the best.
  • A demonstration of dramatic presentation aid. Ex. If you’re pushing social media optimization, you may want to do a Google search of the company up front to show their poor page rank.
  • An anecdote or timely story from a business periodical. “Malcolm Gladwell says that there is no such thing as innate talent.”
  • Involve the audience. Ex. Ask for a show of hands regarding an example.

Establish Rapport

Show concern that they benefit from the presentation. Share a personal story or share a part of your background that relates to the topic. Present the purpose statement and preview the points that will be developed. Once you have captured attention for the topic, present your purpose statement directly. Then, preview the major points you will discuss in the order that you’ll discuss. This helps the audience understand how the parts of the body are tied together to support the purpose statement. If the presentation is long, you may want to use a visual to show the points covered.


In a short presentation (ex. 20 mins) limit your presentation to a few major points. Promote audience attention and absorption.

  • Provide support for your points in a manner that is easy to understand. Use simple vocabulary and short sentences that the listener can understand easily and that sounds conversational and interesting. Avoid jargon or technical terms that the listeners may not understand. Use a familiar frame of reference. Draw analogies between new ideas and familiar ones. Use comparisons to past events or relevant stories.
  • Provide relevant statistics. Use specific, quantitative measures available to lend authority and credibility to your points. Use techniques to make the statistics easy to remember. Ex. “34.2% of the students work full-time” vs. “1/3 of the students work full-time.”
  • Use Quotes from prominent people. This helps build credibility, particularly if the audience is familiar with the source.
  • Use interesting anecdotes. Audiences like and remember anecdotes or interesting stories that tie into the presentation and make strong emotional connections with audiences.
  • Use Jokes and humor appropriately. Jokes and humor can build rapport, ease an approach to sensitive subjects, disarm a non-receptive audience, or make your message easier to understand and remember.
  • Use presentation visuals. Try to enhance the audience’s ability to see, hear, feel, and understand your presentation.
  • Encourage audience participation. Reflective questioning, role-playing, directive audience-centered activities, incorporating current events and periodicals into the activity.


The Close provides unity to your presentation by “Telling the audience what you have already told them.” The conclusion should be “your best line, your most dramatic point, your most profound thought, your most memorable bit of information, or your best anecdote.” Develop the close so that it supports and refocuses the audience’s attention on your purpose statement. Tips:

  • Commit the time and energy needed to develop a creative, memorable conclusion. In an analytical presentation, state your conclusion and support it with the highlight from your supporting evidence. In a persuasive presentation, the close is often an urgent plea for the members of the audience to take some action or to look on the subject from a new point of view.
  • Tie the close to the introduction to strengthen the unity of the presentation. Ex. Take an anecdote from the introduction and answer or build on it as your conclusion.
  • Use transition words that clearly indicate you are moving from the body to the close. Practice your close until you can remember it without stumbling.
  • Smile and Stand back to accept any audience applause.
  • Show eagerness to answer questions if that is part of the presentation.

Designing Compelling Presentation Visuals

Presenter who uses visuals is considered more prepared and interesting. “Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I’ll remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand. Advantages:

  • Clarifies and emphasizes important points
  • Increases retention from 14 to 38 percent.
  • Reduces the time required to present a concept.
  • Speaker achieves goals 34% more often when visuals used.
  • Increases group consensus by 21% when presentation visuals used in a meeting.

Types of Presentation Materials

  • Handouts,
  • Boards and Flipcharts,
  • Overhead transparencies,
  • Electronic Presentations,
  • 35mm Slides,
  • Objects & models.

Design of Presentation Visuals

The purpose of each visual aid should be clear, and almost speak for itself. A visual aid can provide emphasis, effectively highlighting keywords, ideas, or relationships for the audience. Visual aids can also provide the necessary support for your position. Visual aids accomplish several goals:

  • Make your speech more interesting
  • Enhance your credibility as a speaker
  • Serve as guides to transitions, helping the audience stay on track
  • Communicate complex or intriguing information in a short period of time
  • Reinforce your verbal message
  • Help the audience use and retain the information

Create an appealing, easy-to-read design that supports your main point without overwhelming the audience. Techniques:

  • # of Visual Aids. Limit the number of visual aids used in a single presentation. The visuals should direct the audience’s attention to major points and clarify or illustrate complex information.
  • Slide Content. Limit slide content to key ideas presented in as few words as possible. Remember, you should enhance the audience’s ability to grasp your message – NOT state the entire message.
  • Singular Idea. Develop only one major idea using targeted keywords that the audience can scan quickly, understand, and remember. Use words, not whole sentences. Eliminate (a, an, the , we, you, your, are, to). If you have to put text – use no more than 7 words per line, 7 lines per slide.
  • Use an effective template that enlivens boring content. Choose an effective color scheme. Limit color to no more than 3 per slide. Background color should reflect formality and tone. Cooler shades for more formal. Lighter shades for former. Use complementary foreground (text) colors that have high contrast the background to ensure readability.
  • Use of Type: Use capital letters sparingly- only at begining of a sentence, important words, and property nouns. Choose an appealing font that can be read onscreen easily.

Types of Delivery

After you have organized your message, you must identify the appropriate delivery method, refine your vocal qualities, and practice your delivery. There are Four general business presentation methods:

  • Memorized – Written out ahead of time, memorized, and recited verbatim. Benefits: Well planned in content and organization. Lends itself well to ceremonies. Negatives: Limited ability to react to feedback. Forgetting a point (mental block) can damage entire presentation. Can appear monotone.
  • Manuscript or Scripted – Writing speech word for word and delivering to the audience. Benefits: Beneficial at technical conference presentations or when accuracy is absolutely critical. Beneficial when several presentations have to be given close together or you don’t have as much time to prepare. Negatives: Limit speaker-audience rapport (particularly when the speaker fails to look up from the Manuscript). May use teleprompter to appear that you are speaking extemporaneously.
  • Impromptu – Called on without prior notice (off-the-cuff). Benefits: It is a fundamental skill where you can demonstrate your knowledge at key or critical moments. If you can foresee the question arising, you may be able to prepare ahead of time and be very impressive in the presentation. Negatives: Often requires an experienced speak to analyze the request, organize supporting points from memory, and present a simple, logical response.
  • Extemporaneous – Presentations are planned, prepared, and rehearsed – but not written in detail. Brief words prompt the speaker on the next point, but words are chosen spontaneously as the speaker interacts with the audience and anticipates their needs. Includes body gestures, sounding conversational. Benefits: Can be delivered with great conviction, because the speaking is speaking “with” rather than “to” the audience. Negatives: Requires the most preparation. Most difficult type of presentation for teams – difficult to coordinate for a uniform presentation style.

Preparation and Practice

Tips for effective preparation and practice include:

  • Prepare Thoroughl. It is the best manner to control speech anxiety.
  • Prepare Effective Presentation Support Tools. Follow the steps in the graphics chapter to develop a design that works for the presentation. Have a contingency plan in the event something goes wrong (technical glitches).
  • Practice, Rather than Rehearse. You are working to deliver the presentation in a style that allows you to talk to the audience. Rehearsing can make the presentation sound mechanical, where practicing makes it more fluid.
  • Spend additional time practicing the introduction and conclusion. Remember the conclusion is often the strongest and most memorable portion.
  • Practice displaying the presentation visuals. This is very helpful and important in making certain the presentation is effortless and seamless. . Remember, these are just in support of your presentation – they are not the presentation.
  • Seek feedback from others. This will allow you to polish your performance and improve organization. You can also practice by presenting in front of a mirror.
  • Arrive Early. This allows you to become familiar with the setup of the room and to check the equipment.
  • Communicate confidence, warmth, and enthusiasm. Confident appearance with alert posture. Smile genuinely throughout the presentation. Maintain steady eye contact with the audience in random places throughout the room. Refine gestures to portray a relaxed, approachable appearance. Move from behind the lectern and toward the audience to reduce the barrier created between you and the audience.
  • Exercise Strong Vocal Qualities – To maximize vocal strengths, focus on three important qualities of speech: Phonation, Articulation, and Pronunciation. Phonation – The production and variation of the speaker’s vocal tone. (3 Primary Factors). Pitch – The highness of lowness of the voice. The pitch should rise and fall to reflect emotions. Lower pitches are perceived to sound more authoritative. Higher pitches convey less confidence are can be perceived as whining. Volume – Loudness of tones in your voice. Vary loudness to hold the audience’s attention, emphasize words or idea, and create a desired atmosphere (energetic, excited, solemn, serious, etc.) Rate – The Speed at which words are spoken. Vary the rate of speech with the demands of the situation. Speak at a lower rate when emphasizing an idea that is complex or a process. Use pauses to add emphasis to key points. Articulation – Smooth, fluent, and pleasant speech resulting from the way a speak produces and joins sounds. Faulty articulation results from not carefully forming individual sounds. Dropping word endings, Running words together, Imprecise enunciation. This is not dialect (accent) which is a variation on pronunciation, usually of vowels. Techniques to improve clarity in your voice, educe strain and voice distortion, and increase your expressiveness with the following guidelines: Stand up straight, shoulders back, speak from diaphragm rather than head voice. Focus on completing the endings of all words, not running words together, and enunciating words correctly. Pronunciation – Use principles of phonetics to create accurate sounds, rhythm, stress, and intonation. A well-articulated word can still be mispronounced. There is often a preferable and acceptable pronunciation for lots of words. The key is choosing word pronunciation that is acceptable to the audience.
  • Watch Your Audience – Read your audience to view the interest level.
  • Use Your Visuals Effectively. Step to one side of the visual when you intend for the audience to see it. Paraphrase the visual – rather than reading the text from it.
  • Handle questions form the Audience. Be prepared to field questions that arise when you are giving the presentation. Keep Within the Time Limit. Be prepared for a question and answer period. Answer questions in a calm and non-combative manner. If you have a team, always have a moderator.
  • Distribute handouts – Only when needed in the presentation. Try not to give out at beginning – it distracts audience. Use to provide additional information at the end of the lecture.
  • Adapt to Alternative Delivery Situations. This might include:
    • Culturally Diverse Audiences – Focus on the individual, rather than stereotyping a specific culture. Speak simply. Avoid words that trigger negative emotional responses. Enunciate each word precisely. Use jokes or humor cautiously. Learn culture’s preference for a direct or indirect presentation. Adapt to subtle differences in nonverbal communication. Seek feedback to determine whether the audience is understanding our message.
    • Team Presentations – Selecting your team members who are complimentary in skill and ability and have a social fit with other members. Agree on the Purpose and Schedule. Avoids lack of coordination. Submitting off-topic material. Practice ahead of time – Preparing an entire team is much for difficult than preparing oneself. Decide who will deliver what portion of the presentation. Work on transitions between segments of each presenter. Deliver as a team and field questions as a team.

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