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Talk the talk
Talk the talk

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4.2.3 Tips for an effective talk

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Figure 4

As you look towards giving future talks, bear in mind these final tips to try and make your talk the best it can be!

Engage the audience

One feature of effective talks is that they are interesting and they engage the audience. A skilled speaker can attract people’s attention and make a subject appealing by demonstrating its relevance to them, by structuring their talk clearly and, where appropriate, by using visual and audio aids effectively.

Create an impact

Skilled speakers can also create an impact through the quality of their voice, the use of body language and the creation of a sense of connection, or rapport, with their audience.

Be prepared

Good advance preparation and practice are key to maintaining your confidence and coping strategies during a talk. Good presenters, whether amateur or professional, appear prepared and quietly at ease. This enables them to cope better with unexpected occurrences, such as a reduction in the time allocated to their contribution, challenges to their ideas or technical problems.

Practice makes perfect

Before giving a talk, it is a good idea to practise it a few times. This can involve giving the talk in front of a mirror, on a recording, or in front of a friend. When you practise, you can make sure that your talk is within the given time limit, and you can check that you feel comfortable saying all that you have planned. If you are unsure how to pronounce any words, check how they are pronounced and practise a few times.

Using notes and visual aids

Some speakers find it reassuring to follow a prepared script, while others find it easier to talk more freely, using notes or cue cards as prompts. Visual or audio cues, such as graphs, charts, pictures and video or sound clips, can provide structure and variety to a talk. However, the use of technology requires practice to be effective.

Expected the unexpected

Some people will find it easy to adapt their intended talk to an unexpectedly shorter or longer time frame. Others could find this unsettling. Nevertheless, it is not uncommon to omit some elements of what you planned to say, whether intentionally or not, and to insert new ones, such as examples, or perhaps a little humour.


It is normal to feel nervous at the beginning of a talk, but the ongoing feedback from other people – smiles, nodding and other indicators of their positive attention – can ease such anxiety as you progress through it. Similarly, their acknowledgement at the end, whether in the form of clapping or comments, can contribute to a sense of validation and relief.

Learn from experience

It is important to reflect on what you did well, and to learn from anything that didn’t go as intended. You could ask one or two people for specific feedback to help you with this reflective process. You may also be able to give other people support and encouragement with their talks in the same way.