Michael Vivion, PhD, former ECG Principal, discusses the tactics you must implement to achieve your communication strategy.

"Strategy is the picture the painter envisions. Tactics are the brushstrokes," I wrote in an article on the differences between strategy and tactics. A presenter must construct both to be effective; the two work together to move the audience in a particular direction or persuade its members to embrace a particular position.

We encourage presenters to think first about strategy, to establish and articulate their purpose. We urge them to think of purpose as what they want the audience to feel, think, and do. In other words, we ask presenters to consider what impact they want to have on listeners. Turning that intended impact into reality demands a commitment to explore tactics, the things one does to accomplish the purpose.


Tactics have an emotive component. If you want to evoke a certain emotional response to your presentation or even to you as a presenter, you have to plan how to best support your strategy. What examples will you choose? What stories will you tell? What evidence has the power to generate feeling? What speaking skills must you hone to elicit the personal response you need to succeed?

Let's say you're raising money for an organization that seeks to restore city monuments, and you want the audience to feel a sense of loss. You could relate the story of a successful restoration, evoking from listeners admiration or a desire to belong. You could show a series of pictures illustrating monuments in late stages of decay, arousing alarm or consternation.

But you're also part of the tactics, so consider how you contribute to the emotional appeal. Within the context of this example, you might decide that you want to project confidence (we can make a difference) or trustworthiness (we will spend your money wisely). To accomplish these goals, concentrate on eye focus, vocal emphasis, and emphatic gestures. Pay close attention to tone and diction.


If your purpose is to change the way your audience thinks, then the content of your presentation shifts. While you won't eliminate all tactics related to feeling, your emphasis will become more intellectual. Sticking with the topic above, you might well decide to use the examples mentioned but to use them to induce the thinking you want.

You could present the increased cost of restoration each year the properties remain in decay. You might choose to tell the story of a restored building, the cost, and the number of paid visits it generated in five years.

The evidence you use for this purpose will be more powerful and more likely to accomplish your goal if you use well-constructed graphs or charts. Your delivery should reflect your purpose—rationally engaged and more formal than the earlier presentation.


If your purpose is to get the audience to take action, it's likely that your tactics would combine an appeal to emotion with an appeal to intellect, both balanced toward audience characteristics.

Your presentation would end with a closer that accomplishes at least two things. First, ensure that listeners understand what you want them to do. Join the organization? Donate money or time? Petition the city council? Second, tell them what they will get out of their action. Increased tourism? Better neighborhoods?

With all three purposes, end with something memorable, a closer that ties the pieces of the presentation together. That, too, is a tactic, the one with final impact.