#1. Own your speech. A speech is not a series of words important to you. It’s a prioritized series of key messages which are, above all else, relevant to your audience. What do you want them to do, consider or become? Those messages dictate the PowerPoint or Keynote slides, not vice versa.
#2. Use your voice effectively. Speech is what you do with sound. It comes from your diaphragm, not your mouth. An effective voice is clear and enunciated. It means you need to breath fully and naturally to project your voice. You also need to think of yourself as an athlete. Your voice box (the larynx) needs to be properly warmed up, and you need to protect it from the wrong foods – like dairy products, chocolate and too hot/too cold beverages.
#3. Own the stage. You must look comfortable on stage, even if you don’t feel it. Beforehand, get up on-stage alone. Notice the room (how dark, how far can you see), the lights (how bright, how hot), the stage floor (is slippery, what's the distance from off-stage to your speaking position), microphone (hand-held or lavalier) and acoustics (do you sound natural in the back of the room), teleprompter or lectern. Think about how you’ll enter and exit the stage.
#5. Practice. Then practice again. Reconnecting to #1 (above), you have to know your core messages intimately, not simply memorize them. You are not talking, you are conveying relevant insights to help your audience understand and very likely perform their job better. I suggest you rehearse aloud your speech at least 5-6 times. Yes, aloud - so you hear your messages, feel if the words flow naturally out of your mouth, feel how dry your mouth will be from air rushing in/out, and perhaps most important, to see the audience. At least 95% of your speech should be looking at your audience, not your speech or slides.
#6. Accept your nerves. When speaking in front of a group, your body is probably working against you. Your heightened state of anxiousness means your brain has told your adrenal glands to secrete adrenaline into your blood stream. These symptoms will play havoc on you until your body realizes you’re not in mortal danger. Depending upon the person, it may take as long as 2-3 minutes for your body to ‘calm down.’ The simplest tip is to make sure the first 2-3 minutes of your presentation is flawlessly rehearsed and prepared, so it covers you until your body adjusts. It also means you’ve nailed a perfect first impression with the audience.
#7. Be good, not perfect. Your goal cannot be perfection. If it is, the moment you make a mistake – and it will happen – it’ll throw you. It’ll also make the next mistake feel even worse. Accept mistakes. When you make an error – big deal! – ignore it and seamlessly move on. It always feels horrible to you, but I'll guarantee you that tour audience won’t notice or remember it after you're finished.
#8. Be positive, not negative. If a person isn’t thinking about perfection, they’re thinking negative thoughts. “I’m going to be horrible, blah blah blah.” Negative thinking returns ten-fold. In other words, if you think you’re going to fail, you’re absolutely correct. If you believe you’ll be great, you will be.
#9. Be enthusiastic and passionate. After all is said and done, audiences only ask for two things from the speaker: Be relevant (#1 – “Tell me something that’s important to me, not important to you.”) and Be enthusiastic. Your audience will never be more excited about your topic than you are. You need to inject your passion and interest in the topic, and by projecting it to the audience, you will capture and keep their interest, focus and consideration.
#10. Be proud of yourself. Once it’s over, it’s over. Congratulate yourself. We all know it’s not easy for the average person to get up on stage and front an audience you probably can't even see. But you did it, you were excellent, and each time will get easier.