Note: This is the first of a two-part post bringing you tips on public speaking.

Whether presenting to one or one hundred people, the single most important skill I’ve learned is to be prepared. If you take the time to prepare, you will go in with less reasons to be nervous. And less nerves makes room for more confidence.

Here are some of the ways I typically prepare for presenting material on a call or in a meeting (with more tips to come!):

1. Get out of your head. First, check out The Big 3 For Any Public Speaking Situation.

2. Take it back to basics. Who are you talking to and what do they need to know? That’s really what it comes down to. Know your audience and what it is you want them to learn from you. This will help focus your content to keep it streamlined and relevant.

3. Set up and frame the discussion. First, before launching into your presentation, tell them what you’re going to tell them before you tell them: “Today I’m going to share 5 tips for presenting with presence.” This way the audience knows right up front what they’re about to hear.

4. Tell the audience what you need from them before you start talking. If you’re seeking a specific outcome from your presentation (e.g., feedback, approval, decision, etc.), let your audience know that from the start: “Today I’m going to share 5 tips for presenting with presence. I would like to get your feedback on these tips before we finalize and post them to the blog.” Or, “Today I’d like us to accomplish three things: First, I’m going to share 5 tips for presenting with presence, second I would like your feedback on these tips before we post them to the website, and third, I’d like to discuss next steps for marketing these tips to our clients.” Setting the expectations up front is helpful, especially for senior-level audiences. As you launch into your content, they now know exactly why you’re there, what your goals are for the meeting, and what it is you need from them as they listen to your presentation.

5. Know what you’re going to say, but don’t memorize it. Have specific key points that you want to touch on during your presentation. Even if you’re very comfortable with your bullets of content, talking points will help keep you on track and focused on #s 2-4 above. I often bring a printed copy of my presentation with me (I use the “handouts” printing option) and have my talking points written next to each slide. When presenting one-on-one or to a smaller group, I’ve written my talking points in light pencil in the margins of my copy of the deck we’re walking through. That way I can reference them throughout, but they’re not blaring off the page to people sitting around me.

Check out some additional tips on the art of public speaking from one of my colleagues. The most important thing to do? Find an approach that works for you.