Public speaking terrifies most people. Given the choice, most try to avoid it whenever possible. Presenting a speech to a board of directors may seem terrifying at first, but if you dissect the process, it is more manageable. The art of presenting a good speech is to be confident about what you have to say, to be well prepared and to know your audience. The more speeches you write, the more skilled you become. So start with your speech to a board of directors now, with the aim of being ready to speak at the next annual general meeting.

Identify the purpose of the speech. Jot notes to yourself about the topic. If, for instance, your speech to the board of directors is to present the results of a marketing campaign, it will be different from what you would write if you have been appointed to the board and are introducing yourself.

Write for your audience. Find out who is on the board, and do some background research on them. The more informed you are about your listeners, the easier it is to insert comments into your speech that will appeal to them, both personally and professionally.

Craft an attention-getting thesis statement. Just as the first sentence in a paragraph is the most important, the same is true for a speech. Keep coming back to the opening sentence until you know you have one that will get the attention of the board of directors.

Near the beginning of your speech, state whether board members can ask questions as you go along or whether you would prefer they hold them for the end. If the board has less than ten members, questions as you go along are fine. For a larger audience, ask them to hold their questions until the end of your presentation.

Tell the board what you are going to tell them. Outline where your speech is going to go so that your audience can anticipate the general direction of your topic. Then stay focused and on track so that you don’t confuse your listeners.

Remind them that you are on track. Use connecting phrases like “as mentioned earlier” or “to remind you.” When you are delivering your speech, you can watch for body language clues to determine whether the board members are following your presentation.

Sum it up and go back to your thesis statement to pull it all together. End with a punch line that the board members will remember.

Deliver the speech to yourself in front of a mirror to see how you will come across to your audience. Record yourself, and then play back your speech to assess it for tone and clarity. Edit accordingly.