SELF got the chance to ask six impressive women for their best tips on how to give a great public speaking presentation. And these women know what they’re talking about: They’re all preparing to give big presentations in front of global leaders, entrepreneurs, and CEOs at the upcoming Summit at Sea—an invitation-only conference gathering thought-leaders and innovators for a three-day cruise in November. And here’s the thing: Even when you’re NOT speaking in front of global leaders, public speaking can still be seriously challenging…and a little (or a lot) scary. Use this expert advice on how to make your next big talk just a little bit easier.

1. Structure is your friend. (But you can still improvise.)

“My presentations are usually live workshops, ranging from a few hours to a full five days. I begin by jotting down ideas or recording themes while driving. From there I’ll sit down with a cup of tea (a must!) and structure the timing of my talk or workshop. 

Once I have the timing lined out, I fill in content in a rough outline on a piece of paper. For the next few days I will carry this paper with me and consider both the bigger themes and the finer detail. I design the exercises I plan on teaching and mentally run through them. Once I am teaching or speaking I let go of the exact plan, but keep the structure as a backbone to keep me on time. When I started out I improvised completely, which made for a dynamic presentation, but often caused me to leave out important key points in order to meet timing considerations. If I had known the power of structure back then I’d saved myself much stress.”

—Michaela Boehm, Intimacy & Spirituality Expert

Michaela is presenting Radical Intimacy, Deep Attraction: Making Relationships Last and Keeping the Sex Hot at the Summit at Sea.

2. Make sure you have a point—and passion.

“For me, work can be a Skype or phone call, standing before a university lectern, or even a bullhorn in front of a police station. I always try to remember the “why” of what I’m saying, not only the what: Why am I here, in this moment? When I found myself on a bullhorn in front of the Dearborn Heights [Michigan] police department demanding an investigation into the death of Reneisha McBride, I found myself chanting her name over and over, because she was the “why” that brought me to that moment.

On phone conferences it’s a little less dramatic, I try to not pace around because it’s easy to sound winded. For phone and Skype calls, the goal is to stay seated. I’ve given awful presentations and interviews and speeches, luckily, there seem to always be more opportunities to do better the next time.”

—Dream Hampton, Writer, Film Maker, Cultural Producer

Dream is presenting America’s Prison Problem: Culture-Shifting an End to Mass Incarceration at the Summit at Sea.

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