For some, the thought of standing before a crowd and giving a talk evokes dread and anxiety.

In fact, studies have shown that public speaking is at the top of the list when it comes to fears and phobias – surpassing even death for some people! Whether you're of the type that would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy or someone who thrives in the spotlight, brushing up on your presentation skills can give you a significant edge.

Keynote speakers at trade shows, exhibition booth presenters and conference participants alike have opportunities to engage their audience through verbal eloquence. From 15-minute elevator pitches to hour-long inspirational talks, public speaking activities depend on a skilled delivery to drive desired outcomes. 

Here are six tips to keep in mind as you prepare for your next marketing event or other speaking opportunity: 

1. Do your homework 

From knowing your topic inside and out to practicing your wording and delivery, sufficient preparation is the foundation of any strong presentation. Before an exhibition, for example, it's a good idea to go over your elevator pitches and compose some answers to anticipated questions. 

Organising your materials and plans can also help you overcome those public speaking jitters.

2. Captivate your audience from the start 

Just as first impressions are formed in a matter of seconds, the initial moments of your presentation can be pivotal in capturing the attention of your guests. Humour, interesting facts, key features, anecdotes – there are plenty of cool ways to start a talk of any length.

For longer talks, expert speaker Cam Barber recommended giving your audience a sense of where the speech is heading at the beginning. Don't forget the finish, either: Polish your ending to conclude on a strong, memorable note.

3. Be yourself 

People seek genuine, honest interactions. Establish your credibility, and then be down to earth with your audience.

Toastmasters International recommended using your whole body in your presentation with natural movements – which will come more easily as you get more comfortable on stage. For instance, change your position as topics switch, or move closer to the audience when you're about to offer a key insight.

Humour is often a fantastic element to include in a talk, but it must come naturally. Lame jokes and forced punch lines will fall flat, especially if being funny is not your style.

Not only that, letting your own personality shine through during your speech can help you cut down on those nerves. Mr Barker explained that using your natural style can reduce anxiety because it'll feel less like a performance.

That way, you can focus on your message rather than the presentation itself.