One of the most sought-after skills as a speaker is knowing how to be engaging on stage and being able to hold the audience’s attention from start to finish.

It should not matter if you are the first speaker on the agenda or the last speaker on a Friday afternoon; if you implement some basics into your presentation, you can be engaging and memorable regardless of your speaking time slot.


Your first step is to sit down with a pen or pencil and a notepad and write out your speech in full.

There is something powerful about the process of your thoughts flowing from your mind onto a written format. Next, read out your hand-written speech and fine-tune words that might not sound as profound as when you wrote it.

At this stage, you are ready to type out your speech in full onto a word document, fine-tuning words as you type your speech. Next, print out your speech and read out the speech in full, fine-tuning words even further. By this point, the speech is being imprinted in your mind.

The fifth step is to read your speech and highlight keywords. These are trigger words so that when you see a particular word or phrase you will remember the rest of the paragraph. Your mind is very powerful and you need to trust it to be able to recall the full paragraph.

At this stage, you are ready to prepare the PowerPoint slides that complement your talk – choose to use more pictures than text on your PowerPoint. Next, prepare a 1–2-page summary of your talk using the keywords only. This 1–2-pager is what you will take to the stage to refer to during your talk.

Finally, practise your speech using only the 1–2-pager and your prepared PowerPoint.


Practise and rehearsal of your speech are crucial. It is a privilege to speak on a stage. With that privilege as a speaker, you should not disrespect your audience by not rehearsing your speech. Being able to ‘wing’ a speech is a speaking myth.


Be yourself on stage. Your objective is to have a conversation from the stage with many people.

This is the importance of knowing the keywords of your speech. Don’t aim to memorise your speech word for word – just get to a stage where you know the key message to share per keyword.


Ensure that your advice is easy to comprehend and practical to implement.


If by the end of your talk, you have swayed the audience viewpoint to your own and you made them think differently – you have done your job as a speaker.

Author: Dineshrie Pillay CA(SA) is a business owner and public speaker trainer