For many us, public speaking ranks as our biggest fear. As a result, you may say no to giving presentations even to small groups. Or when you say yes, you procrastinate, become filled with dread, and stumble through the experience with much emotion and mixed results.

That’s a shame. Because public speaking, especially in your field, is one of the best ways to promote your social change organization and its ideas. It also increases your authority as an expert. And if you team up with others, making a presentation can grow your relationships with other leaders and organizations.

So the next time someone emails you to give a talk, don’t break into a cold sweat after you say yes or let that message go unanswered. Instead, follow these eight tips to get ready for your next presentation.

Make a Plan and Stick to It

Manage your preparation like you would manage any project. Work back from the date of your presentation to create a plan with a timetable that lays out all the steps you need to take before the big event. Set deadlines for your outline, script and slides. Schedule rehearsals with trusted colleagues. You’ll avoid procrastination and a last minute rush.

Know What Makes Your Audience Tick

Don’t take the people in the room for granted. Ask the organizer about the interests of the audience. Check out the sponsoring group’s forums, Facebook page and other platforms to see what’s on audience members’ minds. You can then create content that addresses the concerns of your listeners.

Start with An Outline

Preparing a talk, even a five-minute one, can feel daunting. Stretch out the presentation to 20 or 40 minutes and you may find yourself paralyzed with anxiety.

Make your first step a simple one. Start with the basic outline we all learned in our grade school English classes. This classic structure has five parts: an introduction, three main points and a conclusion. Beneath each section, put three points you want to make. Review and revise as needed. Now, you’re ready to write.

Write Out What You Want to Say

There’s a time and a place for winging it. It’s not when you give a formal presentation. If you want to master your material, write out what you want to say. Because you will be speaking, write like you talk. Keep it conversational.

Script your remarks like an NPR reporter does: Make your sentences short, as few as just seven words. When you use a comma, replace it with a period and start a new sentence.

Use Eye Popping Slides

Don’t fill your slides with laundry lists of bullet points. And ditch the complex graphics with the tiny text. Instead, use pictures and others visuals that engage listeners, keep them interested and make an emotional connection.

Practice, Practice, Practice

There is no substitute for practice. The more you do it, the more you will improve your confidence and your memory. Try to rehearse three to six times. Rehearse with trusted colleagues or your co-presenters. Ask what they like and how you can improve. Also pay attention to your body language, gestures and tone.

Stick to Your Time Limit

Don’t be that person who tries to cram 100 slides into a 20-minute session. We all know what happens next: The talk goes over schedule, the last 50 or so slides flash by in a blur, and there’s no time for questions.

Know your time limit and stick to it. Use a word to time calculator to plan your writing. And check your time in rehearsal.

Check Out Your Room In Advance

Ask the organizer about the room where you will talk. Arrive early to get comfortable with the space and confirm your equipment setup. This will help you avoid mix ups.

Also introduce yourself to early arrivals, thank them for coming and ask about their interests. This will give you insights into your audience’s concerns and anticipate questions.

Want more presentation tips? Check out these ideas from Prichard Account Director Jenna Cerruti on how to avoid death by Powerpoint and create presentations that pop. Or look at these six ideas from The Nonprofit Times to make your presentation more than just pretty.

What about you? What are your favorite presentation preparation hacks? Please share your tips in the comments section below.