The Gettysburg Address (President Abraham Lincoln).

“I Have a Dream” Speech (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.).

President John F. Kennedy Inauguration address.

These speeches are recognized as some of the greatest in history. These speeches moved people and nations. They are iconic. The speakers’ words will resonate in our minds for generations. But why? They used no visual aids. There was no PowerPoint. No laptop.

Powerful speakers know their audience, themselves and the occasion.Knowledge is Key!

Who are you talking to? Do you know them? Their expectations? Politicians do their research on the audiences they will be speaking to before they even think about getting behind the podium.

Where are you speaking? What type of event is it? Is it a political rally? Is it a technical conference? The Gettysburg Address could never have been the keynote speech at a Harvard graduation. Does the event require that motivate the people? What type of emotion does the event call for (if it calls for it at all)?

If you don’t know your topic, don’t volunteer to speak. It’s that simple. When you know your topic, THEN you can freestyle. Then you can ad-lib. Questions won’t throw you off your mark. Practice your speech. Research your topic. It relieves your nervousness. Nothing will completely eliminate it – and that’s fine. As my father told me long ago: “The world pays well for knowledge. Give them what they came for!”

Just remember this important point for every speech, “You don’t know everything, but you probably know more than your audience does.” Relax and speak. You might be the next Steve Jobs!