“And next to the stage, we’ve got Jordan Scheltgen from Cave Social.”

A light, non-enthusiastic applause followed.

As I approached the stage I probably looked like I had seen a ghost. I was anxious, full of adrenaline and had one too many cups of coffee that morning.

The long and short, I was terrified.

See I had played football in front of thousands of people during college. That was fine because I had played my whole life but being on a stage was something completely new.

I was presenting to 300 marketing executives, my now peers, to educate them on how they could incorporate content marketing into their businesses.

I was 25 and looked 18.

This isn’t a benefit when you’re trying to gain credibility in your field. Being young means being perceived as inexperienced and untested — I had an uphill battle to win the crowd.

I started my speech like I do most, “So I was 23 and broke…” and then go on to tell the story of how I stumbled into becoming an agency owner. It was important for the audience to know me before I expected them to listen to me. To give any insight or advice you have to earn the attention of the people you’re talking to.

I’ve found an honest story the best way to do this.

I ended up being on stage for an hour, finding my groove, engaging the audience and settling into my talk. Was it my best presentation, not a chance, but it taught me some valuable lessons I wanted to share with you.

Public speaking is often about the story you tell and the lessons learned over the amount of information you provide. If you want to lose the attention of the audience start rolling out stats, figures, and graphs.

1. Put yourself in the shoes of the audience members.

If you’ve been to a conference before, you know there is always one speaker that could put you to sleep after you’ve chugged four Redbulls and another who is doing a glorified sales pitch.

Audience members don’t want to see these speakers. They want to get value through seeing a different perspective or direct strategic takeaways.

In your presentation, think about two things: How can I get my lesson/point across through a story and (ii) how can I give this audience one actionable takeaway for their own work? If you answer these questions, you’re on a solid path to having a useful presentation.

2. Throw out the script.

Scripted speeches feel unauthentic. This will only drive you further away from connecting with your audience.

This doesn’t mean your presentation shouldn’t have structure–it should. Organize your presentation as a loosely scripted presentation. This means you’ll have talking points but not a word-for-word script to follow.

This turns your speech into a conversation with the audience.

3. Leave ample time for questions.

Even though you’re on stage in a place to speak, you need to make time to listen to your audience.

By hearing their questions directly it does two things: (i) it gives you a chance to demonstrate knowledge and connect with the audience in that room further and (ii) it gives you valuable information to possibly incorporate into future presentations.

4. Be real before and after your talk.

If you’re a speaker at an event you are not better or worse than any attendee there. I refuse to hang out in “speaker rooms,” or not engage with event attendees. Just because someone isn’t another speaker at an event doesn’t mean they can’t be a valuable connection, resource or friend.

This means hanging out after your speech, checking out other speakers and talking with other people at the conference.

If you get selected to speak at an event you can have a larger than life persona on stage, but in the time before and after your speech you better be normal. Nobody likes a prima donna.