Whether you’re speaking at a conference or presenting to a group of co-workers, whatever the scenario might be, it’s important to have stellar communication and public speaking skills. Because how you present yourself to an audience — any audience — can say a lot about you and can also mold the way people view you. Of course, public speaking is no easy task. And some people go their entire lives trying to avoid it. If you want to be successful, it’s important to push all fears aside and develop your public speaking skills so you’re prepared for anything, big or small.

To help get you started, here are 9 public speaking tips.

1. Don’t talk right away

According to Simon Sinek, a famous motivational speaker with one of the most-watch TED Talks, you should never start talking immediately — especially when you’re just walking onto a stage or scene. “A lot of people start talking right away, and it’s out of nerves. That communicates a little bit of insecurity and fear,” Sinek told Entrepreneur. Instead, walk up quietly, get comfortable, take a deep breath, count to three and begin.

2. Start with an attention-grabber

When you start speaking, begin with something that will catch the crowd’s attention. According to Forbes, that could be anything from a personal story to an inspirational quote or a shocking statistic. Once you hook their attention, they’ll be excited and more interested in what you have to say for the rest of your speech.

3. Be organized

When you’re preparing what to say, organize your presentation or speech into three sections: grabber, middle and close. Your “middle” section should be the meat of your speech, where you get into the nitty gritty of the topic you’re speaking about.

4. Pause

According to Forbes, throughout your speech, you should add in natural pauses at important moments. More specifically, “Include 3-8 second pauses at key moments — just before key statements or just after a story — this really brings the audience into the speech.”

5. Understand your nerves and how to treat them

It’s important to understand yourself and the way you experience nervousness. Once you understand what nerves feel like to you, then it’s time to find a coping mechanism. In his interview with Entrepreneur, motivational speaker Simon Sinek reveals his own personal strategy where he tells himself: “You’re not nervous, you’re excited.” That way, he transforms something negative into something positive in order to achieve success.

6. Preparation is key

One of the most important things you can do to ensure a successful speech is simple: prepare. Craft out an outline of the key points you’re going to say and practice it in the mirror as well as in front of friends and family. Ask for feedback so you can improve and bring your best performance when the time comes.

7. Have one primary message

When it comes to crafting your talk, don’t try to throw in tons of topics to cover. Instead, make your speech incredibly focused on a single message. By having a primary message — which you can tie in with various examples, research and personal stories — your audience will understand what they’re hearing and why they are hearing it. You want them to walk out of the room feeling inspired by your message.

8. Avoid filler words

While you’re speaking, make sure to avoid “filler” words like “umm,” “like” and “well.” These words reveal a lack of confidence and insecurity. If you need a second to gather your thoughts during your speech, it’s better to breath and pause.

9. Smile

It’s as simple as that… Smiling is contagious. Whether you’re stuck or closing up your speech, smile at your audience and they’ll typically return the favor.