If you're an entrepreneur who intends to scale your business, it's inevitable that you will someday stand before an audience with the future of the company in your hands. Whether you're seeking third-party funding or marketing your brand, public speaking is essential to growth.

"Companies are waking up to the value of treating presentations as an important part of the marketing mix," says James Ontra, founder and CEO of presentation management company, Shufflrr.

But speaking in front of a crowd is an art that challenges some entrepreneurs. "It's not enough to be well-prepared and put together to deliver a good presentation or pitch," says Ontra. "You've got to be a storyteller and capture your audience's imagination."

These iconic speakers do just that. Studying them as they captivate a crowd is a perfect way to learn. According to the Shufflrr team, these are some of the things you'll notice.

1. Steve Jobs

When Apple's iconic leader would stand up on a stage, you had no choice but to pay attention to what he was telling you. Why? Because he knew how to tell a story that would make the audience feel awed by the product he was introducing.  When he introduced the first iPad--a device he described as magic--he didn't tell his audience that his company had come up with a useful new product, he showed them how it could be used in creative, almost magical, ways.  

Jobs achieved this kind of effect the same way a film director might. He brought drama to presentations: both in the lead up to the announcement of new Apple devices and through creating presentations that were story-driven. And those stories tap into human emotion: They make you feel that, yes, an iPad really is magical.

While Jobs's aptitude as a speaker might seem innate, the techniques that he used are ones that you can learn and adopt. To give your presentations a story-driven impulse, use compelling anecdotes about your product or offer that tell the story of how it will be a game-changer. And keep the focus of your story on you and your product. Jobs's minimalist style of dress, and his equally minimalist approach to product, advertising, and, yes, presentation slide-show design, all helped keep the focus on the experience users could have from Apple products.  

Finally, in terms of presentations as stories, think about what you want people to feel when they experience you, your company, and your product. Feelings move people to act, and the right story will help your audience connect feelings to your product.

2. Anthony Robbins

Millionaire performance coach Anthony Robbins has built his success on his ability as a speaker, so he's an excellent example to turn to if you want to strengthen your presentation skills.

Robbins has a unique ability to connect individually with his audience members. When he speaks, everyone in the room feels like he's speaking directly to them. While this is a crucial tactic for a motivational speaker, it's also vital for entrepreneurs, because it's how you make people feel invested in your success. To adopt this strategy, find a way to connect on an individual level with your audience. You might personalize and address an experience that's common in your industry, or tell a story that shows you understand your audience's specific needs, offering them something that fills those needs.

3. Mary Barra

Mary Barra isn't just the CEO of General Motors, she's also one of Time magazine's Most Influential People in the World. Barra is so influential because she has a presentation style that motivates people and inspires them to work with her toward a collective vision.

Barra is first and foremost a consensus builder. At GM, she holds town hall meetings that invite input on projects from a broad range of employees. This not only makes team members feel invested in the decision making process, it also brings new ideas to the table. You can follow her lead by creating forums that allow you to be approachable by team members or audiences: Ask questions of them, or invite their questions, so that your presentations involve people. Your presentations will become a catalyst for discussion that leads to evaluating things from every angle. By turning a presentation into a group effort, you can also share your success with your team or audience: They will feel the pride of success or the pain of failure along with you. 

Finally, take a page from Barra and be yourself. Barra is candid and honest, and people love that authenticity. She's not afraid to ask when she needs feedback. Not knowing an answer and looking to the audience shows that you are genuine and open to your audience's input. That, in turn, invites them to open up to you.

4. Ken Chenault

American Express CEO Ken Chenault is highly in demand as a speaker. He regularly delivers commencement addresses at colleges and universities, and he's highly involved in public service. He's an effective speaker because his presentation style reflects his values and actions.

When Chenault speaks, his audiences come away with a strong sense of who he is because his presentations represent his values, but he doesn't hammer audiences over the head with his beliefs. Instead, through the power of rhetoric, he allows audiences to come to their own conclusions. You can do the same thing by speaking from a place of values: let your presentations be fueled by the things that you think are important.

You've also got to put your money where your mouth is. Don't make empty promises--always follow through and deliver on what you say. Chenault's presentations are powerful because his actions reinforce the values that he communicates. Be clear in your presentation and let your actions reinforce what you say.

Finally, Chenault's presentations are effective because he gives the audience a clear destination--a narrative thread, so to speak. This brings us back to where we started, with Jobs. Having a clear story that audiences can follow helps foster connection and understanding. And be inclusive: Make sure to give your audience every piece of information they need to understand your story and your reasoning. That way, they always arrive at the destination with you.

Published on: Oct 26, 2015