Remember that last point. When it comes to public speaking, it's hard not to focus on yourself and the mistakes you could make on stage. But like the best communicators in any medium, great public speakers keep their audiences in mind. If you can tell that your audience is engaged, chances are the anxiety will drain away. You may even be surprised to find how much you're enjoying yourself up there in front of the crowd.

Like it or not, as a small business leader there are times when you have to speak in front of an audience. From sharing a company milestone to making a sales pitch to delivering bad news, your public speaking skills are often put to the test.

If public speaking makes you nervous, you're not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 74 percent of people suffer from anxiety when it comes to speaking in public.

The good news? Some of the most famous public speakers in the world started where you are. They weren't natural storytellers or comfortable in front of a crowd. But by refining their skills, they were able to become stellar speakers who inspired audiences and boosted their business to new heights.

Thankfully, there's a lot these greats can teach you. Here are three key public speaking skills from three masters of the art.

Tell Stories

Steve Jobs was one of the greatest public speakers of our time. While there's lots you can learn from him, one of his most notable public speaking skills was telling a good story.

When it came time for Jobs to share the iPhone, for example, he reviewed Apple's history to create context for the event. "In 1984, we introduced the Macintosh. It didn't just change Apple. It changed the whole computer industry," he said. "In 2001, we introduced the first iPod. And it didn't just change the way we all listen to music. It changed the entire music industry."

Storytelling can provide structure while keeping your audience both entertained and emotionally invested in what you're saying.

Jobs also used stories to fill in awkward gaps. For example, when he once had trouble moving his slides forward, he stopped and relayed a story about himself and Steve Wozniak in college creating a prank device that jammed TV signals. Improvisational storytelling can keep an audience with you even when something challenging happens.

Be Vulnerable

When a speaker lets themselves be vulnerable, it's easier to relate to them. Though it can be difficult to share your hopes, dreams and fears in front of an audience, it's one of the most compelling ways to create a connection.

Researcher Brené Brown is the master of this. Brown gave a TED Talk about vulnerability and how it has lead her on a personal journey to better herself and connect with others. Not only does Brown emphasize that in many situations vulnerability offers a point of connection, but she also practices being vulnerable as a public speaking skill. If you listen to her speak, you'll notice how honest and genuine she seems.

It might be terrifying to share what you really feel on stage, but the payoff can be worth it.

Prepare for Perfection

On his popular blog Wait But Why, Tim Urban wrote an excellent post about how he prepared for his first TED Talk. While Urban had spoken publicly before, the stakes were high at an event where he was surrounded by the world's best scientists, researchers, businesspeople and artists.

Urban, a self-described procrastinator, talks about how much he practiced his talk, joking that he wanted to have it as memorized as the "Happy Birthday" song. Though preparing a speech or presentation with this level of memorization takes the most work, he notes, it's ultimately the least scary for the speaker — and the least boring for the audience.

Remember that last point. When it comes to public speaking, it's hard not to focus on yourself and the mistakes you could make on stage. But like the best communicators in any medium, great public speakers keep their audiences in mind. If you can tell that your audience is engaged, chances are the anxiety will drain away. You may even be surprised to find how much you're enjoying yourself up there in front of the crowd.

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Tags: Leadership Development