It is highly unlikely that a person can go through their entire life without having some type of public speaking assignment,
or at least in front of a classroom. Not many people are “born” with the total confidence needed to have no fear of this; most of us will indeed go through some stage fright with our first encounter. Knowing, that you are not alone, and that every single person in your listening audience is pulling for you to succeed is your number one thing to focus on. They do not want you to fail any more than you do; if you can get through the first 30 seconds with the message you are prepared, know what you are speaking about and indeed have a purpose, they will relax and so will you.
The worst moments are the 60 seconds before you begin. The same is true for actors, athletes and musicians. Deep breathing and visualizing a positive outcome is very beneficial. Stage actors sometimes “run lines in their head” before their entrances to make sure they are still there; occasionally stage fright has set in that they don’t know their lines, but at the right moment, the words come easily. It is a learned skill that anyone can do.
Before you prepare your speech, presentation, lecture, proposal or even an important toast at a wedding, try to remember it need not be stressful. It may become the highlight of your day, your week, your month or even the best thing you have done all year. You may wonder afterward just what were you nervous about? You also do not have to be brilliant, famous, or an expert to give a successful speaking engagement. All you need to be is: sincere, knowledgeable about your topic and have a definite purpose.
Humility and humor go a long way at relaxing both the audience and yourself.
If you think a bit of humor is needed, by all means use it. When you get the desired result from the audience, the rest of your presentation will probably be smooth as glass. If the humor failed, have an alternative remark to make about it ahead of time, showing you understand. Having good eye contact with the audience is favorable, and smile once in awhile.
Be prepared on your subject; know it inside and out, in the advent of questions. Practice with family members or friends. Don’t memorize a speech, bore people with bullet points on a screen or try to follow an exact script (unless you are an actor). Speak in a clear, distinct voice and if your normal voice does not carry to the back of the room, use a microphone. To be truly appreciated, your words must be heard.