You're not alone. Technically known as glossophobia, the fear of public speaking afflicts as many as 75 percent of people. Unlike the fear of snakes, spiders, or heights, though, public speaking is a phobia that can be hard to avoid, especially when your job requires it.
That's the bad news. The good news
is that there's a two-step approach that may help. Start by practicing
any presentation several times beforehand by yourself. Once you start to feel in command of the material, rehearse it again, but this time in front of others, such as a friend or a co-worker. By doing this, you're progressing in two important ways. Like an actor, you'll be memorizing lines until they're second nature to you, which can help overcome any nervousness during a speech. But more importantly, the repetition of rehearsing will numb the anxiety that often accompanies public speaking.
That's half of the solution. For the other half, consider joining organizations with a long track record of helping people develop public speaking skills, such as Toastmasters International (www.toastmasters.org) or Powertalk International (www.powertalkinternational.com). With thousands of clubs available throughout the country, these groups assist even the most reluctant speakers in becoming as smooth in front of others as they once were scared.