I had a presentation in a class today. We're asked to get up and do 10-15 minutes on our paper topics for the semester. This actually isn't too hard, as I've done this a number of times in other classes since starting this program. It's not as scary as it used to be. But my professor asked me, as he was walking into the classroom today, if I'd go first. "Sure," I said, thinking it would be like the other days have been--he lectures for a while and then the presenters talk. Nope. First meant beginning of class first. This was actually a good thing. No time to get nervous. I just got up there and talked about meaning and metaphor. Tomorrow I have to get up in a different class and talk about focus. I still have to finish working on that.
Time was, I used to get so nervous I would shake like a leaf. When I took a speech class in high school, the first time I got up to talk, I burst into tears (and at 16, that's pretty embarrassing). I'll never forget the way the teacher handled it. I sat down, humiliated, and my teacher gets up and says, "Anna's got what about 70% of us also have: a fear of public speaking. This is normal. It's okay." He didn't make me feel worse--instead he talked about how this happens to a lot of people, and it would be all right in the end. And it was. I was confident enough by the end of that year that I could get up and wing it--just talk about a subject without having much prepared at all. It was great.
Of course, practice helps, I've learned. First time I taught an ESL class, my hands were trembling when I started talking. The more times I have to speak in front of other people, the better I get (I know this is sort of a duh thing, but it's helpful for me to remember it).
These days I save my fear of other people for large social occasions. Those seem more terrifying than giving a speech. (Oh, look Fibres West this weekend...but social occasions with knitty people are usually easier).