For some reason a lot of people think that being able to speak in public is a natural talent. People always say to me, "It's easy for you. You're a natural speaker!" To which I reply, "Says who?" I entered my first public speaking competition when I was 12 years old, and I've been learning and practicing ever since. I really hope that I've shown some improvement in my public speaking style over the past 16 years!
Just because I started earlier doesn't mean my path has been any easier. I've completely blanked out in the middle of my speech. I've tripped. I've spilled water on myself. I've sweat excessively. My hands have shaken so hard I've knocked my visuals over (this was before PowerPoint). I've mispronounced words. I've said ridiculously stupid things and tried to cover them up with a smile. You name it and it's happened to me. The point is, you learn your lessons through experience, and you get better every time.
Anyone can become a good public speaker, but like everything else in life, it takes some work. It's easy to make excuses and let fear get the best of you. The people that go out there, take a chance and make an effort are the ones that will succeed in public speaking. You can't get better at something if you don't start trying.
The first step to improving your public speaking style and overcoming your fear is to just go out there and do it. Volunteer to speak at every opportunity. Clubs and associations are always looking for speakers for their meetings. Volunteer to do the speaking at work when your team needs to present the findings of the latest report. Or just start with your child's career day at school.
Think of every speaking opportunity as a learning opportunity. Set realistic expectations and don't be too hard on yourself. Have a friend or colleague critique you, and choose two or three things you would like to work on before your next talk. Take small steps and with time you'll suddenly notice what great leaps you've made since you started.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and make your mark on the world!