Sue Shellenbarger, one of my favorite columnists, recently wrote a column for The Wall Street Journal about overcoming personal terror when giving a speech. She made some excellent points, but she missed one critical source of apprehension: There is always at least one person in your audience looking back at you with a grim look or arms folded, ready to disagree with almost anything you might say.
I remember an incident many years ago in Boston when I was waiting backstage with my boss to speak before a large group. Al Doyle was thirty years older than me and had delivered many such speeches, but he was shaking visibly with nervousness. When I asked him why, he replied that he was all right when he finally got on stage, but that he always worried about some things in advance, including the possibility of a negative response from some individual in the audience.