It's amazing to believe that most people put the fear of public speaking ahead of even death itself. Why would you consider public speaking to be worse then death? I believe it has more to do with the fear of criticism then anything else. People have really fragile egos and learning what people really think about them may be too much to take.
When you're speaking in public you have a lot of eyes on you, sizing you up, making snap judgments about you. What you need to do before anything to get over your fear of speaking in public is get over yourself, but there are also basic things you may want to consider as well.
You should consider practicing your speech in front of your mirror before you give a big speech, you'll be able to get a view on how the audience will view you and make the proper adjustments before it comes time for the real function. Some people may say this is silly, but there is nothing silly about it. Practicing in front of a mirror will give you much needed confidence and you'll be able to put the finishing touches on your physical appearance before appearing before a crowd. Practicing in front of a mirror will help you to take notice of any weird facial expression you may make that you're unaware of.
Practice makes perfect as they all say, and repetition will certainly help you refine your speaking skills so that you learn to get over you fear of speaking in public. Practice your presentation, practice the expression of your words to make sure they sound convincing and practice without your speech cards so you can develop the habit of talking without them. If you practice enough pretty soon a lot of the things that may be tripping you up now won't seem like much of a big deal anymore. Practice is the best way to kick the fear demon out of your mind when it comes to public speaking.
I think the most important thing you can remember is that even if you mess up no one will know you've messed up. The people in the crowd have no idea what your speech is going to be about or how you planned it, so if something goes wrong you can just get creative on the spot to bring it back to where you want it to be. You want to do this of course without the crowd knowing, but it isn't that difficult to do, that's where being in control comes into play. When you're in control of your audience you can quickly recoup.
Putting the fear of speaking in public above death is lunacy. You need to understand that you will still be alive even if your speech goes wrong. Do not be afraid to get out there and speak in public, kicking the fear demon will serve you well in public speaking because you'll have gotten rid of the one road block that stops most people in their tracks.