Even if there's only one or two persons that you can relate to on a slightly more intimate level than 'absolute stranger that I've never set eyes on before and who possible hates me', its going to give you an advantage and help you to not see the audience as a raging monster waiting to devour you.
So do this by arriving early. Walk around the auditorium, join conversations where propriety allows, and shake hands and smile. Be genuine and try to have a pleasant chat with a few people before your speech.
Getting to know the audience is going to help you connect with them in a more natural way, something you can do in your speech that is sure to score you brownie points with individuals or the group as a whole.
For example: If before my talk, I walk around chatting with a few people, I meet Bill who tells a story about his company's labor problems, his wonderful boss or his aching jawbone, then I can genuinely use this information to both my and Bill's advantage.
"Some of these ideas I'll be sharing today will probably hit the mark for most of you. Bill in the front row here, was just sharing with me about some of the labor issues he's had to deal with and I'm sure many of you can relate... so I want to explore some of the win-win ways that we can end up dealing with situations like this and leave everyone happy."
But watch out: You need to be sensitive and realize that not everybody will appreciate you sharing on stage what they told you in relative private. So use your common sense and good judgment here.
Dealing with Phobia Public Speaking & Knowing Your Audience
Arriving early and getting to know the audience has other benefits for your speech as well. Perhaps you get to listen to the speaker in front of you, which is not only going to help you assess the audience based on his talk, but you might be able to follow-up or comment on something he's said.
This kind of continuity can be a great ally, since audiences now know that you've been sitting in the same seats they have, and have enjoyed (or suffered through) the same talks they have. Essentially, it helps when they know that you're on the same page as them, and that youre not some inflated guru who just fell from the sky, only to neatly land behind the lectern, make-up intact.
In today's world, audiences aren't impressed by experts who show up at the last minute, stride on stage to tell them everything they need to know, and then disappear after the final thank you.
There's an old cliché that's nevertheless accurate in saying that people don't care about how much you know, until they know how much you care. And while, as public speakers, our job isn't to inquire and comment on audience's members health, grandma and retirement status, it still pays to show an interest in your listeners, in a personal way.
Along with Getting to know the Audience, arriving early and getting to know the room you'll be speaking in also has a calming effect on your system. Read more on that phobia public speaking tip at the How To Overcome Stage Fright section.
Someone once said that a stranger is simply a friend you do not know. Well, it's certainly much easier to talk to a group of friends, than to a bunch of strangers. So it should figure that it always pays to get to know the audience, and make some friends among the crowd.