For years I couldn’t speak in front of an audience. I was terrified.
Informal speaking to a small group wasn’t a problem. Put me on a stage in front of a crowd and I’d freeze.
My voice would crack or go up an octave. I’d be muddled, confused and unable to remember what I had to say.
If I had notes, I was too nervous to read them. It was painful. And embarrassing.
I was in my mid-20s and my career was taking off. My fear of public speaking was starting to limit my options.
Then overnight, I cracked it.
Not seeing the audience
The secret was something simple: radio.
At the time I edited a computer magazine for beginners. One Christmas, BBC Radio London asked me to come to the studio on Boxing Day to field questions from new computer owners who didn’t know how to get started.
It was something I was comfortable talking about. There were only two or three of us in the studio and it was a long session, long enough to get over my nerves.
There’s more than one type of public speaking
The show went so well, the BBC asked me back. Year-after year. Soon I was getting radio spots on stations all over the UK and national ones too. I had regular appearances on BBC Armed Forces Network and then, the BBC World Service. I was doing radio broadcasts at least once a month,
At this point I realised I was speaking to a large audience and people found what I had to say was interesting. The radio professionals told me they were getting positive feedback from listeners.
This gave me the confidence to speak in public, but to stand on a stage still felt scary. Public speaking didn’t come naturally. But I got there.