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. People want to hear what an editor has to say. Sooner or later there’s a ceremony or some other formal speaking event that can’t be avoided.
Then overnight, I cracked it.
The secret was something simple: radio.
Speaking on 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 a subject I was more than comfortable talking about. There were only two or three of us in the studio. It was a long session, two or three hours, long enough to get over my nerves.
The show went so well, the BBC asked me back.
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.
At this point I realised I was speaking to a large audience and people found what I had to say was interesting.
This gave me the confidence to speak in public, but to stand on a stage still felt scary. There’s a follow-up post looking at how I managed the next step overcoming my fear of public speaking.