When I was six I just couldn’t get my words out. I had a stutter. ‘Slow down!’ the teachers would shout. ‘Think what you’re going to say first !’

None of that helped until I came across what I thought was a solution.

I would stamp my foot on the ground when the words got stuck.

Left at first and if that didn’t work, right.

It resulted in baffled looks and of course skitting from classmates.

Crisis communications

Later I began to say things out loud in private so my vocal chords got used to the dynamics of actually saying the words without me losing my breath and the words getting ‘caught in my throat’.

The stuttering eventually stopped and I saved the foot-stamping for the footy field.

But quite often that’s how we go about problems in life…trying a number of home-made solutions until we hit upon one that works, at least for some of the time.

I’d learned to cope with the stutter by default but it was a long journey.

At the Beeb

Later in my twenties I was lucky enough to be taken on by the BBC as a reporter and it became second nature for me to read the words out loud before I uttered them on air.

I’d learned that, for me, physically saying the words out loud before appearing on air really helped my delivery.

I went on to read bulletins, present programmes and nowadays I coach others to become accomplished media performers & public speakers.

In retrospect it sounds SO obvious but at the time it wasn’t and this remains so today particularly – but not exclusively – during times of crisis.

When I was a news editor I used to encourage newsreaders to read the copy out loud before they went on air to reduce the chances of stumbling. I must have coached scores of newsreaders over the years and I only encountered one who could always read copy out ‘blind’ without ever stumbling.

Fair play to him, but in my experience most people can’t do that even if they think they can – they usually stall along the way.

Being interviewed

If you’re going to be interviewed by the media I would also urge you to SAY THE WORDS OUT LOUD beforehand, especially key phrases, during your preparation.

Get the key words right, get the phrases right and get the silences right.

As I found out as an anxious kid – get the silence right and the words will look after themselves.

In our media training workshops we show you how to prepare for and execute interviews and speeches effectively.

It works as well remotely via Zoom as it does in person.

There’s no foot-stamping from me either.