Speaking in public is daunting – even if it’s only on Zoom. What if you forget your words, or fall over, or are heckled? But with a little practice it can also be surprisingly liberating

A hilltop in twilight. Snow on the ground. Dog walkers hurrying home. And me, on a soapbox, talking into a megaphone that refuses to work. If you’ve ever Zoomed, you know the problem: I’m on mute. Of course, many people don’t Zoom. Even after months of lockdown, they’d just rather not. And I don’t blame them (you?), because just turning up – at least the first time – feels risky, exposing. A bit like walking on stage; or if not quite that then it’s like sitting in the audience at a panto when the house lights flood the stalls and performers scan the seats for a “volunteer”.

That, to a newcomer, is what Zoom feels like. (Or any other web-conferencing app.) For most of us, it gets more comfortable as we learn to do it more effectively – perhaps even fairly quickly – but first you have to go through the awkward, disorientating early stages, in which you find yourself looking directly up the nostrils of somebody on another continent.

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