Esther Stanhope… “I’ve Busked It!”

It was with great interest I recently logged onto zoom to interview ‘The Impact Guru’ aka Esther Stanhope. In anticipation I’d re-read the Esther article that had initially caught my attention, enjoyed some of her videos, taken the time to navigate her website and ordered ‘Goodbye Glossophobia’, Esther’s Limited Edition book…interview by Juanita Shield-Laignel
I will start by sharing with you exactly what Glossophobia means according to google; ‘Glossophobia is the medical term for the strong fear of public speaking. It is one of the most common phobias: about 75% of the world’s population struggle with this social phobia, or social anxiety disorder, to some extent.’
With one thing and another we were both a little late coming to the zoom table and yet Esther remained unflustered and presented professionally in her ‘zoom room’ sporting a plain white background, a huge poster emblazoned with some of her work and enviable lighting, not to mention bedecked in her statement bright lipstick, groovy glasses and smart but casual jacket.
As is my want I asked Esther to go back to the beginning and tell me about her childhood and how she had come to be an Author, International Speaker and Personal Impact Expert working with some the world’s biggest names – but before that I wanted to know if she had ever worked in Jersey…

“Yes I have hosted a session within the last couple of years for Women in Banking for about 70 people, so I have a few clients in Jersey. They have asked me to come back some time. It was great, I love Jersey…I also did a leadership project for Confidence in Speaking with foreign students – young women. I stayed at the Radisson and spent some wonderful time walking around by the seafront and got accosted by seagulls…sorry just reminiscing and getting into the Jersey vibe!”
Satisfied that Esther is a suitable interloper for the Jerseylife interview slot, I listened intently whilst she regaled me with her life story. “When I was at school I was never that confident – given my work, people laugh at me when I say that and say things like ‘don’t be so silly Esther of course you’re confident’; they think I have natural born charisma…but if you are an extrovert it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re confident, it just means you have a personality type with lots of energy and usually talk a lot!” Esther laughed and carried on talking…!
“You can of course be confident in many things – you can be a confident cook or a confident swimmer but not a confident person in the world. I never thought I was very clever either. As one of six I was aware my siblings were bright, but my brother Harry, three years my senior, was a genius child. At four he was doing the work of an eight year old and at eight he’d achieved Piano Grade 5 and was playing Moonlight Sonata at concerts…so that’s what I thought clever looked like.”
“When he was just 40 my father died of a heart attack and not long after that, in class, Miss Buldock invited me to stand up and read out loud. I stood up, opened the book and couldn’t get the words out, my mind went totally blank, the words made no sense. Now in my late forties I have discovered I am 64% likely to be very dyslexic but of course didn’t know that at the time and there may have been some correlation to how I was feeling having lost my dad!”
“I was aware that many of my peers wanted to be Blue Peter Presenters but remember thinking I wanted to be the person with the ideas to make Tracey Island out of washing up liquid bottles; the person behind the scenes. I went to drama classes at The Questors Theatre in Ealing – the best amateur theatre in London. I loved being involved with telling stories, learning the craft and the combat arts but often choosing not to be the actor instead being the director. I was really confident at bringing the teams together and having ideas but no one ever said to me ‘you’re an ideas person’ – I just fudged it. I got my Drama Degree and did work experience at the BBC and Virgin Radio so fell into that world – but had no idea how to shape my career.”

“Throughout my broadcasting years, I worked in TV studios and on live TV and Radio and then for the BBC for 10 years…I was really happy, comfortable and confident being an unsung hero working in the background as Producer and then Senior Producer, nurturing talent behind the scenes. I always felt really uncomfortable being on camera, however, when you work in those environments you inevitably end up having to at some stage and I remember going through the late 90s as Entertainment Reporter interviewing the likes of George Clooney, Madonna, Oasis, The Spice Girls – everyone and anyone who was anyone around 1996 and 1997, including Sir Richard Attenborough, talking to people, asking questions but there would sometimes be one little snippet where I would appear on camera and I would pick it to pieces because I hated being in the spotlight. I was much more comfortable being the person giving other people confidence, which is a craft in itself – comfortable in that role of getting the best out of people.”
“As part of the management team at the BBC I was encouraged to apply for a senior position and I had to sit in front of the HR panel with some really senior people sitting behind a huge desk with their bits of paper in front of them – I totally felt full on fear or ‘glossophobia’ as I have come to learn it is called – that same fear I’d felt when I was six years old. I had that classic fight, flight or freeze experience…so I know what it’s like to be shaking, sweating and going red when being expected to perform.”
“For a while I was head of programmes for Rapture Television and had to be all across the business not just the creative side so got my taste for business then. Later on my ‘ideas’ skills were really tested as I was part of the team that pitched to Richard Hopkins who was the then head of entertainment at the BBC…it was really hard – we had weekly lessons in how to be shot down. However, I managed to pitch a programme that went the distance. It was called Never Mind The Full Stops with Julian Fellows as quiz master, he’d not done that before and kept asking me if he was coming across ok? I was heavily pregnant at the time and spending my time helping him with the autocue…he seemed terribly concerned for my wellbeing, little did we know the script he kept disappearing into his dressing room to work on was to be the success that Downton turned out to be. That particular part of my career taught me that when your ideas are rejected, it doesn’t mean you are a reject…you just have to keep trying. I also learnt how to help people appear natural whilst broadcasting.”
“Not long after I’d had my kids, the BBC were going through changes and redundancies were coming up and I had a calling, I knew I wanted to do more but wasn’t sure what or how. Then around that time I was doing a Radio show and a colleague approached me and said ‘I’ve got this author coming in and he comes across as really boring – will you take a day off, I will pay you, and give him a personality?’ So I spent the day with this guy in his office – in the morning I had a really dull guy on my hands – by 2pm he was charismatic! The process was so quick and the results so amazing and all I did was stuck a microphone in his hand, a camera in his face and just got him to practice, practice, practice – have a go, have a laugh, relax…it really worked and I had a light bulb moment…I remember thinking ’I really love this, I’m a working mum, I could do this with my own timetable and the results are so good!”
“Before long I’d mentioned it to a really good friend who works at Deloitte saying I was thinking of leaving the BBC and helping people who want to be on camera in the media…his reaction was ‘Why are you doing it for people who want to be on TV? People in business need that more than anyone. I need help with my team now.’ He was right – how many ‘team leaders’ are great behind a desk but are reduced to jelly on a podium. A few months later I’d put together a few ‘quick-fix mantras’, donned my only smart dress and rocked up to his office with a camera and a tripod. After a few hours he said he wanted to roll it out to his team and put me in touch with HR!”
“So I left the BBC and started my own business. I was comfortable working in small groups, then was asked to be a guest speaker at The Women’s Network, talking in front of 40 or so people. The old fight, flight or freeze started to creep in, but then I realised as I was teaching other people how to hold an audience, to project, to be leaders when public speaking, then I had to do this; walk the talk! Not long after, I met ‘The Presentation Coach’, Graham Davies, he speaks a lot for the Professional Speakers Association and he said to me ‘You’re a speaker,’… ‘Oh my goodness’, thought I, ‘I’ve become a speaker!’ It just shows; if you want to be an expert speaker – you can be.”
“And that’s the main thing about my book really – in ‘Goodbye Glossophobia’ – I give people hope that they can do it – YOU CAN DO IT, you just have to throw yourself into it. Most people are afraid of public speaking but the benefits and rewards are massive. So many people think ‘those people can do that but not me’ – I am one of those people – I couldn’t do it at the age of six and then later in interviews, I have had to learn – you can learn too, anyone can learn – they just need to be shown how. Now I am all about helping people get promoted helping them become visible, giving people, particularly women in leadership – a voice.”
“Aside from my book ‘Goodbye Glossophobia’ I’ve also been working on an e-book book ‘How to get your Dream Promotion’ and an online programme in leadership for woman. Working from home in the digital environment has played to my strengths – at the beginning of lockdown, like many, I had to pivot quickly and set up a virtual event reaching 750 people across the globe. I still get nervous and still have self-doubt – but I have learnt, and now teach, that being outside your comfort zone doesn’t have to be awful…in actual fact, it’s good for you. I’ve also been coaching live master classes, learnt how to do virtual webinars and done quite a few podcasts – everyone is going digital, including me. Negative feedback can be a bit of a shock to the system. As senior producer I’ve had to talk some quite famous presenters off a ledge when they’ve had negative feedback – I’ve learnt first-hand, you’re never going to please everybody all of the time.”
I asked Esther what projects she is currently working on. “I always have things bubbling, there has been quite a lot press around the book and going virtual and my Women In Leadership course that you can do online – I just want to use it as a platform to genuinely give more people a voice – there is still a gender pay gap and still not enough women in the boardroom. I aim to empower people, encourage them to use their voice and get more women on the podium!”
I wondered how this all fitted in with family commitments? “My daughter is now 14 and my son 10. They are my only clients who aren’t 100 percent happy with my service. My son has done really well in performance with some basic tips I give my clients like; getting into character, believe in what you are saying, embody it, live it, sell a story. When my kids listen to me, they do really well, but of course they don’t always listen and instead think I’m ‘embarrassing’ and I say ‘I know isn’t that great!’”
“I think not having much parental guidance myself made me a fighter; I had to make my own luck. I was tenacious and maybe because my dad died and my mum was a teacher, working hard and looking after six children, I just scrambled myself into that world I wanted to be in, I made it up as I went along – busking it or what I now call it, I was a Wing it Wonder the other type being a Plannerina – Boris Johnson is a wing it wonder and Theresa May is a plannerina.”
I asked if Esther does things to compensate for her busy working life. “I do quite a lot of press for the British heart foundation – another layer of the life work balance, because, I had a heart attack when I was 45. I was travelling a lot and had been to New York, I wasn’t feeling right and just thought I was unfit. When I returned to the UK I rang my GP and described some of my symptoms…he knew it was a heart attack straight away. Relatively speaking it was just a mild one and medical intervention is so much better than when my dad had his all those years ago. The point of sharing this is being – in that moment, I thought, ‘I haven’t finished, I haven’t written my book, I haven’t done my life yet!’ – I am here to serve, I am here with messages and I know my book is going to help people and I’m so pleased I’ve written it.”
“My priorities have changed, I was stressed for years without realising how important pacing yourself is, so my heart attack has been life changing in the most positive way. I love the science behind what I do, what happens in the brain when the fear flight or freeze happens, the science behind regenerative cell rest and I am loving learning; it’s really rewarding. Going out of your comfort zone can be a quest, a leaning into exciting new adventures, not a stress to be feared…I am no longer afraid when public speaking and I can teach you how to do it too!”
Since this interview – Goodbye Glossophobia has landed on my desk and OMG what a great book!
‘My book WON the Highly Commended Short Business Book of the Year Award 2020’

For the colour edition! Go to
or contact Esther on M + 44 7780 994478