Vernon Kay hosted an all-star panel for this RTS Futures event, where top presenters revealed how they made their big breaks.
The all-star panel assembled for the final RTS Futures event of the year on how to present telly were forced to relive their small screen debuts. While embarrassing for the professionals, the clips simultaneously gave hope to the audience of would-be presenters.
"No one starts off being bloody brilliant - it's a learning curve," said event and ITV's All Star Family Fortunes host Vernon Kay.
Presenter of The Great British Bake Off Sue Perkins watched herself perform a shambolic song and dance routine from 1997 with comedy partner Mel Giedroyc and Kylie Minogue on Channel 4 chatshow Light Lunch. ITV News at Ten anchor Charlene White witnessed her small-scale debut, an ITV News Meridian report from 2001 on a pilates course in a church hall.
"They're all really sh*t," admitted Anna Richardson, after viewing a clip from her early presenting gig on ITV sex education show Love Bites. "Don't kid yourself that just because you do a bit of vlogging or [filming] your own little packages that you're really good. It really does take quite a few years to become good as a presenter."
C4 Paralympics presenter Alex Brooker got off lightly, with the RTS futures audience viewing his creditable audition tape for the broadcaster. "There's no hiding when you're learning because you're learning on the telly," he said. At the Paralympics opening ceremony, Brooker had to interview Prime Minister David Cameron. "I was sick in the toilet before," he recalled.
Holly Pye, Head of Television at talent agency James Grant, argued that it was harder for today's young presenters to learn their trade. Many current primetime presenters had cut their teeth on children's or youth programmes, which are now far less common on the main channels "You've got to learn the skills and learn them somewhere where you are allowed to mess up," she said.
"There's a lot of talk about YouTube being the new way but it's not that easy to make the transition [to TV]," added Pye. "Getting into production and finding ways [to present] through that has probably been more successful."
"You have to understand how telly works. I obsessively watch news programmes," added White.
"Write and put on a show," suggested Perkins, who wrote and performed comedy with Giedroyc for many years before breaking into TV . "Edinburgh [festival] is an amazing place to get seen if you have anything of a comedic bent, or you write sketches of if you have a point of view on the world that would make great stand up."
"You must understand the medium. You can either do that through writing, performing, being involved in production or journalism. If anyone here wants to be on television to be famous, to get girls or to be rich, you're never going to be on television."
The RTS Futures event, "I made it ... on screen", was held at the Hallam Conference Centre in central London on 9 December. It was produced by Anna Richardson, James Longman and Rebecca Templar. A full report will appear in the next issue of Television.
Report by Matthew Bell
Films by Rebecca Stewart