TOUTING itself as X-Factor meets the Apprentice, it felt more like entering Dragon's Den when I queued up for my latest assignment and joined those auditioning to be the new face of TV shopping channel QVC.

When my husband guffawed with laughter, avidly recounting scenes of Jaundice Julian, the tangerine tinted buffoon on the home shopping channel in Bridget Jones' Diary, I decided this job would remain top-secret.

Yet, the response to the nationwide auditions has been overwhelming with thousands queuing up for the chance to impress the judges.

With a plethora of reality TV shows, why would thousands of men and women of all ages, from shop assistants to GPs, put themselves through this to be an on-screen salesman for the latest beauty product, gadget or piece of jewellery?

Well, the ultimate winner will be beamed live into 17 million homes and it could be the start of an illustrious career in presenting.

So along with candidates clad in anything from jeans to attire more suitable for a night on the tiles, I joined the line of would-be presenters at the City of Manchester Stadium.

While we waited, I chatted with a very enthusiastic Catherine McGargo who had travelled from London for the audition. She said: "I would love to work in live TV and have worked in theatre.

"I like the challenge of improvisation and think QVC is really good."

Then the moment of reckoning arrived.

In batches of four we were lead to booths for the first stage of the audition.

We had two minutes to talk about a holiday or why we wanted be a QVC presenter.

Having only seen QVC in the TV guide or flicking channels, it was an easy decision to wax lyrical about a recent trip. But when I was told I now had one minute to sell a bottle of water I found myself beginning to flounder.

Sharing a story is used to gauge how comfortable the person is talking and apparently to assess how trustworthy and credible they are.

While I somehow made it to the next stage, the dreams of stardom for more than half the room ended there without having even met a judge or real life presenter.

The remaining hopefuls were led upstairs and given 15 minutes to choose one of eight products, from a necklace to a wind-up torch, to flog to the judging panel.

I went for the juicer and started committing facts from the accompanying sheet to memory before being led into the studio.

'X' literally marked the spot and under the bright glare of lights and cameras, my three minute spiel - or ordeal - in front of the panel began.

After an indeterminable amount of time, I was instructed to stop by the Simon Cowell of the QVC world, head of presenters Mark West.

The lowdown on my performance was constructive...I came across as warm and credible and had covered every facet and fact about the juicer.

Apparently I was even the only person in the country who had commented that the pulp from the juiced vegetables and fruit could also be used as compost.

The criticism centred on my failure to pepper my presentation with personal anecdotes and show my personality...through a juicer in three I failed to convince any of them to buy it.

At least I had remained true to my cause: the raison d'etre for journalists is to be impartial, reporting on the facts and not giving an opinion.

Now my fate was in their hands.

One-by-one the verdict was doled out down the line: Guest manager Barbara Gainsley said 'no', the second, Julia Roberts, said 'yes' - praise indeed from the long-standing presenter.

While Mark West procrastinated over the deciding vote I felt my pulse rate rise as I wondered what I would do if I did get through, before he saved me the decision and gave me the thumbs down.

Afterwards, they shared some of what they were looking for.

Mark said: "I want someone who is hard working, focused and passionate about the product.

"Personality, enthusiasm, intelligence and somebody with an interesting life makes a great presenter."

Julia added: "We need someone with warmth and honesty, who people find believable."

As for Catherine, she's still doing well, making it through to the next round, she has clearly made the right impression.

The ultimate winner will be decided by QVC viewers who will choose from eight finalists in a weekly knock-out competition starting on September 9.