As Seen On TV

on Monday, April 09, 2007


Ever since my 100th post, some of you have been curious about my appearances on TV on the BBC, CNN, ABC (Australian) and Al-Jazeera All of these appearances are related to my work because currently I am one of the main spokesperson for the environmental conservation organization that I work for.

I am reasonably articulate and that is one reason that I have been given this role but it is actually very stressful for me as I am inherently and naturally an introvert. As such, I am very uncomfortable under the bright lights and camera. Reminding me that the interview is being filmed live and that millions may be watching is sufficient to set off a panic attack. Somehow, I have survived but the price for “fame” has been paid for through physical illness (nausea, cold sweat, heart palpitations etc) and mental anguish (extreme stress and occasional extreme embarrassment.

The very first interview was for local TV. It was live and took the form of the show’s host guiding the discussion on an environmental topic by asking his two guests specially selected questions to spur debate. The other guest and myself were chosen because we were expected to take opposing views on much of the subject. I was extremely nervous and I was also very intimidated by my opponent. She was a very famous public personality, a senior expert on the topic and a long-time veteran of doing TV talk shows. It was terrible. I stammered. I repeated myself. When I watched it later, I wondered why my voice was so high pitched.

However, the big slip-up was during the middle of a heated exchange, I said, “I am sorry but I have to disagree with…….”. Then my head began to seize up and the room felt like it was spinning round and there was just no way I could remember the name of this person. She was practically a household name in Malaysia but at that moment I just could not bring her name to surface. So I had to end my sentence like this, “…..I have to disagree with a…a…..your other guest.” I wish I could have buried my head in the sand.

My big breakthrough was during one of the bad episodes of haze from forest and peat swamp fires in Indonesia. Someone from Reuters, dropped in to my office, and just asked if he could ask a couple questions on the topic. I knew this guy and felt quite comfortable. The whole thing was over in just a few minutes. It was very impromptu.

To my surprise, the next few days, I heard from friends and relatives from around the world that they had seen me on BBC and CNN. It seems they picked up the footage from Reuters.

During the interview, I happened to recommend a course of action for the government. The following day, after my interview was broadcasted, the government decided to take that action. In truth, I am sure what I said had little to do with that decision which was probably made earlier but the timing was such that some people were impressed by my apparent authority and said so. It was my 15 seconds of media glory.

To counter that high, there were also lots of lows. On one occasion, I was asked to take part in a 20 minute interview. I spent half a day preparing and reading up on the topic and than braved a one hour traffic jam to go to their studio. Suffered through 15 minutes in their makeup section. However, just before I got on, they said they were running behind schedule and had to cut the interview to 5 minutes. I got on, answered one question and then they ended the segment with a short video. I was on for less than one minute. No apologies for the time wasted. That’s just how it works. Oh, and did I mention that they insist on putting makeup on your face. The face powder makes me sneeze and lipstick makes me sick. I think that’s why I always look ill on TV.

Now, despite all this fame, I can still walk the streets without being accosted by fanatical fans. I do not need to have decoy cars to avoid the paparazzi. Strangely, despite spending hours in practice, no one has ever asked me for an autograph. In fact, nothing much has changed except I think I might be getting gastric attacks more often!

23 comments:

Jocelyn said...

You are always so good at explaining thoughts and ideas and teaching me things when I visit your site, so it's nice to get a stronger sense of you as a human being, feeling vulnerable.

Public speaking is, I maintain, one of the hardest things a person can do. You are to be commended for overcoming your natural introversion!

Odat said...

Wow..Lone...You looked fear in the face and laughed!!! I know it doesn't sound that way but you did!! Way to go!! Can I have your autograph????? ;-)
Peace

Open Grove Claudia said...

Hey Squirrelly! You're famous! The Reuters guy did a very cool thing for you. He deserves a pat on the back as well.

I think we all feel stupid speaking in public. Thus most people can relate to nervous people on television - you maybe more impactful because you are nervous!

patterns of ink said...

This was so funny. I can relate. I actually have a degree in communications and it still intimidates me. Sweats. Panic. Been there. One calming fact I remind myself of is that quite often you've been asked to "appear" because you know more about it than anyone else available, then you just have to say, "Lord, calm my heart and clear my mind of fear." As FDR said, I think it's really about fearing the fear not the situaion.
I was once being interviewed about some research I'd done on the Great Depression and I said, "One out of every person was unemployed" (Leaving out the word "4". The host said, "How many?" lobbing me a soft ball to correct my mistake, but I said,"1 out of every person was unemployed." He just said, "Wow. Things WERE bad" and went on.
At the close of the interview he asked for the phone number of our office and I could NOT remember it and said, "They can the office and get it." I was pretty nervous. That was just a local station--not CNN. Don't feel bad. It's great to laugh about those moments, and I am laughing with you my famous new acquaintance.

Ruth said...

cool, I guess I will have to start listening to CNN, but won't, it just depresses me to much. So, I will enjoy your wisdom through the blog. Thanks

Janice Thomson said...

What a great picture LGS!
Public speaking does tend to get one's nerves in a knot. I know that horrible feeling of not remembering to this very day. I recall when I was young, speaking at a 4-H Conference. I won the draw of having to go first. I got the Ladies and Gentlemen part out but after that I was blank, blank, blank...and of course I had no notes because I never used notes before. So it was suggested I could give my speech at the end. Well! I got up and spoke so fast, in case I forgot again, that an 8 minute speech hit an all time 2 minute record! I would have been so happy if the floor would have opened and swallowed me, I was so embarrassed.
But in the end I won a trip to the United Nations in the USA so all was not lost. I was 21 at the time and went on to train businessmen to speak at a Toastmaster's Club...a much better position to be in. LOL

adelym said...

Uncle... I never thought of asking autogragh cos I still get to see you around. My famous uncle. Of course when you appear in newspaper I always tell my friends. Thats my uncle !!! :)

Dave said...

Well LGS! I don't envy you being a "TV personality" but I think that the organization that you speak for is fortunate to have you. I often wondered as to your appearance... Now I have a face to write to... I hope you had a great Easter! :-)

Ellie said...

When you had posted that little thing about yourself, I, too, wondered about your experiences on tv, now I know.

Public speaking makes me go cold just thinking about it. I used to sell "Pampered Chef" products. I would have to get up in front of a room full of guests and prepare food with the products and demonstrate the products, well, it was fine for a time and then one day I started getting stage fright and in the end I had to get my friend to help me finish out my last parties because I was helpless. Stage fright/public speaking can be crippling in a sense and I experienced it. I do much better behind a computer, alone in my cubicle at work then to get up and speak for my living, that is for sure! Nothing as serious as being on tv and having millions see you, but I can sort of imagine how you must have felt.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

jocelyn,
you always say the nicest things. Thanks. My work has always put me at the centre of attention and believe me there have been scores of embarrassing moments. But I just had to grit my teeth and do it.

odat,
I laughed at Fear and it laughed back. Guess who laughed louder! Autograph? I'll post one for you.

claudia,
Kind words. But can you remember who was on TV for 15 seconds last week? I can't. So much for that kind of fame! Plus I'm more for the fortune in "Fame & Fortune" and sadly .....nada.

PoI,
"one out of every person" Yes! That's as bad as my guffaw but you know, you still at least sound scientific saying it. Thanks for cheering me up. :)

ruth,
Yes, I perform on this blog several times a week. More fun than CNN. Honest!

janice,
that must have been a powerful 2 minute speech! Congrats. And I kow-tow to anyone who trains people for Toastmasters....the creme de la creme.

Adelym,
Thanks for the cheerleading section. Hope you had a good Easter? I understand your dad just got baptised?

Michael C said...

Wow, very cool! I can ask you for your autograph if you'd like ;-)

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Dave,
I don't think I am a TV personality....more like "filler" as they say in the trade. Or sometimes "agitator" to get some controversy going.

That's a nice new photo of yourself too. But I must say, you look particularly coool wearing sunglasses. Cheers.

Ellie,
Actually, after a few times, I found appearing on TV less stressful than appearing before a small group like you did. On TV, millions may be watching but really all you see is a camera..... a camera, an inert object that doesn't respond to your mistakes.

Once I was a lab teaching assistant and I had a crowd of thirty students jostling to watch how I did an experiment. I was going well when a crucial moment, a thought entered my head, "what if I made a mistake?". Suddenly I had the case of the nerves and I was physically shaking. I had trouble measuring and placing chemicals in the testtubes bacause I was shaking so violently. The students started to point and snicker. It was horrible. Therefore, small groups that can react and giggle, are worse than appearing on TV. So ellie, you did well.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Oh, wow! You rock. Public speaking is one of the hardest things to contemplate for most people, but good for you for doing it anyway.

I once read that we should always do the thing that scares us most. (I was too scared to adopt that as my motto, but thought it was a pretty good one.)

I hope you take comfort from the fact that you are doing very good and important work in the world. The public stuff will get easier with time, but the makeup probably won't.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

michael,
Thank you. Thank you. Due to overwhelming demand (that's you and Odat), I will include an autograph in my next post. Watch for it.

hearts,
I still don't enjoy appearing on TV shows. It's a chore and it does affect my stress levels so. On the other hand, I've grown to love teaching kids and teenagers in small groups. I'm one confused squirrel. As to that motto, if I followed it, I'd have to do bungee jumping -my no:1 fear! Hah, not anytime soon.

HMYU said...

Good picture! How about if I post an old and very long time ago picture of you for public viewing?! Hmmm....you have to bribe me now for not doing that.. haha.

mago said...

I enjoy your text(s), have to come up with the others I missed the last weeks or so.
When I started studying and hat to give a referat my hands were that terribly shaking that I had to put the paper down, I could not read it.
I learned to do something, to act.
From time to time I have to give a lecture and I like the feeling when "I have them", when the audience is "there", or in a seminar when your students are following and a real communication starts. It is terrible when it fails. Or if I "overdo" - one wrong joke and it is all gone.
I never stood before a camera. Without the direct feedback, without the chanche to react, I would do all wrong.

Becky Wolfe said...

Nice CNN photo Mr. Famous! I'm a little nervous now expressing my comments to a celebrity! *grin* But in all honesty, I'm sure that 95% of people get those kind of jitters you expressed in the face of pressure & on-the-spot moments!
Keep up the good work!

adelym said...

Easter was okay. Yeah..Dad got baptise and I only know it the day before..ahahha.. not much a big deal actually. I was at his previous baptism. This is just formality only.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

HMYU,
I knew it was a mistake to let you know my blog address. whatever, you do, don't show the swimsuit one.

mago,
I think you are very good at public speaking cause you enjoy it. I know what you mean about the wrong joke. Nothing worse than telling a joke and getting silence. :)

becky,
It's no use being a celebrity if it doesn't help you get a table at a popular restaurant. Thanks for the encouragement.

Adelym,
ah...so it was a second baptism. I was wondering.

etain_lavena said...

ghee me...what an interesting adventure...dont worry squirrel, make up is not for everybody;)

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

etain,
Thanks for understanding. You'd think they would sell more pleasant tasting lipstick by now.

CS said...

Wow, you've posted a lot since I was able to make my rounds last. I agree that speaking on camera is nerve-wracking. I can stand in front of a class of college students and teach with no problem, or give a talk at a church or some other organization, but when the camera is on me I don't like it. I had to do a couple of news spots as a representative of the mental health center, and the first time, I stared blankly at the camera for a moment before I was able to find my voice. It was a torment to watch it later.

my backyard said...

I enjoyed reading this. Sounds like you're doing a good job of overcoming your fears.

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