Posts Tagged ‘promoting a book on TV’

For me and TV, third time was the charm

January 19, 2014

Far wiser people than me have uttered these words, but allow me to reiterate: Be careful what you wish for.

Two months ago, with the hope of raising “Kiss and Tell’s” profile, Dr. Whelihan and I hired a public relations firm, which has led to me making three television appearances and realizing that while I do want “Kiss and Tell” to be famous, I do not actually want to be famous.

Back before “Kiss and Tell” was published, I naturally dreamed about it being a best seller. I confess to fantasizing about chatting with Oprah about all that I’d learned from the women I met while writing the book. In such fantasies I was relaxed and coherent.

I now know the reality of television bears little resemblance to my fantasies.

Dr. Whelihan appears on TV every month for a segment about sexual health on “Charlotte Today” and she makes it look incredibly easy. Because I am an extrovert and enjoy speaking publicly about “Kiss and Tell,” I was unprepared for how truly terrified I was when our PR agency notified me of an opportunity to appear in Miami on NBC’s “6 in the Mix.”

I was in Lake Wales visiting friends when I got the call. Unfortunately I’d just arrived for a 4-day visit, so I had to cut our time together short and drive back to West Palm that night, then get up early and drive to Boca Raton the next morning, where the agency’s media coach Chris worked with me for an hour before taking me to Miami for the 11:30 a.m. live show.

I was profoundly grateful for all the tips Chris gave me (ignore the camera and have a conversation with just the host; keep your comments simple; when in doubt, keep quiet and let the host fill in, etc), but nothing really prepared me for the panic I felt sitting in the lobby of the news building waiting for the producer to fetch us. It rose and fell several times, complete with rapid heartbeat and a practically debilitating sense of dread.

I calmed my breathing when I got on the set, but I only had 30 seconds to visit with the host before we went live, and during those 30 seconds a producer was counting down the seconds in the background. It was NOT calming. My performance was merely adequate, but over quickly and I was profoundly relieved.

I figured Dr. Whelihan would do all the rest of the TV, and indeed she did the next taping our PR agency secured for us. But InsiderMedia is very good at their job, and since both Dr. Whelihan and I were traveling at Christmas time, the agency was seeking bookings for us in the cities we were visiting.

And thus, on the way to Austin for the holidays, all wrapped up in Christmas cheer, I get a text during my Atlanta layover asking if I am available five days later to tape a segment at the Fox-affiliated station in Austin.

My heart fell because I knew my coach wouldn’t be there to quell my fears. But I quickly rallied enough to think positive, and for the next five days I concentrated on not panicking and just rehearsing what I might say to surprising questions about “Kiss and Tell.” (InsiderMedia marketed us over the holidays by pitching us as experts in how to keep your sex life active during the busy and stressful holiday season). By Monday morning I was ready, if nervous.

My friend Dianne accompanied me to steady my nerves, thank goodness. This time the segment was taped, not live, but it feels the same. You get the feeling no one wants to stop the cameras and I was still terrified to make a mistake. The two hosts and I took about a minute to talk before the taping began, and we had a good chat. But then they opened with an extremely general question we didn’t discuss—and I was stumped. D’oh.

Helpful people later informed me that I might do what politicians do and just answer whatever question I want. You know, control the interview. This assumes that I am not so scared that I can barely think. There’s a reason for that phrase about freezing in front of the camera, people. It’s real. I have thought about why it happens and I don’t really understand it. I wish I did.

When I speak to groups of people and I say something wrong, I never worry. I just correct myself and move on. But something about having that mistake recorded for all time makes you not want to say anything at all. You are so sure you’ll say something dumb that you’re struck silent.

Anyway, I did OK in Austin after I recovered from that initial question. But my mouth got so dry that my lips stuck to my teeth, so that was unsettling. Dianne said it wasn’t noticeable but I was afraid I was going to have to unstick my lips and teeth with my fingers! Classy, no?

The station aired the segment about four days later; I watched it once and didn’t want to view it again. It made my stomach feel squirmy to watch. I could see that I didn’t seem relaxed, but didn’t know how to fix it as long as I was too scared and insecure during the filming process to think clearly.

Meanwhile, Dr. Whelihan had been booked for a similar segment in Charlotte, N.C., where she was spending the holidays, and I watched her clip on Facebook. She completely nailed the interview and seemed totally at ease in every way, bantering with the host and chatting breezily off script about any and everything.

I was so frustrated over performing badly, and further annoyed for being unable to control my emotions and physical response on camera. Happily, Dr. Whelihan called the next day and gave me a pep talk, reminding me that she had been doing television work for 15 years now in one form or another, and had done taped work for 10 years before she ever had to go live.

“Lighten up, girl,” she said. “We’re our own worst critics.”

I really appreciated the support. I took a deep breath and decided to just relax into the rest of my vacation.

The next day the PR agency called to say a San Antonio TV station (an hour and a half away) wanted to have me on four days later. Was I available?

To tell the truth, I almost said no.

It was an early morning show in an unfamiliar city . . . and I knew I’d have to endure another four days of panic. My mom had just come down with the flu, I didn’t think anyone in my family could drive with me to San Antonio and I was just flat out tired of being scared.

But you don’t hire a PR agency and then turn down the bookings they find for you. I said yes.

And in fact, my subsequent panic was so bad that over the next few days I occasionally took a Xanax, just to get a break from the anxiety. Sure, I was discouraged by my reaction, but I was trying to adjust to the fact that TV appearances might be part of my life for a little while. I knew I had to figure out how to handle them more effectively.

Fortunately my sister Joan made the sacrifice to set her alarm for 5 a.m. to go down to San Antonio with me for the live show. (Yes, another live show!) I can’t imagine what a basket case I’d have been trying to make that drive on I-35 alone. We arrived a little early and set up camp in the green room. (That’s what TV stations call the room where guests wait to be called to the set.)

And there in the green room I had a little epiphany. I suddenly realized that I was the expert on the subject of women’s desire and I needed to stop allowing the circumstances surrounding TV studios to intimidate me. Somehow I needed to relax and just find a way to share my expertise.

I had taken a Xanax that morning, to get my physical symptoms of anxiety out of the way, and I felt fairly calm. Then the producer of “San Antonio Living” came in and told me they wanted me to stay on after my segment and talk on air with the host, Shelly Miles, about the questions they had received on Facebook that morning. I knew I was doing better than usual when that news didn’t phase me.

Soon after, they called me to the set. Joan came along to snap a few photos. I liked their set up, because we sat at a tall table instead of on couches, and I could see a screen that showed when I was—and wasn’t—on camera. So when I wasn’t shown, it was like being on recess. I could lick my lips, push my hair back or just relax and breathe without feeling self-conscious. The whole scenario felt much more relaxed because of those couple of things.

Shelly asked me the first question and I had the answer. And just like that, everything was fine. I liked her, she seemed engaged by what I said, I didn’t feel intimidated—and things just took off. We were on for 10 minutes! During the break she told me a question she wanted to ask, but it wasn’t something that fed into anything I had insight about. So I found the courage to suggest something else. Which she liked! She immediately picked up on it and fed into it seamlessly as soon as we came back from commercial break. How those TV folks can do that so effortlessly is beyond me.

Needless to say, it was by far my most successful appearance. Plus, the book was featured throughout, and at the end Shelly mentioned our website, so that was extremely encouraging.

When it was over, I was euphoric. I felt like I’d overcome a huge obstacle. Joan and I walked along the Riverwalk for a little while and stopped for a breakfast of chocolate milk and a blueberry muffin. I was chattering with happiness. I told Joan I would likely experience nervousness at future television appearances, but that at least now I had a positive encounter to lean on and think about when going into such endeavors. And knowing I could do well would build my confidence.

As it turns out, this is extremely helpful to me today, since tomorrow I am heading over to WPTV, here in West Palm Beach, to tape a segment that will air locally during the week of Valentine’s Day. Yes!

And the same afternoon I go to Fort Lauderdale to appear on a new talk show about relationships titled—I kid you not—”Get Some.” I don’t know any more about it than that because it’s a new show. (I have to say that “Kiss and Tell” might just be the perfect book to be featured on such a show. I’ll get back to you on that.)

I firmly believe my success on the San Antonio show has enabled me to face tomorrow’s tapings without dread. Granted, I’m not exactly jumping up and down with eagerness, but I’m not panicked and I haven’t had to take any Xanax.

I admit, I’m still a long way from being the Oprah-ready author I was in those daydreams I had a short while ago!