“Mick…I don’t know how to tell you this but I can’t make it tonight. I’ve got gastro-enteritis and I feel terrible…. I can’t move from here.
I felt the blood draining from my face and my stomach starting to churn, as if I had gastro-enteritis too.
It was 5 o’clock, just two hours before the ceremony was about to start, and there I was all booted and suited at Liverpool’s Crowne Plaza hotel.
The BBC’s Director-General was there as were his key department heads, along with many other colleagues from around the BBC.
We’d put lots of blood and sweat into the event but now it looked like the tears would begin.
Our star turn, one of our most popular radio presenters (who was also a highly successful comedian) had pulled out.
It was too late to call other comedians. It was Friday evening and any entertainer worth his or her salt would be working.
The buck stops here
“Well, give me your best jokes , I’ll learn them and and let’s see how it goes tonight”.
So he did.
Over the next 20 minutes I wrote down and rehearsed and rehearsed three jokes, with Sean correcting me when I got the timing wrong or used a word in the wrong order.
I learned the hard way that telling jokes on stage is considerably more difficult than when in the pub with your mates; one word out of sync and it’s just not funny.
My stomach was doing acrobatics and my throat went dry as I repeated my versions of the jokes to him down the phone.
“No, you can’t say it that way, you have to say it this way…’
When I got the words right I was momentarily elated before immediately worrying about what would happen if I got them the wrong way round on the stage.
Preparation – don’t you just hate it.
In the Spotlight
I decided not to tell anyone else -other than the compere for the evening- that Sean was unwell, not even my boss who was sitting next to me at the top table.
When I bounced up (I think it was more of a weird skip) on stage, he looked at me in utter bewilderment and probably wondered whether I’d been over-doing it at the drinks reception.
Suffice it to say, the response to my three-joke turn from the audience was 100 times better than I’d imagined and I have to say that I got a massive adrenalin kick when the laughter and applause rang through the room.
And although I was delighted it went well, I wouldn’t choose to go through it again.
But if I guess if I had to, I would.
And it’s a bit like that with our intensive media training workshops – but without a 150 star-studded audience of BBC staff hanging on to your every word.
I was out of my comfort zone but I did ok. If I hadn’t have done ok it would have been a horrible experience but you know what ultimately I think I wouldn’t have regretted it.
In life sometimes you’ve just got to go for it and I’m glad I did.
If you’re one of those people who don’t relish the spotlight you might too be feeling nervous about appearing on the telly or radio but that’s what our crisis communications training is for ; and I can honestly say that over the past 7 years ( I left the BBC in 2015) I haven’t met one person who hasn’t improved their media performance by attending one of our workshops, whatever their level of experience.
As with so many things in life, once you experience it, it’s never as bad as you had anticipated.
And the same is true when you’re interviewed on tv or radio for real as well.
Or public speaking on a stage.
If you think we might be able to help with your organisation’s crisis communications and media training please get in touch.
If you want to train to be comic please contact me and I’ll put your in contact with the comedian in question, Sean Styles.