■ 17:34 (UTC+08:00), 30 APR 2014 | CHN XIAMEN, FUJIAN
As this post was being published, the current summit is still in progress and most activities are now moving to Beijing, where David will continue to host a one-day special in the city.
The UK is known for great programming — some of my favourites include not just the “plain-vanilla” news shows on the BBC, but also a whole slew of others, including comedies. I know Open All Hours off by heart (in summer 1998 I gave it a quick dekko), and more recent favourites my end include much from Monty Python, Blackadder, Are You Being Served?, Yes Minister, and The Vicar of Dibley.
But British TV is also a must-see when it comes to quality programming. The willingness to take risks is completely different from “being scared for being scared”; the willingness for you to take risks means, in fact, that the UK produces out some of the world’s very best programmes. Never mind the BBC is government-owned; it is most certainly no UK version of Chinese Central TV. A very vibrant independent productions sector means the audience is far more knowledgeable. It also means on Chinese TV we have got to get over this obsession with pushing buttons until they’re broken when it comes to turning down potential boyfriends or finding the next superstar recording artist.
Hosting around 30 of some of Britain’s best media people, including those in the independent documentaries business and others, was and remains a great delight. I learnt as much as the audience, and I was really happy to take part in the event, mainly as a host. To make sure nobody was lost, and that all had a great time, I took on many extra titles in addition to being a “plain-vanilla” host. These were:
- Translator: I personally checked up most translations and did a great many from scratch (although towards the end we ran out of time and we sadly had to outsource just a few).
- Transfer guide: When people came into Beijing from the UK and other destinations, we had to be at the arrivals level to meet and greet them. Most of this went along fine, although we did have some very smart people sneak through using a transfer facility on the other end of the airport. I also provided all arriving attendees with a 6-page guide on clearing customs and finishing transfers.
- City guide / city host: I’ve hosted people on the bus from Xiamen Airport to the venue, and again to and from central Xiamen itself. I’ll also act as city host for the one-day tour of Beijing to come.
- Tech guy and announcer: Often I would help people get their slides working. Instead of fumbling around on a Windows machine, the entire thing was redone so that all presenters had to do was to click or hit the spacebar to continue. On a few events I also remained behind the lectern to make a brief announcement.
- Briefing convener: I was also in charge of convening a quick briefing of UK attendees so to brief them on what was to be expected at the summit.
- Translator trainer: I trained translators at the event and gave them a quick speech — both to test their English but also to ensure they can be informed about new media trends, both in China and the UK.
There was a lot of inspiration my end in how I hosted from what I’ve seen in all those years — remember that’s 22 countries / territories over a million kilometres in my logbook. I took my bit of inspiration from Swiss International Air Lines (announcements in particular, but also the incredible attention paid to detail), the comedy classics on the BBC, a select few Tube announcements (“fresh from London”), and a wild rehash of some of the funnier things I’ve seen. But I also made it informative and relevant: I would actually be standing off-stage, mic in hand (on standby mode), and tune in to the presentation being made. I could always add a few extra sentences at the end, so to keep great ideas continuing into the Q & A sessions or when announcing the next speaker. And I always made a point of shaking the speaker’s hand at least once and encouraging them to perform great.
My favourite event was co-hosting the UK Evening Gala with others from the UK, where we cracked just the funniest jokes ever, and I would continue on with a few in English whilst translating the rest into Chinese using the words I knew might trigger laughs equally quickly. Never mind the fireworks never synchronised with our two countdown attempts: everyone had fabulous fun, and there was a lot of appreciation from everyone at the event.
I’ll happily host such events in future given how much positively there was. Obviously, this being a conference of 200+ people, we did hear a few “interesting comments” about my hosting (so to speak), but the end of the day belonged to responsive hosts who cared to care, not to egomaniacs who really couldn’t care much more. The response from especially the UK attendees were overwhelmingly positive — I felt so good not just hearing the praise and how qualified and great I was to be an emcee, but more importantly, how well the event proceeded with virtually nary a hitch. (It matters much more to me that others are having a great time.) The event in Xiamen was a success and we are carrying this onward into Beijing.
So: See you all in the bus, ladies and gentlemen! ■ ■ ■