It was a little over 12 years ago that one of the most important things in my life happened. For some of us, this might have been “just another evening in Beijing”. For a few, getting onstage in front of an audience of 600 (as I was told by organisers) was too scary (stage fright!). For me, it was just the right event at the right time.
(It’s amazing when you try new things — only to find it worked, much was the case for me when I did my first speech to an audience of hundreds on 14 December 1996.) ▶
New developments out of Beijing are no longer that good when it comes to you being the next big presenter on TV. And for me, personally, I feel awful about it, since that’s how I got my start in my career, which involves media.
When I wanted to be a presenter, it “just happened”, in comparison. (I think I have to count myself lucky, just to make it fair.) A perfect timing of suddenly discovering I was better suited onstage than offstage, a willingness to entertain, plus a lack of good English speakers back when China was getting excited for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing — these probably landed me the golden opportunity, as I started hosting radio shows, first on university radio, then took it to the next level with the Communication University of China. The perfect combination of taking extra courses in English broadcasting and meeting a friend who’d later be involved with Radio Beijing meant that I had a great opportunity to be part of the radio station, first as an intern, then being an actual voice behind the microphone. This later evolved in becoming part of the show’s production team (as opposed to merely reading stuff others have prepared for you).
But what has happened recently in the Chinese job market have both graduates and even media veterans (like me) more than concerned. ▶
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. And for me, hHosting 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.
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. ▶
December 5, 2003. A day that kind of changed my whole life for me. Dad forced me into the University of International Business and Economics, confident that he would see an Adam Smith, PRC-edition, in the making. Instead, we’d see someone else.
December 5, 2003… to steal Air Canada’s tagline, was a breath of fresh air…. I suddenly realized that, three and a half years into this economics brainwashing, I was much better suited to be a presenter/host/anchor/take your pick than to fulfill my dad’s dream of being a top-notch economist.
I didn’t drop out as a result; instead, I felt my way out of the university by hosting more and more events. The climax came on April 16, 2004. In front of me were 1,000 people — and there was not a chance for mistakes to be made.
But did I care about that? No… instead, I just “did my thing”… entertained the audience… and that was pretty much it.
The dream lives on. ▶
I had no idea that we were expecting an audience in the thousands. In fact, I had never hosted a fashion show before! At 19:00, we were ready. The four of us went onstage — I was joined by radio station co-hosts Joyce and White, as well as another presenter. As you can see in the picture, my outfit, sponsored by Smart Garments, didn’t work out too great as I was 1.91 m tall!
Speaking in front of over 1,000 people, though, was electrifying. All eyes were focused on us — two presenters speaking in Chinese, and two (me included!) in English. Later that night, I would completely wow the audience — when I tried speaking Chinese onstage, applause came suddenly and unexpectedly, as if they wondered if this Chinese-looking presenter (me!) actually spoke the national language in China!
This was an event that I thought I could never pull off “just like that”. But when you host 600 people (late last winter) and are on university radio, I guess you just take what they give you! ▶
Yesterday was my second time to host this combined Christmas and New Year Gala here at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, for international students. In spite of the diversity of all students, the language used, of course, was Chinese, as we were all in China.
We had three other co-presenters: one from Africa, and two from South Korea. This was an incredibly multicultural mix, and I was so pleased to host them again, after being recommended onstage for the 2002 edition.
As I took this event quite seriously, I was the sole presenter dressed in suit and tie! But everyone looked their very best. Word of this also went to a few new local Chinese friends I had just made, and they sent in their congratulations on the event. ▶