My first on-air job was at Bloomberg News.
My schedule at the New York Stock Exchange was 7:30am to 7pm, five days a week. I sat in a little glass booth suspended above the stock exchange floor. There was a morning reporter and an afternoon reporter and I supported both. At the end of each broadcast day, it was my job to get in the anchor seat and record a sample report. The end goal was to demonstrate that I was facile with the language that went with delivering business news. EBITDA. Year over year comparisons. Productivity numbers. Income and spending figures.
I would get on the line with an my friend and colleague who controlled everything that happened in both booths. His name was JB. He spoke with a laugh in his voice and the Caribbean lilt. I would coordinate with him for the reports we taped after the closing bell. I would also coordinate with him to tape my sample reports to turn into my boss.
As luck would have it in the corporate world, management changed. The hiring executive who had brought me in with a plan of putting me on the air, moved to a position in London. The existing leadership brought me in for my annual review. Gave me positive comments, handed me my 8% raise and was ready to send me on my merry way. “But I was brought in as the understudy. The plan was to put me on the air in seven months. I’ve been working on my presentation,” I said.
Looking back, I realized that most young whippersnappers came in the doors of TV stations, dreaming of becoming on air talent. Managers were weary, but I was too idealistic to realize.
“I don’t know about all that,” he replied. “You should take your raise and be happy with it.”
I was crestfallen. I went back to my desk, shoulders down. It had been a hard slog until this point. Paying for college. Getting by, by the skin of my teeth. Paying for graduate school. Taking out loans from banks to pay my bills. Taking out loans to move from Pennsylvania to Washington DC, to Boston, to New Jersey to New York City, to Wyoming and back again. I was tired.
JB heard it in my voice. “You’re not going to tape a report today?”
“No,” I said plaintively. “It’s not happening for me JB.” I shared the contents of the conversation I had with my manager earlier in the day. JB had been at the company for many years. He had seen many management changes come and go. “Tape a report Joya. Come on. Tape a report.”
Begrudgingly, I hauled myself into the high studio chair where the anchors sat, flush with the clear wall that overlooked the exchange floor. I looked squarely in the camera and blundered through a report. And the next day, I taped another. Slightly better. The next day another. Soon I had enough pieces to create an anchor reel. JB took me on a Saturday to Brooklyn to his friend’s studio. I had no idea what I was even doing. The editor asked if I had an outline or plan for how this tape should be cut. “No,” I replied.
JB took the reins, and we carefully put the best 30 seconds of my reporting at the front. It was called a montage. The cuts were fast, and no shot lasted more than 15 to 30 seconds. We made a graphic with my name and my contact details on it. I had my first reel.
Next, I got the name of an agent from a contact. I was always a fierce networker. He was with the William Morris talent agency for many years. But, of late, he opened his own shop and was accepting fresh new talent. I gave him my tape and resume. I continued to do my work at the New York Stock Exchange. I kept the faith. Making the tape renewed that belief in myself. New management had come in again and they put me on the air at the Nasdaq. I had traction. I was chugging along.
And just like that good things happened. That little tape that JB and his friend in Brooklyn put together got me a job at CNN.
Today, I have taken that dynamic of interviewing CEO’s and titans of business from behind the TV screen and in front of a live audience. I helm an executive women’s network for professionals of South Asian origin called LadyDrinks. Here are my top tips for why it’s worth becoming a better public speaker as a business owner.
Take the LadyDrinks Public Speaking Workshop for Leaders October 3rd