Monday, April 23, 2007

Interview with Edward Leigh, Speaker

Edward Leigh is a keynote speaker and seminar leader who's had many media experiences! Eddie focuses on creating positive workplace and learning environments. He presents high-energy and informative programs to a wide variety of groups, including corporations, associations, government organizations, hospitals, schools and universities. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Health Education.

He appears on many national television shows, including interviews on MSNBC News and the Today show, where Katie Couric interviewed him. He can now also be called “Reality TV Star” after his appearance on the Discovery Health Channel show, Mystery Diagnosis. The program is repeated on the “regular” Discovery Channel. He writes articles for several national publications, including Coping, Wellness Perspectives and The Association Management Magazine. He is also a monthly columnist for Speaker Magazine. He has been written about in hundreds of local and regional magazines and newspapers. Multiple online publications also feature stories on his work.

LA: Eddie, you have had high-profile national media appearances. What is it like to be interviewed by Katie Couric?

EL: I could see why Katie is in the top of her profession. She made me feel at ease. We actually met three times during my visit to the NBC studio. When I first arrived at the NBC Studio a Page was assigned to act as my guide. The Page first took me on the elevator. As soon as we got to the destination floor, the elevator doors opened, and there was Katie waiting to get in the elevator. She smiled at me and said she looked forward to our interview. I never asked how she knew it was me -- I assume she recognized me from all the photos I sent to NBC. (In preparation for my interview, they asked me to send pictures of myself.) We then met again during preparation for the taping. Our first real conversation was touching -- she discussed her late husband, Jay. She mentioned that her husband was the same age as I was when he was diagnosed with colon cancer. After the interview, I took pictures with her. I then went to the Green Room, where I met other Today show guests, including Mayor Ed Koch and Governor Mario Cuomo. They asked for presentation skills tips! Katie walked by the Green Room and saw me; she then came in and said, "Great Job, Eddie!"

LA: That had to make you feel good! There are a lot of us who would like to be on a national morning news program. How did you get considered for the show?

EL: After I was diagnosed with colon cancer in August 1999, I joined the organization, the Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA). I also joined a colon cancer discussion group via the website, Association of Cancer Online Resources. I became active with both CCA and the discussion group; they became very familiar with my story -- a young guy with colon cancer. About 90 percent of colon cancer cases are in people 50 and over. However, that still leaves ten percent under 50, which translates into about 13,000 people! I was 41 years old at the time of my diagnosis. In January 2000, the Today show contacted CCA and producers said they were planning a week-long series on colon cancer called, “Confronting Colon Cancer.” They wanted to dispel the myth that only older people get colon cancer. They asked CCA if they knew of any young people with colon cancer that would come across well on TV. The CCA folks mentioned, "Eddie is a young colon cancer survivor, and he’s a professional speaker.”

The Today show producer called me and we chatted for an hour. She thought I would be a great guest, but she said Katie was the ultimate decision maker. The producer then asked me to send over information about myself. I sent the information. A week later, the producer called and said, "Katie wants you in New York City next week."

LA: How did national media exposure help your speaking business?

EL: I have to say that the phone did not immediately start ringing off the hook after my appearance on Today. What I did was leverage the opportunity to boost my career. The appearance gave me credibility in that people began to think, “If Katie wanted to chat with him, he must have something interesting to say!" I mentioned the appearance on my website and in all my promo materials. Overall, the experience did get me more bookings based on how I was able to use the appearance to promote my work. I would not want people to think that all they need to do is appear on a national show and hundreds of bookings will pour in. Rather, it's how we use that experience to promote our work.

For instance, before my recent appearance on the Discovery Health Channel, I sent postcards to clients, prospects and speakers bureaus.

LA: Eddie, I've interviewed you before, and to me, you come across as a nice guy who knows what he’s talking about. Is there something you do to convey such a genuine, authentic persona?

EL: I am the same person on and off the platform. To put it simply, I am real. Unfortunately, I have heard speakers who were wonderful on the platform, but in person they were cold and aloof. I will never forget one speaker who I thought was incredible – just knocked my socks off! After his speech, I waited to meet him. He was not very nice; he hardly acknowledged me. People like that are phonies. I lost all respect for him.

When it comes to “knowing what I am taking about,” I research my content very carefully. I have a resource for everything!

LA: In all your news interviews, what lessons have you learned? Is there anything you would do differently now?

EL: Once a reporter has interviewed you, stay in touch! I keep in touch with every reporter that has interviewed me. When I have an idea for a story, I call them. They remember me! My wife, Beth, and I produce fun holiday greeting cards, which have become legendary. All the reporters I have worked with over the years are sent a card.

I have also leaned you have to be assertive, but not pushy. If I simply just sent a fax or email without a follow up phone call, I would have very few media appearances. The follow up call is critical. Many times they will say to me, "I never got your email."

I made a blunder recently. I recently appeared on a Discovery Health Channel show, Mystery Diagnosis. I contacted two large Cleveland papers. They both did stories. Then I contacted the local NBC affiliate that I had become friendly with over the years. It didn't seem to have any interest in promoting my program. Then it hit me! I was stunned at this major error in judgment. Why would one station want to promote a competing station! Oops!

LA: What advice would you give others?

EL: For newspaper people -- focus on their readers. For radio people -- focus on their listeners. For TV people -- focus on their viewers. The problem with many people pitching the media is that they are too focused on themselves and their own agenda, not on the benefits to the audience. The media people want to please their audiences. We have to focus on audience benefits.Get media training! The media likes working with people who are media friendly. I have done several repeat interviews with the media because they knew I understood the process. For example, with TV interviews, I send questions ahead of time. This way, the TV reporters do not have to spend time coming up with questions. Also, I know what to wear – I would never walk in with a polka dot suit!

LA: That's right--no polka dots or stripes! Just for fun, tell us about your Pugs!

EL: My wife, Beth, and I have 16 dogs--15 Pugs and one English Toy Spaniel. We got our first Pug, Molly, in August 1999, and have been building our Pug family ever since. We even went to Brazil to pick up two Pugs! There is never a dull moment in our house! The media people love the Pugs. A newspaper photographer recently came to the house to get a picture for a story. He saw the Pugs and said, “They have to be in the picture.”

LA: Is there anything else you would like to add, dogs or media?

EL: People tend to think that it is solely your occupation that will get you media attention, however most of my media attention is indirectly related to my work as a professional speaker and seminar leader. In regard to my bout with colon cancer, most of the media attention is focused on 2 ½ years of being misdiagnosed. The Pugs also help with media attention! Even though the main focus is not my work, these media opportunities increase my visibility. What ever it takes to get my name out there!

For people reading this interview, think about what can bring you media attention, such as a fun hobby, interesting family story or dramatic personal situation.

LA: Eddie, I'm so grateful that you are a cancer survivor. Thanks for taking the time to help people create soundbite savvy experiences with the media.

To learn more about Eddie's work, sign up for the complimentary “Joy on the Job” electronic newsletter and receive the special report, “25 Ways to Energize Your Workplace.”

He also has a site for cancer patients and oncology professionals. Sign up for the complimentary “Trauma to Triumph” electronic newsletter and receive the special report, “25 Ways to Find Strength Throughout the Cancer Experience.”

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