Friday, December 30, 2005

Making (almost) Every Stranger into a Friend

It is possible you know! It is definitely possible that every person that you come in contact with can immediately be your friend.

Okay.. Okay! I know what you’re thinking! That friends take a long time to make and to get to know, that a good friend is worth more than silver.. and all of that. I couldn’t agree more, BUT… I do know that making friends is EASY.. if you just know how.

I have come to the point in my life because of trial and error that I now can meet any person on the street, any place, any time and any where and know that I can connect with them on a meaningful level. I know that anyone can do this, but it takes practice and the willingness to fail. Well, it can happen 9 times out of 10 anyway!

Today for instance, I flubbed. I got into one of those meaningless and stupid conversations. We continued to talk about NOTHING for a few minutes and I think that both of us knew that the conversation was going no where. It was boring.. or rather.. I was boring, and the conversation was one of those “do you know…” games. I finally left and vowed to have a more meaningful conversation with that lady at another date.

But mostly, the formula is fairly easy.

Realize that you are in control no matter where you go. Most people will NOT approach you… so if you want to meet people, you are going to have to have some courage and take the first step.
Connect immediately eye ball to eyeball, and coupled with a smile. It’s an unbeatable combination.
Say to the person, “Hi! How are you?” … before they even have a chance to look away from you. This opens the door for them to also offer friendly conversation.
Act friendly! That sounds redundant or corny, but its’ so true. If you ACT friendly, people will respond friendly. Its that simple.
Throw out a comment such as “Beautiful day, huh?”, or “Happy New Year”, or “Don’t you just love this place?” Whatever you say, say it with a genuine smile on your face.
· For those of you who can’t do this without a feeling of terror, then I recommend that you practice in front of your mirror every single day until you feel comfortable that you look acceptable to yourself.
· The more you practice the easier it’ll be for you in every day situations.
· Start small and start conversing with people in line at the check out counter or at work or at school.. wherever you go on a daily basis.
Compliment the person if you can, or ask a specific question such as “are you from this beautiful city?”
Speak clearly and confidently. Don’t shy away from the conversation. Be genuinely excited and happy to talk with the person and laugh if you can at some point during the conversation. It helps people feel comfortable with you!

Perhaps you’re not interested in making every person you meet into a friend. But if you are, these steps are tried and true. And in the event you meet a FEW people who you’d like to befriend, the same steps apply.

Good luck and to get started immediately.. it’s as simple as standing in front of your own mirror!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Being Ready when a Media Frenzy Hits!

The spotlights! The Cameras! The Questions… all pointed at you!!! Are you ready?

This is what I dealt with recently when I was on the plane that had the shooting in Miami on the way to Orlando. I was the one who alerted the media within minutes of the shooting since I had been at the NBC Station in Miami that morning. When I realized that we were out of harms’ way, I called my husband and told him that there was a shooting and that I was ok. Next, I called the NBC station;

“This is Mary Gardner. (Pause) I was on your show this morning. (Pause) I am on American Flight 924 (Pause) And there’s been a shooting. (Pause)”

The answer over the phone went like this: “WE’RE GOING LIVE.” “Mary, are you willing to go live right now”?

“Yes… I’ll go live”

And that was how it happened. From that moment on, I was reporting after we got off plane and I was borrowing people’s cell phones. I called and gave constant updates when I was allowed to use the pay phones. My own cell phone was dead so I couldn’t use that and I had to call my husband to get our calling card number before I could use the pay phone. I remembered that when getting peoples' clear attention, one must not rush, but speak clearly and with pauses in between statements.

As a result of my reporting, I ended up on Nightline, MSNBC, The Today Show, FOX, Geraldo, The Early Show, Good Morning America, CNN and several other radio and TV shows.

I was living on 2 hours sleep for 2 days in a row, but I knew that this was my chance to be clear, concise and report exactly what I saw. I was calm and responded to every question that came my way and every interview that was requested.

Here is how I’d coach others to deal with the INSTANT SPOTLIGHT:

Realize that your day in the sun will come. Prepare mentally for it by not shying away from cameras. When you see any type of camera pointed at you in your life, look in the eye of the camera and be focused. Whether you are smiling or talking, be clear about your intentions. This will prepare you for the REAL DEAL. Besides, you’ll learn to give good film!
Practice in the mirror. When you are getting ready in the morning, talk to yourself about the day you’re anticipating. If you’re dealing with a stressful situation, talk to yourself of how you’d like the issue resolved. Talk out loud and speak to yourself clearly. This way, you’re dealing with stress in the moment, and the more you practice, the more you’ll be ready for the moment you’re supposed to shine!
Realize it is NOT about YOU. The media could care less about what YOU do or who you are, only that you’re a credible person. Even if you’re brought in as a witness, their main concern is that you’re credible and that you’re well spoken. They wouldn’t book you if you’re not credible, so of course, work hard becoming an expert at your profession so you’ll have the credibility.
If and when a media frenzy happens to you: BE AVAILABLE. Return every call, take every interview. You can sleep later. I actually had someone else handle all of my calls while I caught an hour of sleep at a FOX studio during the day. They booked my interviews while I slept.
Be accessible. All of the producers found my CELL PHONE number on the internet. I was an easy interview. For me, since I work virtually, it was the best solution. Once my cell phone was clogged, my friends at ABC Network tracked down my husband’s cell phone from friends in NYC. He handled my calls and I called my friend who works at ABC in NYC who got me to commit to ABC first before any other network. Since he was my friend, I was happy to do that.
Establish ties and friends in the media. If you’re someone whose career is going to be highlighted at some point now or in the future, it’s best to have friends on the inside. My friends include directors, editors, producers, GM’s, Executive producers, writers, on air talent, anchors, publicists and casting professionals. When I need to know something, or meet someone, I make a few calls and usually can find the right person or gather the right information!
Relax and enjoy the ride. If you understand that your day will come, and are ready for it, you will be comfortable. Being STILL and thinking clearly for each interview takes time to perfect. Not letting the adrenaline take over in a moment like that takes practice. Sitting still with the IFP in your ear and looking right in the camera can be intimidating, but if you’ve been practicing it for years in your mirror and at home, it can just be a walk in the park!

I’m confident that the media windfall for me was a situation of being at the right place at the right time. I’ve reviewed the tapes over and over and my main concern was not only that I represented the story correctly and fairly but that I was compassionate towards the family who lost their husband, brother, and important family member. I reviewed to see if I brought my faith into the ordeal and whether or not I relayed information that would help give people support. I reviewed the tapes to see if I praised American Airlines for the way they handled the situation since they were so responsive and helpful.

At this point, I’m collecting tapes and keeping them for my archives. It’s an expensive process but well worth the cost.

And, of course, if you think that this might happen to you, you might consider hiring a coach or consultant to get you ready! I’d be more than happy to help!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Passenger Acts as Reporter for Miami Incident

I just found this on the BBC - Broadcasting and Cable Blog:

If you watched cable news networks covering the bomb scare at Miami International Airport this afternoon, you got a lot of conflicting information. In the 24/7 news world, muddy details are okay, as long as they’re explained that way, and Fox, CNN and MSNBC certainly did that.
It was fascinating as reporters strung together nuggets of information about what happened. MSNBC seemed to be the luckiest. A passenger, Mary Gardner, called the NBC-owned WTVJ Miami and gave a remarkably professional report from a bus where the passengers were sent after the incident was over. (If she's not a reporter, then she should be.)
Gardner described how an “English-speaking, blonde-haired woman, probably late 30s, early 40s” earlier was in the front of the plane speaking frantically on a cellphone before joining her husband near the rear of the plane. Then shortly before takeoff, her husband began “running crazily” from the back of the plane toward the front as Miami passengers were boarding. Gardner said his wife was running after him, exclaiming, “My husband! My husband!”
Later, it was reported, his wife tried to tell air marshals that the fellow was bi-polar and off his medication. (He was a 44-year-old American, it was announced earlier. At about 5 p.m., officials identified him as Rigoberto Alpizar.) Gardner didn’t hear him shouting that he had a bomb, but apparently he did.
Gardner had the good fortune to be sitting next to a retired pilot, who pointed out the air marshals getting into position. After a pursuit, four or five shots were fired, she said.
MSNBC and WTVJ reported he was dead by at least 3:22.No one seemed to have good information, even a couple of hours later, on if this guy had a bomb or not. But by about 4:45 it was reported that Alpizar, though still not named at that point, did not have a bomb.
A lot of other things were confusing. American Airlines Flight 924 was coming from Medellin, Colombia, stopping over in Miami and continuing to Orlando. It wasn’t immediately known if the couple was coming from Colombia or joining the flight in Miami. MSNBC, CNN and Fox did admirable reporting assembling the facts; CNN reported “another network” was reporting the suspect was dead. Fox, from what I could tell, reported that he was reportedly dead.
The reason why he was shot was a little muddy. There were some reports that he stopped when the air marshals told him to but then grabbed for his carry-on bag. Other reports said he didn’t stop but grabbed for his bag. That’s when he was shot.
Gardner didn’t know for sure if he was shot on the plane, but she thought it might have happened in first class. Later, it was reported that he was shot in the airway, the contraption that connects the airliner to the terminal.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Day in the Life of a Trend Reporter on the Road – St. Louis

Southwest Airlines has open seating. It’s pretty much first come first serve, and if you get stuck in the B or C group, you’re going to have a middle seat. I was in the B section and when I walked on the plane, I saw a sea of middle seats opened and not much else. I knew that I had a long flight ahead, and that fact didn’t thrill me. All of a sudden, an attractive woman asked me if I was traveling alone and I said YES! She had JUST moved from the isle to the middle seat next to her husband and I knew the second that I sat down that I was in for some fun. This was probably the most fun couple I’ve met in ages. They were both attractive, lively and had great smiles and personalities. I loved them immediately.

As it turns out, my new friends Rhonda and David were coming back from a week long business trip. Rhonda owns an advertising firm and David is a pastor. He is a lawyer but chose to follow in his fathers’ footsteps and go in to the ministry. What impressed me most was their willingness and ability to talk about everything and anything. They weren’t stuffed shirts or too religious to talk about normal things. Rhonda and I shared our individual stories of how we met our husbands, and even how difficult they can be! I found a new dear friend in her and I’m going to stay in touch with her. I have no doubt that I was planted next to her for a little encouragement, inspiration and of course to have some fun! We were laughing so much that the older lady in front of us waved to us to quiet us a few times. Neither of us liked that, so we kept having fun. We weren’t inappropriate by any stretch of the imagination. We were just two women enjoying each other and having fun in the process.

My St. Louis stay was really low key but nice. I worked out at the hotel and then went to the restaurant for dinner that was on top of the hotel that spins around 1x every 90 minutes and views the city. I asked the maitre de if he and everyone were going to point at me and laugh because I didn’t have anyone to dine with and he promised that they wouldn’t do that. Instead, I got the VIP treatment!

Michael was my waiter and he treated me to 2 glasses of Cabernet and a beautiful chocolate 3 layer cheese cake. I sat there and wrote in my journal mostly and talked to my mom and to Sway on the phone. After I was done with dinner, Michael told me how he had been a 2x cancer survivor and a bit about his family. It was a really pleasant evening.

This morning I had several hours before I had to be at the station at 2:15. I watched Mr. Holland’s Opus on HBO, worked out and basically just hung out in my room. I did the 3PM show with Heidi of “Show Me St. Louis” , a ½ hour local entertainment show. The hosts Heidi and Chris were a lot of fun and I enjoyed my trip there this time. Previously, I had been on in the early AM and there was no production assistant or anyone to help me set up. Sam, the female intern was a big help to me and we spoke for a while after.

I was fortunate enough to grab a free ride to the airport and had a few hours to kill before my flight so I decided on a Mexican restaurant. I had been there for about 2 hours and all of a sudden I saw a guy walking across the room leaving and I yelled, “DAVID… DAVID GARDNER”

OH my gosh. I have NO idea how I knew it was him. Somehow, he caught my eye and I was even yelling his name BEFORE I even knew he was in the room. It was the most bizarre thing.

I basically had to introduce myself even though David Gardner is my first cousin. I haven’t seen him in about 15 years probably but I recognized him. We were both blown away by the coincidence of that and chatted for about 15 minutes. He was flying to Chicago and I told him that I had thought about calling him and his wife Jill but just didn’t get around to it. He gave me his card and we promised to stay in touch. I invited him to come and stay with us in Florida and he said he would. He and his wife are about to adopt their 5th child so we traded stories about kids for a little bit. He asked about all of the cousins so I was able to tell him what I knew.

After he left, several people were amazed at what had happened. It started several people talking and I started chatting with the lady next to me, Lisa. She heard me talk about adoption and just TODAY she had started thinking about adoption. She has tried to get pregnant for the past 7 years with no success. I told her that the couple who had been sitting in her seat 5 minutes prior to her and shared THEIR adoption story with me to so in a span of 15 minutes I had 3 separate conversations about adoption. Lisa… there are no coincidences! You’re probably supposed to adopt!

The writing is probably on the wall for me as well. I want to adopt a baby too! That story will have to wait since it’s just an idea now, but I did call my sister today and she promised to help me locate agencies in Orlando.

A new chapter is now being written!

Day in the Life of a Trend Reporter on the Road – Baltimore & Phoenix

The cold weather continued when I arrived to Baltimore on Friday night. The passengers were buzzing as we unloaded about the disgusting thing that occurred on our flight. Apparently, 2 rows in front of me a young man was watching porn on his DVD and having his own party ON the PLANE! Of course everyone started looking for the camera crew from the hit TV show, Air Port on A& E. What a story that would have been!

When I arrived to the hotel I found a beautifully decorated lobby at the Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore. It had a huge decorated Christmas tree in the middle and the whole lobby was so festive that it put everyone in a great mood. I tried to plug into the wireless internet in the room but I couldn’t get on so when I told the lady at the front desk, she allowed me to use her computer in her office. After I finished checking emails, I went up to the room and changed and decided to head to the bar for a drink before I headed to bed. The bar was completely dead so I figured I’d have a drink, chat with the bar tender and then hit the hay.

As I sat down I saw a blonde woman at the end of the bar. I said hi and we started talking. This delightful and fun lady, Lisa Marie, finally scooted over next to me so we could chat. As it turns out, she and I shared a very similar personality and it was quite fun meeting someone else who enjoyed people as much as I do. She has a little girl and was meeting a friend in Baltimore who was on his way. She was funny and fun and we talked about work, motherhood and men. Within an hour, another woman showed up at the bar. We introduced ourselves to her and the 3 of us started talking. Tazier was an incredibly bright woman who had just finished law school and was job hunting. I figured she was probably 25 years old and was shocked when she told me she was 34! She was now considering motherhood so we had a great chat about that among other things. I told her we could probably find her a job at that bar so I asked a few of the gentlemen at the bar if they were lawyers or knew any in Baltimore. I called my sister in law to see if we could hook Tazier up with her brother who is a lawyer in Maryland.

The night didn’t wind down until about 1am. It could have kept going because the people were so interesting and fun. I knew I had to get up the next morning early and get to the station so I only had 1 drink all night. I didn’t want to be tired in the morning.
My itinerary said that I was to arrive at 9am and was on the air at 9:45 in Baltimore. There wasn’t a taxi ready so I hopped in a car service and headed to the station. When I got there, the beautiful and charming guest coordinator, Carlita was waiting. She informed me that I was to be ON THE AIR in 15 minutes! They changed the time and I’d be appearing ½ hour early.

I practically ran into the studio and threw my table together with the gifts. Carlita helped me make it look presentable and right before I went on the air I told her I had gum and needed to spit it out. She actually held out her hand and let me deposit it in her hand. I was MORTIFIED but we were both running on so much adrenaline that I did it and within 1 minute was chatting on the air with Lisa, the anchor.

I told the anchor that I was wearing my niece’s scarf that she had knitted so she said, “well, let’s start with that!” So when she introduced the segment, she said, “what a beautiful scarf” and I replied that my niece, Amy from Easton had made that for me.

The segment ended and it was a success. They needed the space in another 10 minutes so I threw the gifts together in the suitcase and scooted out. While waiting for the cab, I called Debbie, my sister in law who saw the segment from Easton and she said to me when she answered, “Oh my gosh, that was incredible”. Apparently Amy, 11, was with friends and her jaw dropped when she heard me mention her on the air. Everyone was thrilled and that made me happy that I was able to do that for Amy.

I then head to the airport and got ready for the long flight to Phoenix.

I was flying South West out of BWI and there is no assigned seating. I spotted a window seat near the front and the lady on the isle greeted me with a big smile and welcomed me to sit down. Within SECONDS we were engaged in conversation and I don’t think we stopped the whole 5 hours of flight!

Meeting Dr. Judith Reisman was absolutely a highlight. She is a celebrity of sorts. She’s written several books against the McKinsey report and is an anti-porn advocate. She’s testified in front of congress and has done research for the Justice Department. Our conversation ranged from homosexuality and its development to shots that are given to infants that have been proven to develop autism in children. She educated me about the porn industry and how millions of children have been sexually abused in order to study sex. She happened to have one of her books on her as well as a book that had been writing for the Catholic Church based on her book. I bought 2 books and she threw in a CD for free. I told her that I had NEVER spent money on a plane before, but that I knew I was supposed to meet her for a reason and I was so happy she had her books with her. The young woman Natalie who was sitting in the middle seat also got an interesting education. Who would have known a flight could be so interesting!

When I arrived to Phoenix, I was feeling fatigued. My dear friend Julia picked me up and whisked me to her beautiful home. She was hosting a party at her place and she had cooked up some delicious spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread. I showered, threw some clothes in the laundry, ate a quick meal and all of us took off to the parade of lights in Phoenix.

There were thousands of people lining the streets but Julia did a great job keeping us all together. We were meeting up with some of her friends and our group was about 5 kids and 4 adults. When we were almost to the right spot, Julia told her 13 year old daughter Madison to grab a seat up front and handed her a blanket. A few minutes later we were all gathered under a tent and the parade started. All of a sudden we couldn’t find Madison! Most of the kids were seated up front along the parade route but we couldn’t find Madison and her friend Jesse. Julia literally spent the whole hour of the parade trying to locate Madison. She even ran home to get her cell phone in the event Madison was trying to call her mom to locate her.

Julia was in a panic and in tears. We tried to calm her and felt certain that Madison was probably somewhere close by watching the parade. As soon as the parade was over, Madison did show up immediately. What had happened was that she found a seat that was further away from our group but had actually followed her mom’s exact instructions and took a seat when her mom told her to sit down. We then all headed back to the house where we had something to eat and drink. I finished up my laundry and head to bed.

The next morning was the Channel 3 appearance. I was on with Tess, the darling anchor that I had been on with last April. She actually remembered me and my gifts from before so I felt quite comfortable with her. She’s a really warm individual and invited me to come back whenever I can get there.

After the segment, Julia dropped me at the airport and I jumped the plane to St. Louis. Another flight, another interesting story to come!
Day in the Life of a Trend Reporter on the Road

Hartford and Tampa

The days are long and the sleep is short but life on the road for a week or two out of the year is exciting, fun and stimulating.

I just started my second tour of the year of introducing holiday gifts of the season to the viewers of local TV stations around the country. People are fascinated by my tour and so as a result, I am again meeting some really interesting and fun people.

Again, I prayed that God would send angels my way, and so far the trips have been easy and people have been helpful so I imagine God is keeping my request in mind. The tour has just begun so who knows where the angels will show up.

The first two appearances have gone really well. The folks in Hartford, CT were really great but the segment was short, a mere 3 minutes. I have so many fun presents to show this season that it was difficult to get all of the ideas across in the allotted time. I’m showing jewelry from TJ Maxx, Cashmere from Marshalls, the latest, hottest technical product of the season, a digital camera the Finepix F10 from Fuji Film, a software kit from Epson that makes a cute coffee table book, and flowers from They also have sent cookie tins for me to share with my guests. They are chocolate covered oreos that are so delicious!

Last night on the plane from Hartford, there were 2 groups of men traveling from CT to Tampa for a golf trip. The energy on the plane about tripled as soon as the men started boarding the plane. I was soon to find out that this was a yearly trip and every year the group got bigger and bigger. There were corporate heads from Wachovia, ESPN, Car dealers, motorcycle dealerships, professors and the like. They were heading south to indulge in some fun for a long weekend. About ¾ way through the trip I got up to stretch and started chatting with a few of them. By that time, they were feeling pretty good because they cleaned out the whole plane of alcohol. There was a lot of laughter and telling on each other. Each guy was introduced as a different name each time with different professions each time. I never knew who was who or what they did. It didn’t matter, the whole plane was enjoying the entertainment that they were providing.

I left the hotel early because there was a big convention of the Southern Baptists so they were booked solid and I couldn’t get a later check out. So I opted to hang at the airport instead of visiting a nice mall next door. My bags are already 50 lbs a piece so nothing new is going to fit inside my bags so why even go shopping? Now, I’m sitting in a restaurant /bar ……listening to 80s music and writing on my laptop. I’m totally content to hide in this corner and listen to the music and record my fun travels. I’ve even had a few informal coaching sessions with friends as I’ve sat here. There is never a dull moment in airports!

I’m going to pack up and head to my destination. Much more to come I’m sure!