Just What Does it Take to Be a Guest Expert on TV? Dr Grey Stafford shares his experiences
Dr. Grey Stafford started his zoological career as a marine mammal trainer at the one of the first animal parks that I ever experienced, it was Sea World of Ohio. I had the pleasure of speaking with Grey recently about his passion, his career, and the incredible TV exposure he has secured over the years. He has contributed to such national shows as Ellen, the Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Late Show with David Letterman, Good Morning America, Larry King Live, Extra, Rosie O Donnell, Martha Stewart and more. He is author of Zoomility: Keeper Tales of Training with Positive Reinforcement. I spoke with him about his passion, his career and what it takes to be a well-recognized expert guest on a national level.
Sandra Dee: Where does your passion for animals come from?
Dr Grey: Years ago before we were married, my wife and I went to Sea World… and I was just mesmerized by the relationship between a trainer, a dolphin and a predator like a Killer Whale… The cooperation that existed. Six months later, I was in training to be a marine mammal trainer, and I’ve never looked back since.
SD: You have such a great list of national shows you have appeared on. What opened the first doors for you?
DR G: When I first met Jack Hanna. He was taping at our park one day, and after a long day of taping, one of my friends said hey, Jack… We’re going to go get wings and beer, would you like to join us, relax for a while?… I remember, as a first year’s trainer, sitting there having beer and pie with Jack Hanna, who at that time, had already made his mark, and was pretty well-known… down to earth and natural as he is on camera today. Just a great role model. I think having those types of role models, mentors and good people to surround yourself by is the beginnings of a good career. It teaches you what’s important, and how to build great relationships with people.
SD: I imagine you have to really “go with the flow” when you are working with animals, right?
Dr G: Almost every segment we do, something unusual happens, and yes, as you said, you have to ‘go with the flow”! You don’t want to miss any opportunities, and so you don’t want to be married to your talking points… or take yourself so seriously, that you miss the humor. I always try to get a sentence or two said about conservation… and when I can, that’s great! The rest of the time, let’s just have fun!
SD: I always remind my clients to get in their “call to action”, and that’s just what you are saying you do, with your mention of conservation and protection of wildlife.
Dr G: Yes…. Everybody really seems to like those segments (where we are being real and authentic) the most, and when they are paying attention, that’s when you can really get your message across.
Dr G: I also think (that some hosts) let you have a bit more control than others. That’s when knowing your host, and knowing what their preferences are is so important. And local shows are really very similar to the national shows; they all want to have a good show, and get home on time. My point is, if you are one of those people that has the opportunity to do something at the local level, then treat that with as much importance as you would any big show.
SD: I always say that if you have the chance to do a small local show and you are starting out, prepare for that opportunity as though you are preparing for Oprah, or Larry King!
Dr G: Exactly. I always listen to the show, take note of current events, any running jokes, or anything gong on, they really like that, because it shows that you are… paying attention really. It allows you to be in the moment. If there is some way you can tap into that running joke, (the producers) really seem to appreciate that!
SD: Last bits of advice for those that are looking to book guest expert spots on TV?
Dr G: Be prepared for no response to your pitches out there, it’s not because they are being rude, they are just so busy. If it doesn’t immediately capture their attention, they are moving on to other things in their in-box. Just keep at it.
Grey shared an inspiring story that reinforced his previous comment about the importance of the local shows: He appeared on a local TV program in Arizona… within 2 hours that segment was on CNN, and within 5 or 6 hours, it was picked up by many national outlets. You never know!
Grey is currently Director of Conservation at Wildlife World Zoo, in Arizona,
(www.wildlifeworld.com). He appears weekly to advise pet owners with training on www.MyFoxWeekly.com. He speaks regularly nationwide, and of course, you can still catch him as a guest expert on TV!