Telesale underway – February 18-22, 2008


Article published Feb 8, 2008

Face of telesale gives an inside glimpse at show

Miller says it’s calm on TV but busy on set


Alan Miller – who will host his 10th Indiana Wesleyan telesale later this month – says being the face of the show earns him too much recognition.

“I get more credit than I deserve,” he said. “There are so many people who do far more than I do.”

Miller, public relations director at the university, will host the university’s 13th annual fundraising telesale, which is set for Feb. 18 to 22.

Miller came to work for the university in January 1996, about two weeks before the first telesale. The following year he became more involved in the event, and in 1998 he hosted it for the first time. He’s hosted the event every year since then, except for last year, when he had knee surgery.

He said it was fun sitting at home watching the event last year while he was recuperating. He said he was surprised at how organized the event looks on television, because it’s actually very chaotic behind the scenes. More than 100 volunteers come together to do the fundraising.

Miller said his favorite part of hosting the event is sharing facts and trivia about the university between bidding and helping to acquaint the community with what the university is about.

“It’s a neat opportunity to share the university for a week,” he said.

This year, Miller will host the telesales for just three nights because he’ll be on vacation the other two days. But he’ll have a co-host each night.

His long involvement with the event has shown the Marion City Council member what kind of growth the university has seen in the past decade.

The event raised $15,000 for scholarships the first year and $30,000 the second year.

“We received so much response,” he said. “We couldn’t sell it all in two nights.”

Now, the five-night event raises about $150,000 to $160,000 a night. During its 12 years, the telesale has brought in a total of about $1.35 million.

The money goes to scholarships for students. About 90 percent of the university’s students require some kind of financial assistance, Miller said.

He said that throughout the years he has been surprised at the unusual items donated, including an ostrich, liposuction surgery, concrete, topsoil and fried chicken. Items such as coupons for condominiums and restaurants always are popular, he said.

While many of the items have remained the same, the technology is constantly changing. In the past, the item being sold was written on a card that one of the hosts would hold; now the list is just projected on the screen, Miller said. Bidding also goes much more quickly.

Another upgrade this year is a new location for the event: the two news WIWU-TV studios.

“This year is going to be a new adventure,” Miller said.

For the past 10 years, the telesale has been in Phillippe Performing Arts Center, which seats 1,200 people. In the new studio, there is no room for a live audience.

The location also means that all the items will be stored in a separate studio, and the overall show should look more professional, Miller said.

Miller said he will read from a teleprompter some, but most of his wording during the event is impromptu. He said he usually does some writing in advance, but he doesn’t practice.

“A lot of it will still be spontaneous, because that’s the nature of it,” he said. “We make a lot up as we go along. I have no idea who they’ll want me to interview.”

He also will have a wireless audio feed in his ear so he can communicate with other producers.

As far as the future, Miller said he plans to host next year’s telesale. He said he may come back to the university to host others, if he’s asked to, after he retires.

Paul Crisp, station manager of WIWU-TV 51, has worked with Miller for 12 years. Crisp said he’s the perfect host for the show because he’s a public figure who’s well known and personable.

“He’s awesome to work with,” he said. “He’s very flexible. He’ll do whatever we want him to do, even if it’s out of his realm of comfort.”

Crisp said Miller is good at ad-libbing during the event, as well as interviewing people live.

“He knows them well enough to know what to ask them,” he said. “He can wing it.”

Last year, Crisp said, the event was awkward without Miller. Even though Crisp knows many of the same people, it wasn’t the same, he said.

“It’s just something about him,” he said. “People feel more comfortable. Everybody who watches knows of him.”


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