Lesson 1: Be Prepared
At The View, I had a 10-year apprenticeship with an icon in the broadcasting and television business. It was a decade of being with, learning from, and studying the best of the best.
Working for and with Barbara Walters remains one of the most educational times of my life.
When I arrived at The View, I was newly married, in my mid-20s, and really inexperienced when it came to television, politics, and debating. By the time I walked out of the building on that last day, I had three children and, thanks to her, a wealth of experience.
Whether Barbara planned to interview a child, a prisoner, or a president of the United States, she approached the interview with intentional preparation. Her notes were lengthy, rewritten, and underlined.
If an interviewee had written a book, she would have read and highlighted the entire book and all its reviews. If the person commented on a chapter, she could recall it and ask a follow-up question.
When the day came for a guest to arrive on the show, Barbara would spend the morning sifting through questions, not only her own, refining along the way the questions of the entire interview. She would then spend some time with the guest socially to welcome him or her while also making absolutely certain there was not a detail missed—such as something new to mention or an emotion to share about a hot topic of the day.
Barbara respected the people she interviewed, and she respected their stories enough not to wing it. Guests felt honored by her preparation and interest. They saw her with their books, tabbed and marked with written notes.
At The View, we joked that by the time Barbara greeted our guests, she would know more about them than they knew about themselves!
The media has jabbed at Barbara for making people cry. The truth is, it was not that she made them cry. It was that she was the one person who read their entire history with interest, listened intently to what they were saying, and could hear not only their words but their hearts.
She could be fully present in an interview and let people feel safe enough to tell their stories and share their feelings because she had earned their respect with her vigorous, thorough preparation.
Barbara prepared to listen in the moment; and listen well she did.
She is one of the most prepared listeners I know, and she was able to ask brave questions because of that. To this day, I mark a book, as my teacher taught me, and realize that good questions come from being prepared and from being a good listener. She exemplified that for me, and I am forever grateful.
I learned from Barbara the value of having information for the situation. It still humbles me to think that every fifteen minutes I was able to speak life and truth to more than one million viewers. Whether we were talking about marriage, politics, or snacks, I could handle the logistics because I had the statistics.
The lesson I learned is this: prepare to the best of my ability in any situation. Preparation allows room for observation and real listening. Being as prepared as I could be, allowed me to appreciate the moments that came in between, be fully present, and have eyes in the moment that allowed me to seek the best in each situation.
Photo Credit: ©Pexels/Christina Morillo