I’ve always wanted to be in the audience for the Oprah show, but it just was never the right time. In fact, I’ve been in the audience for a lot of shows since I live so close to New York City. I saw Phil Donahue way back in the day, and he even posed for a photo with me and my mom who of course asked a question and was on camera! I’ve seen David Letterman (when he was at NBC), Rosie O’Donnell Show, Saturday Night Live (when Ellen Degeneres was the host), Ellen Degeneres Show (when I was out in LA celebrating my 40th birthday), Tyra Banks, Jane Pauley (I was in her audience a lot; that was the firs time I was laid off. She had a lot of cool guests on like Richard Branson, who I met; he signed my book and kissed my cheek. He’s so charming.) and now recently Nate Berkus, and just last week The Oprah Winfrey Show. (Plus, since I started writing this, I attended a taping of Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton and the cast of Modern Family.)
The Oprah opportunity came up very quickly. We only had a week to get our flights, make our plans and figure out who would watch my 13-year-old son and the rescue dog, Lily. It’s amazing how everything ALWAYS works out how it’s supposed to. The airfare was reasonable, and we have an amazing friend, Melissa McClain (an incredibly talented photographer), who was available to take care of the family, and we were set.
The show we were scheduled to be on was taped on a Friday, so I insisted to my partner of 10 years that we leave the night before because you just never know what will happen. So of course we had almost a 2-hour delay, and she was delayed at work, so it was a little stressful, to say the least, when we were leaving. We got into Chicago late, almost 11 p.m. We carried our bags on the plane, thank goodness, so we were off to get some sleep before the big day. I’m not at liberty to say where we stayed. I’ll just say an amazing guy loaned us his amazing Chicago apartment that’s on the market now for $2.3 million. It did not disappoint. The best thing about his apartment was the amazing views of Lake Michigan. His apartment is on the Gold Coast in Chicago.
Being in a strange place, I woke up more than a few times, so sleep did not come easily and with all my travel lately I had that feeling when I woke up—“Oh my gosh, where am I? Oh yeah, now I remember.” So after a shower, a cup of coffee, and getting dressed to the nines, my partner and I were off in a taxi that the amazing doorman flagged down for us. We were off to Oprah’s studios.
If you’ve never been in the audience for a televised show, it’s totally something you ought to do once in your life. I have done it enough to be a little tired of the waiting-to–tape-the show part. Every show is different, and Oprah was no exception. They had us come early to check in because this was a huge makeover show for them, Oprah’s last. So while my partner waited in line, I ran a very important errand to Starbucks for us to get coffee and breakfast! When I got back she was next in line to check in so my timing was perfect!
They check you in and basically take anything that’s too big to go under your seat. Plus they take ALL of your electronics. We both felt a bit naked without a phone, iPad, or anything. Then we sat and waited our turn to be made over.
Yes, this was a makeover show and they had created a whole salon backstage so we got our hair done and got our make-up done, it was really fun, having a professional fuss all over how you look. Wow, I could really get used to that; now I know what these celebrities must feel like when they get hair and make-up! And Old Navy even gave us some new clothes to wear.
The most fun part of this experience was seeing all of Oprah’s producers that are on her OWN show, 25 years behind the scenes show. I even stopped a few to chat with them! Then they fed us a box lunch and we hung out until they loaded us into the studio, and then they taped the show.
Oprah was her usual wonderful, perky, funny and giving self. It was fun watching her between the segments, interacting with the audience and the guests. It was a makeover show, so there were a lot of guests—who knew there were so many specialists in hair, makeup and wardrobe?! Then of course they had some giveaways which were totally awesome– we left with a Michael Kors bag, Tory Burch sunglasses, a scarf from Diane Von Furestenburg, and hair products from Oprah’s hair dresser, Andre Walker.
As you leave the studio, you line up and then they give each guest nefore they leave a bag filled with the gifts from the show. (I think they’ve done this a few times before!). The only challenge we faced came as we were leaving: We had our ticket to get our bags/phones back, but not our clothes. I have to say the security staff and guest staff were on top of it and found our clothes. When you left the building, you were basically right by the Oprah Winfrey Store, which of course is closing and has some big sales, so we had to go there! What’s cool is you don’t have to be in Chicago to get some things from her store– http://oprahstore.oprah.com/
After the show, my partner Meredith, knew several people who worked on the show, so we went and paid them a visit and hung out the rest of the afternoon there. Then when we were just too exhausted, we got a cab, went back to our place, changed for dinner, and the weather was so beautiful we were able to walk to the restaurant. How lucky I made a reservation at Hugo’s, only 5 blocks from where we were staying. It was the end to a perfect day, a perfect quick trip to Chicago.
There are several things in my story that you can actually take and use in your own business so you, too, can give your clients an “Oprah” experience.
1) Create a business brand that leads your clients and customers to look up to you as the expert and encourages them to want to experience what you have to offer. (of course, having a survey system is a fantastic way to achieve this).
2) Hire amazing people who will take care of your clients and customers. Pay them and train them well. Don’t leave anything to chance; having the right attitude and being professional is key.
3)Have systems and processes in place to be ready to handle anything.
4)Practice these systems and ensure they work properly.
5)Figure out how you can enhance your clients’ and customers’ experience. (Ask them. Get feedback always).
6)Work on how you can upsell them. Or in Oprah’s case, get them all to go to her store to purchase things to take home to family and friends
There are a number of things you can do to ensure your clients and customers are well taken care of, just how Oprah takes care of all of her guests who fly and drive from home, make plans, get babysitters, etc., all to be there in her audience. It takes a village. Oprah knows that, and recognizes that.
She even takes the time at the end of the show to answer questions AND tell you how much she appreciates you being there. She knows how much you had to do to show up in her audience and totally makes it worth your while to be
there and a part of television history.