By Christen A Johnson
Sally Lou Loveman was just 25 years old and working her dream job at The Oprah Winfrey Show when someone handed her a microphone to “warm up the audience.” She didn’t know what that meant, she said, but she spoke from the heart.
Loveman laughs at having no recollection of what she said, but she does have a clear memory of how that moment made her feel.
“I was like, ‘Oh, I found my voice, I’ve found my purpose,” remembers Loveman, now 58. “I found my purpose in that moment and I just wanted to be in the studio connecting with people.”
Loveman, who worked as an audience producer for The Oprah Winfrey Show for years, writes about this experience in her new book Speak: Love Your Story. Your Audience is Waiting. She shares tales from her life of how she found her voice, and helps readers to do the same. She believes you don’t have to be in a prominent role, like a CEO or celebrity, to have an audience.
“The stories are there (in the book) to rekindle the idea of your story, and then help you with how to present it and tell it to someone who really needs to hear it,” explained Loveman, “and you have no idea who those people are.”
Each chapter of the book has a lesson for the reader to explore, and by the end of the book, readers have a start to their own story, explained Loveman, who modeled the book after her “very participatory” Oprah Show warm-up.
“I used the audience to make for a better warm-up, so I’m using the reader to make for a better book,” she said. “That’s really what this book is about: using your story and connecting.”
For Loveman, the journey of connecting people began as a teenager when she went to The Mike Douglas Show in Philadelphia, her hometown, with her mother. As she sat in the studio audience, she spotted a girl on set with a clipboard, Loveman said.
“I didn’t know what she did, but I was like, it’s 1976, she’s a woman; she’s wearing a headset, so she’s automatically cool; she’s carrying a clipboard, so she’s official; and she’s really busy,” remembered Loveman.
In that moment, Loveman knew what she wanted to do. “The environment just sucked me in — it pleased every one of my senses,” she said.
In 1987, Loveman started at The Oprah Winfrey Show as an audience coordinator and she “loved being in the studio.” Later, she became a producer for the show and “hated it,” so she left in 1992 and freelanced for 10 years, had three kids, and only worked on shows when the show needed her, she said.
“I didn’t want that seat,” Loveman said about the producing role, “I wanted to stay with the audience.”
She went back full time in 2003 when the audience producer and supervisor role opened.
Warming up the audience was still a part of her job duties.
“I connected the audience to each other,” said Loveman. “You couldn’t just take anyone to Oprah, you had to take the person who stood by you in life, which we called at the time your ‘Top Oprah Pick.’ This wasn’t just come and see the show and leave and I’ll never see you again, if you wanted the relationship to happen, it happened — and it happened with each other.”
By 2014, The Oprah Winfrey Show wasn’t in production anymore, and Loveman’s audience team was being used for only a few shows being filmed for OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, said Loveman, “and then there was nothing left to do.”
Loveman was given an opportunity to work for the marketing team, but knew she wanted to continue her message of connection.
“It wasn’t even a choice, I chose me,” Loveman said. “I told Oprah, ‘I can only work for two people: you or me. Right now, I’m going to work for me.”
Loveman officially started her own business, Love Speaks, after her departure. She regularly emcees or keynotes events, and is committed to staying in her purpose of connecting audiences.
“I had a front row seat to the stories that were told on The Oprah Winfrey Show and they literally were life-changing,” said Loveman. “They connected viewers to others and they helped people heal. And that’s what stories do. And so for me, my book is about using my story to help connect the reader with their own.” — Chicago Tribune/TNS
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