Welcome to our Women’s History Month series on Skimm’d from the Couch - where we’re bringing you the women who made history this past year. Meet: Kristen Welker. She’s the Chief White House Correspondent for NBC News, and the co-anchor of Weekend TODAY. You probably recognize her from moderating that final presidential debate of 2020...which she calls the biggest moment in her professional career. This week, Kristen joined us to talk about how she prepared for that moment - and how she kept cool under pressure.
Kristen: I said to my news director, “One day I want to be a White House correspondent.” And he said, “Okay, well, why don't you cover what's happening at city hall? Why don't you just take that upon yourself?” So that's what I did. And it was the most exciting thing for me to cover at the time…. So I would say broadly what I learned about that it is okay and important to say to your employer, your boss, “This is what I'd like to do. This is what I'd like to learn how to do. At the same time, I'm 1000% focused on the work at hand here.”
You want to be the type of person who makes it clear that that's what you'd like to do one day…. At the same time, I'm realistic and understand that I'm not doing that today. So I want to get really good at whatever assignment you're giving me today. And again, I think that applies to journalism, but I think that applies to just about any job…. And I think that when you show a passion, it's hard for whoever you're working with not to give you a chance to try to explore that and try to learn more about your passion.
Carly: Do you ever get nervous?
Kristen: Let me answer that in stages. When I first got to the White House, and I will just acknowledge that it was about a decade ago, I was so nervous. I mean, every step I took, every word that came out of my mouth. Because it was all new and because it was all so important and terrifying if you got it wrong. And I was really intimidated. And you work through that by just moving forward and just doing the work and getting good at it. So it is okay to be nervous. It means you're challenging yourself. It means you're doing something important and it means you're doing something that you really care about. So I just want to say that nerves are not a bad thing. Nerves keep you on your toes.
Kristen: I knew that I was going to be nervous because you couldn't not be nervous. If you weren't nervous in those moments leading up to the debate, you just would not be a human being. So I thought, okay, well, instead of just thinking about how you're going to be nervous, what are you going to do about it? So I had a complete action plan….This is my advice for anyone doing anything scary. What's your action plan going to be? How are you going to cope with your nerves?
So what I did to prepare, and I recommend this to anyone who has anything tough that they have to do, particularly when it comes to speaking, I started meditating. And the value of that was that you learn how to breathe through feeling anxious, because that's really what happens when you feel anxious, you just kind of stopped breathing properly.
…. And that's how you approach big moments. Think about it, face it. How are you going to be prepared? It's just about centering yourself, calming yourself, focusing yourself and having competence. Just telling yourself you've got it.
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