Christopher Lydon, host of the Open Source podcast series based here at Brown's Watson Institute, gave his own personal send-off to the AT&T New Media Fellows who are going overseas this summer to use media for social change. Lydon shared with the fellows his own Top 10 tips for “the art of the conversation,” based on his decades of experience in national television and radio. Each tip was a story in itself, told by a master raconteur. Here is a stripped down version of his list:
10. Always ask yourself from the start: What is the definition of victory? What do you want to end up with, when the interview or project is over?
9. And then, be prepared to encounter something entirely different. “It could be a total swerve but you want to get out of the way and let it run.”
8. The basic objective of an interview is to make people laugh or make people cry – be it interviewee or listener. “You’re hoping it’ll get out of emotional control at some point. It’s a funny little dance you’re doing” – to push into an edgy situation that lets you get behind a person’s comfortable mask.
7. Don’t think of audio or video as media of information. Rather, these are media of effect, of emotion. “Even when the interview is about data, everything else will come through.”
6. A video’s sound and images can have different effects. Sometimes they go together. Sometimes they are at odds. But one theory is that the message goes through the ear, not the eye. “Voice carries so much baggage – it is much more important than the image.”
5. Focus intently. “Swim in the whole experience of your subject. … Take the measure of the whole human being. … It’s very, very powerful.”
4. Listen for the sound bite. “This is a little more manipulative and we all do it. Listen for something that’ll knock their socks off when they hear it.”
3. Employ the rule of threes. “It always helps to have three main points. … It helps to make everything memorable … the good, the bad, and the ugly … the Three Stooges.”
2. Give something of yourself. “It’s not just about the other person. It’s not just about a remote call. … The ‘I’ in the interview, seen or unseen, is very important.”
1. The best technique in an interview is to listen, just plain listen, to the hesitations – the subtleties, the ambient sound – “as if you were literally with a stethoscope on the scene. … it’s just endlessly true.”