Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Things That Go Bump

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Shoe

This is a quickie.

Most studios have microphones that are mounted to boom arms that are attached to walls or ceilings.  Back in the day, it was more common that microphones were attached to boom arms that were bolted to desktops.  And in many studios, microphones were in movable stands that sat directly on those desktops.  Why am I bringing this up?

Because those relatively unsophisticated setups of guest mics on desktops gave listeners another aspect of the passion guests might have for an issue.  How?

Because when a guest pounded a desk, you could hear it.

Today, besides mounting microphones away from anything that can pick up vibration, many microphones rest inside what are known as shock mounts which absorb even more vibration.  In a studio, vibration is seen as the enemy of good quality audio.  But when you are interviewing a guest with a old school setup, vibration can be your friend.

When I say pounding the desk, I don’t mean Nikita Khrushchev style shoe pounding the poduim at the UN pounding.  I mean very soft but distinctive bumping the hand or a semi closed fist on a desktop whenever the answer holds a lot of passion and energy for the guest.  When a guest chooses to do that bumping can be telling and often, they don’t even realize they’re doing it.  It’s another one of those unconscious “tells” that I’ve talked about before here. Conversely, holding back emotion and showing no tells is the anti-emotive, which I talk about here.

An interviewee may be answering a question for which, if you listen to their voice, they seem very calm.  But hearing their hand bumping the desktop belies a passion and conviction much deeper.  And when they do that is also significant, as they may be unknowingly emphasizing to themselves how strongly they feel about something.  These are things the interviewer needs to pay attention to because they can help him or her direct the next question.

An interview is a complex interaction between the interviewer and the interviewee.  Then there is the interaction between the audience and the interview.  But often, the key aspect of a conversation is guest interaction with themselves.

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Written by Interviewer

July 20, 2014 at 01:24

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