Just a few quick tips today for sharpening your reporting skills. Practice these and you’ll be a total news reporting badass.
1. Remember people. Master the art of actually meeting people. Use whatever strategy works for you, but genuinely remember people’s names, their interests, their work. Focus on details. If you’re at a party, meet as many people as you can. Then half an hour later, mentally quiz yourself. Do you remember their names?
2. Practice “photographic listening.” If you’re listening to the radio and you hear a song you’ve never heard, commit yourself to remembering a verse. Then find a piece of paper to write it down and check yourself. Do more than just songs – memorize and write down what that weird dude from across the hall just said, or some offhanded comment your professor made. Eventually you’ll find yourself remembering even casual conversations verbatim – a powerful skill for a reporter.
3. Don’t use your laptop to take notes. When you need to remember anything, physically write it down. For one, you won’t be Facebook creeping instead of taking notes, and two, science has proven that physically writing something helps you remember it. Go low tech, bro.
4. OBSERVE. Life is happening around you at all times. Do you actually see what’s going on? When you’re in a group, notice the dynamic: when everyone in the group laughs, who looks at who? When interviewing someone, what does their body language reveal? Your brain is automatically wired to notice these patterns. Embrace it and your ability to communicate will deepen.
5. Learn how to ACTUALLY talk with people. Even people who speak the same language as you talk totally differently depending where they’re from. Learn to enter their spirit. Cultivate tact. Is your conversation partner deeply sarcastic and cynical? Match their tone. Are they shy and directly literal? Don’t come out with sarcasm. Understanding how to adapt to conversations will make you a powerful communicator, both near and far.
6. Do all of the above while you’re drunk. If you can teach yourself to practice tact, conversation, and memorization after waaaaaayyy too much PBR, you can do it totally sober. This will also increase your drinking discipline. When you’re at an open-bar networking event (of which there are many) you’ll be sharp enough to take advantage of the relaxed atmosphere. Serious work relationships, business deals and awesome promotions are often sealed by how you handle yourself at social events. Practice at bars, clubs, frat ragers, pool parties. Then when you meet a drunk Wall Street guy in the St. Regis and he rattles off the names of two dozen inside traders, you’ll be ready – even if you’ve had four martinis.