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thoughts & musings :: CCC

Saturday, 15 November 2003

How to be an expert in anything

You never know when, while doing a work experience stint at News at Ten, the expert lined up for the interview might suddenly drop dead and you are forced into the chair to cover up the lack of knowledge during an in-depth extended news item.

Or, you might find yourself down the pub talking shallow politics with a group of fiends and getting annoyed over the fact that your Ex's new partner seems to know everything you know plus a little extra.

Here is the inside low-down on how to sound like an expert in anything.

The key concept to grasp is this: There will always be some smart Alec who knows a little bit more than you do on any particular subject. So, unless you have the capacity and time to learn absolutely everything, there is little point in knowing much about anything.

The trick is to fool those around you into doubting what they think they know. A questioner who knows little, but is confident of the few facts they do possess, has a strong foundation from which to launch a tirade of probing questions. Someone who begins to doubt what they know will always tread carefully in their questions in order to prevent themselves looking like a half-baked mud hut.

Here are a few tricks intended to empower you to expert mode on any subject. The examples given will be from the point of view of a news interview, but can apply to any situation. It is crucial to have one or two basic facts onboard.

1. pronounce names in a different way to your questioner.

This can work with place names and people's names. There are two ways of doing this, the subtle way and the sledgehammer method.

The subtle way
If your questioner mentions Afghanistan, they are likely to place the heaviest emphasis upon the AF, followed by the STAN. By simply moving the inflection to the GHAN or IS in the middle, you have subtly inferred that the questioner had incorrectly pronounced the word.

Sledgehammer
A great example for the sledgehammer technique is Osama bin Laden. If your questioner says Oh-Sarma bin Lay-den, you say Oose-Umma bin Lar-dun.

If the person throws you a real tricky one, by using names or places that are definitely pronounced in one way then don't try and alter them. Leicester Square is always pronounced lester skware and suddenly using the phrase Lie-chesters queer will not fool anyone into thinking you know something they don't.

In the case of a known place, just move the place. "Of course, what we call Leicester Square wasn't always where we know it to be now. What we know as Leicester square was Bovington green in those days. The original Leicester Square was just round the corner on a much smaller plot on the site of the current comedy store."

In the case of a person, simply rename them. "Well, that's the days when Iain Duncan Smith was going under the name Duncan Smith, though most of his inner circle simply knew him as Dunks."

2. Move the key event.

If the questioner mentions a key event that triggered off the subject then simply mention an earlier event that was the real trigger. Memorise a ladder of key events and pick the one that is one or two events earlier that the one first mentioned.

If the questioner attempts to outmanoeuvre you and then refers to an event earlier than your chosen one then don't panic, but cleverly dismiss it. "Well, of course, we could go right back to the flood." Now laugh in a patronising manner. "Although there were many factors leading up to this, the real point of inevitability was undoubtedly... (You're now back to your chosen event)."


3. Throw in the unknown relative's influence.

If the questioner mentions something significant that the subject did then question how much of this was really down to them by simply saying, "Well, of course, we can't ignore his brother's influence on that score."

You won't have to elaborate on that whatsoever. A knowing chuckle added onto the end will help too.

By using these techniques together, you will leave the questioner feeling like an ignorant fool without you ever having to divulge any detailed information at all.

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