Voices in Time co-founder Lili Shank on creating life stories on audio
Lili Shank is a life story professional who helps people preserve their stories as told by them, in their own voice. Listen as she discusses:
- the steps for each audio interview
- how to warm up the guest/storyteller with questions about their parents and grandparents
- why she gives the guests time to prepare their answers and reflections before asking the bigger, more philosophical questions
- why people ask for help in saving a voicemail message
- the power of the voice
- why a prospective guest's "no" may turn into a "yes"
- and more.
Links & Stuff
Voices in Time (Lili's website)
Marantz digital recorders (this is a model I've used and liked)
Zoom H6 (this is the model I recently bought, after the demise of my 10+ year old H2)
Lavalier mic (the one I use with my iPhone or iPad)
Transcript of interview with Lili Shank of Voices in Time
Amy: Today I'm happy to welcome Lili Shank onto the show. Lili records life stories on audio in 2008. She cofounded Voices in Time through guided conversation. She helps people record their life stories and preserve them for family members. She's also a trained instructor in Guided Autobiography. It's a method for helping people write their life stories through structured assignments in a group setting, and if you've listened before, you may have heard us talk about this. I believe it was on back on episode 22 and 26. We talked a little bit about it and I also have a blog post about James Birren, who was the founder of Guided Autobiography and Lili was trained with the Birren Center for Autobiographical Studies. She also holds a BA in communications from Stanford University and for 25 years she was a television news anchor and reporter at KCTV in Kansas City. Welcome to the show, Lili.
Lili Shank: Thanks Amy. It's great to connect with you.
Amy: For those of you who may not be familiar with Voices in Time, Lili is located in Kansas City as am I, so it's kind of fun to to be able to talk to a colleague that I could actually sometimes run into at the grocery store. I think we've run into each other at the coffee shop and that doesn't happen very often and in our business because there's just not that many of us out there doing this. Well, I love the fact that you do life stories in audio and I know that you and I have talked about it before, but can you just walk us through the process? So let's say a client hires you to record their story, um, or maybe the story of an elder in their family. What happens next?
Lili Shank: Well, the next step, once it's typically a parent, it's typically the adult child who's hiring us and we ask them, have you approached mom or dad about this subject? And that is the first step. And as you know, initial response can be all over the board. It can be everything from, yeah, you bet, sure, let's do this. And great enthusiasm to reticence, reluctance, some trepidation to, no, I would never do that. So it can really run the gamut. And I tell people, don't take your loved ones first response as their final response. And take some time to warm up to this idea, to get comfortable with it, to get their brain around it. And sometimes it's helpful for us to have a conversation with that parent or grandparent who's on the fence, who's not sure they want to do this, they've got concerns, they're nervous or worried, and I get that.
Lili Shank: I really get that, and we helped them to understand what this process will be, that it will be a very casual conversation, the kind you'd have on a long car trip with a loved one on the highway and that that this is about the stories they want to tell and we're going to only talk about what they're wanting to talk about. This isn't a formal interview and many times I would say most times they eventually get comfortable with it. And one of the things that's helpful to say to the person who's not sure they want to do this. As I say, imagine if you were going, you came across a box in the attic and in that box you stumbled across a recording of your mother or your father telling some stories. Just some simple stories from their growing up years. It would be the most exciting treasure you had discovered. Well, that's the way your loved ones are going to feel 50 years from now when they hear this, they will treasure it. So we played the grandchild card a lot. Someone who's uncertain about initially whether they want to do this.
Amy: And I think that is what every one of us working in this field does. I think it's perfectly legitimate. It's the key to having the penny drop for, for people to realize that the value in them telling their story and you've got an added advantage because usually what I say to people is, I'll ask them if they have something written by an ancestor or grandparents or even parents, and if they do, then they, they realize how special it is. And if they don't, then they're usually expressing regret that they don't have that. Um, and that's the written word, but for you, if somebody does have a recording and can listen to the voice, that's that much more powerful. I mean, our voices carry so much of our personality. And I can see that that would have a really visceral effect on somebody if you're, if you're, you know, pointing out that if they have a recording from somebody that they loved or somebody in their, in their past, um, how, how powerful that would be then to have them give that to somebody in their future.
Lili Shank: Over the years we've had several people contact us saying, my mother died, my father died and all I have left is a voicemail on my answering machine. Can you help me preserve that? Suddenly realized that's the only bit of their voice and we have helped people through various ways to do that because suddenly the regret at, at not hearing their voice again becomes really powerful. We also, because, because one of the advantages to the two audio is it is a mobile format. We all have things at home on video that we don't sit down to watch because we have to stop what we're doing and sit down and watch it. And audio goes wherever people are going. So we suggest people loaded on their phone and listen to it in the car. That's the first thing I do when I deliver edited recordings. I say, just load this into your phone or if your car has a flash drive or a CD player, just keep it in your car and listen to it when you're driving around. And I had someone say to me, when I'm listening to it in my car, it's like my dad is sitting in the seat next to me. Oh Boy, my dad's gone. But it's like he's right there next to me. And as you said, the power of the voice to evoke someone, capture the essence of someone. The voice is the thing more than a 100 pictures
The voice stays remarkably the same. And their choice of words and the way they turn a phrase and the cadence of their voice. And the other thing that's wonderful about the voice, if someone is recording an elderly relative who doesn't look the way they used to look and it can be distracting to the viewer that they don't look the way they used to look or want to be remembered. When you listen to someone tell, stories can envision that loved one any way you want to think of them, whether it was when there were 50 or 70 or 90 or however in your mind you can. You can place them in visually how you want to think of them. And the other beautiful thing about audio storytelling that doesn't have a video is the imagination of the listener is activated because visual stimuli coming into the brain supersedes the imagination. But when you're listening in your mind's eye, you're creating everything. They're describing the house they grew up and with the scary furnace in the basement that they'd have to go down and you know, do things down in there or the talking about the bar and that they used to describing the bar and they got to play in as a kid visiting their grandparents on the farm. You are creating the visual in your mind that makes the stories more powerful, more intimate, more deeply experienced by the listener.
Amy: You said the word intimate and it is very much, you know, anytime we put earbuds on and we listened to say we're listening to a podcast or you know, a conversation between people that's recorded. That is, it is the border between the two are just, you know, between us and them is so, so narrow. And even like you said, when people play something in their car, again, that's in a confined space. And that adds to that feeling of intimacy. Especially if your listening to the voice of somebody that maybe you used to ride in a car with. You know, maybe it's your, maybe it's the voice of your grandfather. And he used to, my grandpa used to drive me to volleyball practice, you know, so, um, it's, it's a familiar setting. I'm not, the car wouldn't be the same, but that type of setting so that can, I'm sure, evoke lots of memories that you then bring to the memories that you're listening to of the storyteller color.
Lili Shank: We also tell people if you're, if you're loading the kids in the car and you all are driving to Colorado for summer vacation, play it on that drive to Colorado because the kids are a captive audience. They may not sit down at home with sustained interest to listen to, but you've got a captive audience, play it in the car and we hear, we hear from parents saying we did that. And the kids were fascinated and they commented how much they learned and they want to follow up and talk to Grandpa some more about those stories. So the, the form at the mobility of this, the audio generation makes audio stories really wonderful. And I never want to lose sight of the fact that the person being recorded is much more relaxed. None of us are relaxed with a camera lens pointed at us lights, camera, action, and they. The way we do it, the guest forgets they're being recorded pretty quickly.
Amy: Well, okay. On that note, let's go back. So you were talking about the process that you go through once somebody has hired you to do a story. So then you're making sure that the storyteller is on board and comfortable with it. What happens next?
Lili Shank: So then we will offer up to the adult children. Are there any certain specific stories, events, questions you would like us to cover? We don't know all the stories of your loved one's life or the life or the ones that are important to you. Send us the list and not everyone does, but some do. And when they do that can be really helpful. And then the person being recorded, whom we called the guest, feels out a biographical forms so that we know the names of family members, parents, grandparents, siblings, where they grew up, where they went to school career. Uh, we, we get a good outline of their life and the, there's also a section at the end of that biographical form where they can write about things in particular, they are interested in talking about periods of their life or certain events or certain people in their life. So we get that input from them and we also give them an assignment we say get, you know, keep a little notepad next to your favorite chair and on the kitchen table and when you think of stories that you want to tell them, jot down a word or two because that could be helpful and that is a source of anxiety for people often going into a session is what if I can't remember, what if I can't think of things to talk about and just having that little list of some bullet point words can help them feel more comfortable as they go into the recording.
Amy: Okay. And do you find that people actually do that? Because I usually what I, you know, when we're ending one interview session and we're scheduling the next one, I will, I don't even do it that often anymore, but I used to say to people, okay, you know, a little bit of homework and it's just jot down again, like you said, just jot down a word or two that will trigger, um, you know, it, it will make you think of what you want to talk about next time. Um, and I think maybe I had one person do it one time, it just, it was nothing that people wanted to do and maybe that was, you know, maybe that's indicative of why they wanted to hire somebody to write their story because they really, really did not want to be doing that part of it at all. But do people take you up on that? That suggestion of writing down in a little notebook what they want to talk about?
Lili Shank: Some do. I would say it's half. Maybe I'd say about a third of them do and some have that little piece of paper with them. It's a little bit of a security blanket. It's a comfort measure. Some send it to us, some say whatever. Our, my kids, whatever list by kids have given me because it is typically the children who hire us, uh, they say we want to know, I want to cover with the kids. Want me to talk about. And those, when you said that you send out something where people can say what stories they want to hear about. Those are typically the kids of the, the, the guest or the storyteller. Is that right? Yeah. Okay. Okay. So then you have all of this. I'm leading up to the interview. Then what happens? Then we go to the guest's home. We sit in a comfortable space away from the kitchen where refrigerators, home and hard surfaces make for not very warmed sound environment.
Lili Shank: So it's a smaller room with soft surfaces and we just sit down and we use a small lavalier microphone and our recorders of about the size of a paperback book and it's clipped on and everyone's fairly nervous the first 10 minutes or so. But then because the processes so almost visible, uh, we noticed people relax into their stories. It just start to enjoy talking about their life, uh, with, with our stories and our prompts and gently guiding them through the process. And Are you wearing a lovelier mic as well? Correct. Yes. Okay. So the recording does have you asking questions and, and having the conversation with the guest? Yes, yes. I would say I probably edit out half of my questions in the editing because if their story, if the narrative flows without my intervening question of will, then what happened next? I will. I will take it out, but I do, yes.
Lili Shank: My voice and my questions are in there when they're needed to set up a story or transition to a new topic and I can tell just by doing this, this interview with you right now, you're very good at stopping and listening and not talking over somebody and I'm guessing that's probably a learned skill so that you have good, clean audio. Amy. That is one of the hardest things because at the risk of gender stereotype, we women tend to do that when we converse with our friends. When we converse with family members, we talk over each other, or at least maybe I should just say I do. And so learning to do that in it is one of the reasons that all of us in Voices in Time edit our own recordings. We do not pass them onto someone else to edit. If I did not hear the number of times I speak over someone, I would not have it seared into my brain as deeply as I do to pause, let them finish their thought. Do not interrupt or speak over.
Amy: Okay. This is funny because, you know, I record my interviews with people. I work in book format very, very occasionally. I've done some audio, um, but you know, 90 percent of the stuff that I've done has been in book format, so it's, as long as the recording is good enough for, um, for it to be transcribed, that's all that I'm looking for because they, they don't ask for the recording. And um, you know, there's a lot of meandering back and forth for things. So it's probably not nearly as guided as what your doing. So I did not realize how much I talked over people until I started doing this podcast.
Amy: And the reason is that the app that I use, that you and I are talking over right now, um, if, uh, if I talk over my guests that I'm interviewing, uh, it gets this, it's in every single podcast episode because I can't stop myself 100 percent from doing it, but it has this weird robotic sound to it. So I've actually made me better at interviewing because now I know to just, shut up Amy, stop talking, let the other person have the floor. So it's a nice byproduct of having done this, this podcast for a little while now. Yeah. Useful feature of the app, right? Exactly. Sort of to you and says, oops, here you went. You did it again. It does. And I can hear it when I'm like right now, I think I laughed over you and I, that's going to be a little, a little, a little strange sounds for the, for the listeners that I will not be able to edit out.
Amy: And you're right, it's, um, it's, it's, it's almost like having a little, you know, electric electrode attached to you saying, nope, that's uncomfortable. So hopefully I'll get better and better as I go along, but it has had a positive effect when I'm doing interviews. I'm, although I sometimes, and this leads to a question for you to, um, you know, you, you have to, um, when you're doing active listening and you're sitting across from a storyteller or what you call the guest, it can't be just them talking at you. Right? It has to. This active listening that we're bringing to the interviews, um, we're responding in some way to what they're saying. At least I do. I mean, I feel like I have to show some emotion. I wouldn't be able to stop myself from showing some emotion when they're, when they're talking about the different stories. Um, I'm guessing for you, you have to be probably pretty disciplined in making sure that it's not a vocal response all the time, but maybe with your facial expressions or your gestures or even, um, even if you have to give them signals to like, do you have to ever tell them like, hey, let's go onto the next topic without actually stopping them or talk louder or softer or don't tap on the table or things like that.
Lili Shank: Yes. On things like that. Yes, because we do edit everything. So if someone is tapping on a table, I just say, Hey, let's move your hands so place else because we're picking up that sound. But I tell them before we start, as we start, I say, I will not be giving the verbal affirmations that we typically do in everyday conversation. You will know I'm listening, but I will not be saying really? Is that right? Oh my wow. Oh, I won't be doing any of that. And I tell them that so that they are not uncomfortable with that. It's also reminding my brain not to do that. But you could do a lot with facial expression and body language.
Amy: I assume before you hit the record button on the recorder, after you get everything set up, they have the lavalier mic on your miked up, um, you have a talk with them and do you, do you go into, okay, what are the things that we're going to talk about before you actually do the interview? Like what is that? That little pre interview right before you hit the record button, what does that entail?
Lili Shank: That is testing their microphone. That is doing exactly what I said. I will be giving verbal affirmations. I tell them that I will pause for a beat or two after they finish a thought because that helps me in the editing. I let them know I will be fiddling with my equipment and not to worry about that and that I will be taking notes.
Lili Shank: That's what I do. I will remind the people get lost in their stories of their hand, wanders up to the placket of their shirt or their blouse and all of a sudden they're playing with their microphone and that I have a signal I will give them if that should occur. I tell them, take a drink it, enjoy time, don't worry about that. Take a drink. We all that will get edited out. You don't have to ask for pause or permission to stop and take a drink. And then we typically start with stories of their grandparents and parents because I think it is an easier subject to warm up on to talk about someone else and it gets them a little bit going. It gets the ball rolling. They start to see this as, okay, this is not scary. This is actually quite pleasurable, quite enjoyable. I'm really enjoying this process. And so we start with that multigenerational piece of tell me about who they were, what do you remember of them? And then that naturally transitions into two childhood from there and growing up years.
Amy: Do they know, um, what kinds of questions you're going to be asking for any given session? So if, if, if you've been hired to do multiple sessions, do they know ahead of time which topic you're going to be asking them about?
Lili Shank: No, they don't. The one thing we do try to give them some advanced preparation time on his reflections questions at the end. Some guests are interested in reflections type questions. Some are not. And if they are, it's what? It's, it's those bigger philosophical questions. What are you grateful for in your life? What do you look back on and, and, um, see as, as defining qualities of your life, uh, what were the most difficult things? Have you had a guiding philosophy? What are your regrets? We like to give people some preparation time on those.
Amy: That's very smart advice. Um, I've, I've only been on the opposite end of a recorded interview once and the big questions were so hard for me. I guess I just don't think on my feet if I, you know, give me a pen and paper and I can think perfectly fine. Have the brain generate the words that come out of my mouth on the spot. It's, it's difficult. So I can't imagine then being expected to reflect back on your life, um, without it having, having the chance to give it a little bit of thought beforehand. So I think that's really wonderful advice. Um, how long does a session usually last?
Lili Shank: We go about 80 minutes. Oh, pretty long. It started because back when we were using cds as our format delivered format. That's how much recorded audio time fits on a cd and we just kind of stuck with that. We pretty much do flash drive or cloud delivery now because cd players are going away and we've just stuck with that because we think that that's a good amount of time before someone starts to get a little fatigued or it's time for us to, to pause and take a break.
Amy: And when you say that you record for 80 minutes, um, I'm assuming the final, the final edited product for that one session is going to be a shorter than 80 minutes typically.
Lili Shank: Yes. Yeah. As I'm recording, I'm aware mentally I'm, I'm tracking on, is this, is this a session where I'm going to be editing out quite a few digressions or things that aren't relevant or misspeaks on my part as you said, I'm cleaning up me a lot as much as anything or is this one boy this. This is a real clean session. There's very little. I'm going to be cleaning up on this. Uh, you know, I'm keeping that in mind as I determine how long to go in the recording session.
Amy: And I think you told me a long time ago when we were having a conversation about this, if I remember correctly, you said that you actually keep a little pad next to you and you'll look at the um, I don't know if you timestamp it or if you just look at the time and if there's a sneeze or something that, you know, that definitely has to be edited out, you know, those, those little abruptions that we don't want to in the end, the recording that you mark it down. So that also can help make the editing process quicker. Is that right?
Lili Shank: Yes, but Amy, reality is every session gets listened to start to finish at least once in the editing and most of our time, the bulk of our time is spent in the editing. It's not the recording, it's the editing.
Amy: Yep. That's the same with books. I mean, I, I tell people, you know, because they're, they're expensive projects and you know, I tell people that 90 percent of my time, you know, 80, 90 percent of my time is not sitting in front of them talking, you know, having our interviews. It's in front of the computer editing, editing those transcripts, creating, you know, a book that people are going to want to read. So the same for you. It's creating an audio that people are going to want to listen to. Um, so I, this, this is slightly off topic, but um, you said that you deliver to the cloud and a thumb drive, is that right? Yes. Okay. Now do you pretty it up in some way? Like is there some packaging?
Lili Shank: I’m a believer, Amy, in delivering a tangible. Because if it's delivered on the cloud, who's going to remember 20 years from now that that exists somewhere on someone's computer on someone's hard drive, who's going to remember 50 years from now? So we deliver an album case regardless, that has the guests photo on the front and the date it was recorded and inside it lives a thumb drive or instructions on where it's stored. And we tell everyone who orders cloud delivery, make some tangible backups on this if that's what they want to do, make some, some flash drive backups, burn some cds, whatever they choose. And inside that album are a topic index cards because each session is chaptered like a book. So if they want to just go back and here again that story of how mom and dad met, they can look at that table of contents and go, oh, that was in session three, chapter two. And they can with their, uh, you know, mouse go right to that and, and find that chapter.
Amy: So your actually splitting up, you're splitting up the recordings into tracks that they can go straight to. Correct. Oh, that's a brilliant idea. Yeah, that's a great idea. That must take an awful lot of time to I'm guessing or not.
Lili Shank: Well, if I'm listening, I've. I'm after after the recording when I'm listening for the first time to create editing notes. I don't actually edit. I have an audio editor, but she is editing at the exact three minutes and 21 seconds at the word cat and picking up at at three minutes and 46 seconds at the word dog. It's that specific that I'm giving her to edit and as I'm listening. Wait, I'm unclear what. What does that mean? It means I give her a very detailed editing notes of exactly the sentence that she's cutting out what the time code is.
Amy: Oh, wording and what the queue for the cut is and what the out queue is for the cut. So it's hitting very precise editing points that I have. I have listed for her. So you listen to the whole session and you're making these editing notes and it includes things like, I want to. I want you to cut out this, these several seconds from. Okay. And that's what the incu and the out cue is, and then you pass this onto your audio editor and she's actually physically doing that, the snipping of the places that need to be snipped out. Is that right? And then while I'm listening to that, I'm creating the chapter breaks. Okay, look, we've just transitioned from talking about high school to now college and it's been about 10 minutes into a session. This is a perfect time to start a new chapter and I'll say, make that chapter break there. And she, she breaks it into a new track at the beginning of talking about college.
Amy: And that's what you find to be, um, a good amount of time? About 10 minutes for a, for a chapter. Because I've had people ask me how long should chapters be in a book? And you know, there's, there's some guidelines there to, you know, 1500 words can be good in 2000 words, can be good, sometimes shorter. But yeah, you need to find those natural pauses. And it's nice when the content lines up where those pauses should be. Um, so then the um, uh, the other question that I had about this, do you ever have to take content and move it around?
Lili Shank: I do not do that. And that is one of the functions of the table of contents because memory doesn't work in a strictly chronological fashion. We all hop scotch around and something occurs to us childhood about the grandfather that you didn't tell that back when we were primarily talking about grandfather, but with the chapter notes they can see that, oh, okay. Grandpa Jim gets talked about again in chapter four. Chapter two may have been mostly Grandpa Jim, but chapter. There's the story about the trip you took with Grandpa Jim showing up before. So I do not move things around because it's very time consuming and the table of contents take care of that issue.
Amy: And I agree with you about it being time consuming. I think I've only tried doing that once and it was miserable because you know, unless you're having it presented sort of in an anecdotal fashion instead of a long continuous narrative flow in narrative, in this case being the speakers flow, unless you want to stop and make little stories, it's really hard to have anything match up correctly. When you start moving the content around now, do you do anything between chapter breaks? Like is there any kind of like little musical interlude or anything like that?
Lili Shank: Nope. And if you were listening to the recording in the car, you would not know when one chapter has stopped and another one has begun. Only that it probably your display on your car would, would indicate track to it suddenly become track three. You don't hear any change. It's a seamless experience. It just helps you to go back and find a certain story that you want to enjoy hearing again.
Amy: How many hours do people typically hire you to do?
Lili Shank: It's all over the map, so we have family members that say, our budget and what we're looking for with that as one session or mom is one session and that's really useful and important for us to know going in because it helps us know what pace to set and we really asked the family what, what are your priority areas? Is it childhood? Is it dad's military service? Is it the time period from when your parents met on and give. Give us a little guidance on what you're most interested in. If the family says one sessions what we want, if if they say we are open to more than one session, should it be warranted? That is very helpful and we need to know that upfront. I will dig a little deeper. I will ask more questions about grandparents and parents because you just don't know which question is going to pull out a wonderful story and it gives me the ability to do that and then I'll check in with the client after the first one and say they don't know how verbose their parents going to be. They may have a sense, but they don't know and I don't know till we get into a session, how expansive a storyteller are they? So I will check in and say, here's what we got covered first one. I think a second session is definitely warranted, shall we proceed and I will generally check in with them and there are clients who say, just go as long as mom wants and I've done up to 10 sessions with a client over many weeks and months or some will say, you know, I think three, we'll do it. Let's, let's wrap up after three. So it really is, goes the whole range
Amy: and I'm guessing that if I'm for the projects that do go a little bit longer for the people who are saying, you know, let, let the person talk as long as they need to to get their stories out. Um, are those the times where your finding stories or they're talking about stories that maybe nobody's requested because they haven't heard about before? Are there surprises?
Lili Shank: Yes. Because one of the most gratifying things I hear, and I bet you do too, is you turn over the edited recordings to the clients, the adult children, and how almost universally we here, I never knew Xyz. I'd never heard that story. I had no idea about that. And that's the, make the hair stand up on the back of your neck moment of your connecting generations, your helping family members know each other and that they can circle back with their loved one in St. Well, Gosh, mom, tell me some more about that. I had no idea. I'd never heard that. Those are those magic moments.
Amy: I agree. Or when the storyteller or the guest says to you, um, you know, one story that they're telling reminds them of something else that they haven't heard or that they haven't thought about in a long time. And they say, I haven't talked about this in, you know, 40 years or I've never told anybody this or I've never told my family this. And those are just, um, gosh, those were the golden moments. You know, like you said, your hair stands up and it's, it's a bit of a dopamine rush, I think, you know, because you feel like, yes, I'm getting someplace that you're letting them express something that they probably would not have expressed otherwise. Um, and it can be a beautiful thing and that can go hand in hand with stories that are well known, but maybe there's an angle that hasn't really been explored because they've been telling the same story for years and years and the kids want to hear it and in the same way they've always heard it. Um, so there can be the more nuanced surprises that are just as thrilling to hear too. Yes.
Lili Shank: Because we are a, we are a fresh set of ears and we are a non family member so we get the full version of the story and often less slanted one way or another because family dynamics aren't involved.
Amy: Great. Yeah. When people come to me and say they want to have their parents' story done, um, I, I, I love to be able to explain to them that, you know, I'm, I'm a blank slate for, for the, the storyteller and you can, you can, that has so many advantages. Once you build that trusting relationship with them, it's such an advantage to be hearing these stories for the first time because you're going to think of questions that somebody else who does know the story really well would not think to ask. Um, and it can.
Lili Shank: It's just a fresh take on things. And I've learned, Amy, firsthand how very difficult it is to interview one of your own family members. It is so hard not to ask leading questions because you think, you know, you think, you know, and you want to just set it up for it to go the direction you think it's going to go. And, and you don't get the stories. It's very difficult to interview your own family members and keep it, keep it clean and, and let the questions be open ended short and not answer the question with the question. Right?
Amy: I have so many questions that I would still like to ask you, but we're, we're running short on time and I do want to touch on the fact that, um, that Voices in Time, it's not just Lily Shank. There are several people with Voices in Time and including. So you're in Kansas City, um, and there are, there are a few others in Kansas City, but there's also somebody in Colorado and in Nebraska. Now, how does that work? Or are you one big team or are these franchises? Um, how is that setup?
Lili Shank: How that works is what we basically do is share on website, share a website and share in marketing and share in ideas and learning, uh, best practices. We have a conference call every two weeks where we all talk about what are we working on, what are, what are we struggling with, where are we finding business? As you know, when we talk about what we do, people are so universally interested and enthusiastic and you get this very positive response, but that doesn't always translate into somebody's ready to move forward with a project and finding clients can be challenging and how do we continue to keep doing that? Uh, so everyone handles their own clients from start to finish, but we're just kind of a team that is a resource for each other all using the same approach and I'm sharing some of the things so that we don't each have to set up our own website and we can be a resource to each other because as you said, we're all a bit alone out there working and it feels a little less alone because we have a team, we have somebody to shoot an email to and say, hey, I've run into this in this interview. Has Anybody run into this? And how have you guys handled that?
Amy: And that's a really good idea just to have some, some colleagues that you're in. I like that you do it on a regular basis. Um, and everybody knows to show up for that, that biweekly meeting because you are, you've built a, um, a work environment with colleagues in a profession that really doesn't, it doesn't happen naturally to have colleagues.
Lili Shank: Correct. Correct. And we're a, he'll be a lonely it connecting with our clients during the interview process is so soul feeding and fulfilling and fascinating all those things. But as you and I know that's kind of the smallest part of our work time sitting with the client.
Amy: Well, and I know you and I were chatting right before we started recording and I was telling you how I am now as a, I guess three weeks into not having kids at home. So it's just me and the dog at home and I do work from my home office and yeah, it, I, I want to go out and do this now. I want to find a little tribe of people that want to set up something like what you have and have that week or every other week check in and people to bounce ideas off of. I mean we do. There are some websites, there's an on facebook, I believe it is. There's a personal historian. Is that open? Do you know? Or do you belong to that facebook group? Don't. I recalled there was discussion of one starting, but I haven't tracked whether that's ongoing. Okay. Now I'm not sure if that's open to anybody that's doing this business, so I probably shouldn't even be mentioning it, but you know, I'm not really a fan of facebook and um, and interacting with people that way, it's just, it doesn't come very naturally to me.
Amy: So to be able to talk to somebody or a small group of people, I think that's a really good idea. Um, so that you're, you, you know, multiple minds are better than just one mind on its own, especially if you're trying to come up with solutions to things. So, um, this has been wonderful. I so appreciate you talking to everybody about this and I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who would really like to get into doing audios. It's The Times that I've done it. It's, it's a, it's a really fun way. It you, you have to have different interviewing skills, I would say. Then if you're interviewing for a book project, I'm, your skills have to be a bit more refined for sure. And even with the technology, you have to really make sure that you're, that you've got it right. And actually let's end with that. If you can tell people what you use. You said that you use Lavalier mics and a recorder. I'm assuming it's like a field recorder, uh, during the interview session.
Lili Shank: Correct. We use the one I use as a Marantz and uh, you would think I could come up with the model number off the top of my head, but I, of course I can't, but just type in Google “Marantz digital recorder.” I think it's, um, I'm not gonna remember beyond that, but the, the other thing that's important do not do wireless Lavalier mics, uh, from my years in TV news. I know that if you're going to grin into audio issues, it's because of a wireless mic. So No Bluetooth mics and the lavaliere mic works really nicely for us and always wear headphones when you're recording and if you have concerns that it's going to create a barrier between you and the guest, we have not found that to be the case. You are the professional walking in, they will accept any thing that of the way that is your protocol because they accept that that's what you do. And so always be listening in good headphones dot earbuds to the recording so that if any issue would develop soundwise during the recording, uh, crackle on of mic an issue, you're aware of it at the time of recording and don't discover it once you get back and you've loaded it and you're listening to it right.
Amy: It's a lot easier to fix the problems before they happen on the recording that in post production. Right?
Lili Shank: Right.
Amy: Well, thank you lily. If, um, if people want to get a hold of you, where do they go?
Lili Shank: Our website is Voices in Time.com.
Amy: And listeners, I highly suggest that everybody go and look at this website because it's one of the prettier ones out there for life story professionals. I think it's, it's beautiful. It's very elegant and has a kind of a calm feel to, at a calm vibe to it. I, I really like your website.
Lili Shank: Oh, thanks Amy. Thank you. Well, this has been great fun for me. I always loving love talking personal history, right? We could talk for days can because it's a, it's something to be, it's easy to be passionate about and um, we'd need more people out here doing this because I always tell people there is no wrong way to go about this process, whether it's book, video, audio, the only wrong ways to not do it at all when you go.
Amy: Yeah. Well thank you. And um, I'd love to have you on again some day because like I said, I have, I have a lot more questions that I didn't get to, but I do appreciate you taking the time.
Lili Shank: All right, I'll see you at the coffee shop.