The tips below were gathered from personal experience (appearances on more than 650 radio talk shows) and from other speakers and authors who have coached me on improving my on-the-air presence while being interviewed by radio talk show hosts. In addition, as the former Associate Producer of the MarsVenus Radio Talk Show with hosts, Dr. John Gray, Ph.D. and Michael Najarian, M.A., the following guidelines are those that I recommended for guests who appeared on our show.
Why is radio so HOT? Radio is an outstanding way to create awareness, influence trends and introduce new concepts. You can reach millions quickly. Radio is done via telephone adding to its desirability. It’s easy to do, with no travel required, yet the outreach is tremendous! Radio is also very supportive in mentioning your book and website plus you get more time to share your message – interviews can be from five-ten minutes up to one hour.
Be sure you have written the time, date, length of the interview and any other details on your calendar. If you miss a scheduled interview or have to cancel or reschedule an interview you risk losing it forever.
It’s showtime! Before you go on the air, have your book and notes handy. Isolate yourself prior to the call. What is your point? Make sure and write down four or five key points that you want to cover during your interview so you always stay on track. Strengthen your points with anecdotes, humor, and statistics so that they are more memorable and entertaining. Take a few minutes to focus on the key points you need to make to make your message stand out. Know your mission and your message.
Spend no less than 5 to 10 minutes alone before a phone interview. Relax. Breathe slowly and if it’s early in the day and your voice in not yet up to speed, hum a couple of bars of “Kum Ba Yah” or read aloud some of your notes to warm up your vocal chords. Sip some tipid water. Remember that it is not only what you say, but how you say it. Read them aloud with a smile on your face. People can hear your smile, and it puts energy into your voice.
Being interviewed is giving a performance. Do your best to appear natural, spontaneous and unrehearsed. This takes some practice. If you know your stuff, the uneasiness usually disappears when the first words have been spoken and the answers begin to flow.
Prepare several pages of notes for each of your topics, books, etc., (including your 800#, contact info, etc.) and put them in clear plastic page protectors. Have them available on your desk during the interview. They will be useful to “scan” to help you stay focused as you speak. When on-the-air, never “read” from your notes, “speak” from them. Do your best to sound as natural as possible. Keep them close by in a file folder for use for your next radio interview. You cannot be too prepared for a radio interview.
Be careful of every word that comes out of your mouth! You cannot un-ring a bell. One slip can ruin your career (Remember Imus?). When you are talking to a reporter or a radio or TV host, remember, nothing is off the record.
To sound and be more credible and powerful on radio and on TV, delete the words “I think” from your vocabulary. “I think” dilutes your message and causes you to sound uncertain.
Think carefully about the words the producer uses to explain what they want in the interview. Even though you are the expert, they will often come up with a new slant on your topic that you have never considered. This is a gift.
If you want to be ready on “short notice” for radio interviews, place a flip chart on an easel near your telephone. Write bullet points that will help deliver your message more clearly when the media calls. This keeps you from scrambling around your desk looking for your media info sheet.
When preparing your talking points (sound bites) always ask “who cares”? Your message has to resonate with your listening audience to have maximum impact. Save your serious topics for morning drive time. Most producers are looking for light, fun topics for afternoon drive time because commuters are tired, less alert and producers want to lift their spirits.
Sound bites should be no longer 10 to 20 seconds for radio and television. Practice reading your sound bite aloud. Change whatever sounds awkward. Use descriptive words. Your words need to be intriguing to the media. Sound bites must seem to be spontaneous and natural, full of excitement and certainly not rehearsed.
Research the audience you want to reach and the radio stations that broadcast to that audience. Design your remarks to the audience you are speaking to. Be sure to customized your sound bites for special occasions and for specific audiences. Another good reason to listen to the radio station before you call to get a “feel” for the talk-jockey’s style. If you are not in the same city, listen on the Internet. Many radio stations have streaming audio on their Websites.
Do your best to remove all distractions around you; deactivate call waiting, remove pets, turn off fans, TV, Cell phone and any other noise makers. Close the door and post a “Do Not Disturb – Radio Interview” note on the door. Turn papers on your desk face down to avoid the temptation of being inattentive to the host or preoccupied with something you must do later. Unless you will be viewing information relative to the interview from your Website on your computer during the interview, turn off your computer. Never use a cell phone or speaker phone for an interview. They are not broadcast quality and unreliable!
Romance the producer. The producer is often neglected because the focus is on the host. Believe me, the producer does all the hard work behind the scenes and in many cases is the person who will make the decision to book the interview. Ask questions about the host. Give the producer your full attention, your best ideas and your gratitude. If you are sending a book for the host, ask them if they would like you to send a copy to them. Make a note of their full name for your file and be sure to sign the book to them.
You “must” spark the producer’s interest. Stay up on the news. Listen to the radio, read newspapers, watch TV. That helps you figure out what’s in the news and how your message might tie in with it.
Most producers will listen carefully to what you have to say and HOW you say it, so be at your best. Your passion for the message is what makes you believable, plus its timely connection to current events or a personal challenge will make it relevant and newsworthy. Answer their specific questions carefully and always bring the answer back to your own key message.
“The interviewer is not your friend, and everything you say is on the record. If you don’t want it to be in print, don’t say it.” ~ Seth Godin, author
In a radio interview, an answer has 3 parts. State the problem, give an example of the problem, and define the solution. Don’t fail this test. Be fiercely opinionated. Be who you are! Offer your input and perspective. Be inspiring, provocative, believable, different and memorable. Look at this opportunity as an audition; a genuine tryout for a real on-air performance. Speak to them in your very best sound bites.
Wikipedia says, “A soundbite is an audiolinguistic and social communications phenomenon. It is characterized by a short phrase or sentence that deftly captures the essence of what the speaker is trying to say. Such key moments in dialogue (or monologue) stand out better in the audience’s memory and thus become the “taste” that best represents the entire “meal” of the larger message or conversation. Soundbites are a natural consequence of people placing ever greater emphasis on summarizing ever-increasing amounts of information in their lives.”
Always be ready for the interview early. If you are going to the studio always allow an extra half an hour travel time for delays over and above the time the producer tells you to arrive. For radio telephone interviews, be ready and waiting at your telephone for the producer to get you on the line at least five to 10 minutes before your scheduled interview time. Producers like to know you are on the line before they commit you to their audience.
I have a list of nearly 40 relationship articles on various topics on my Website and will always have my computer tuned to the “articles menu.” I use them as “thought-starters” for when a host suddenly changes the direction of the interview. Expect the unexpected! Motto: “Be Prepared.” (Hmmmmm. Heard that somewhere before!)
If the topic is about something that I have written about, I will casually mention the article title and mention that detailed information is available by reading the article listed in the “Relationships Articles Menu” on CelebrateLove.com (my primary website).
It’s okay to quote briefly from your book or about your speaking business or product. I use “red” tags that label various relationship topics on the the pages of my books for easy reference. If a specific topic suddenly pops up, I can flip right to it.
Weave the name of your book into the conversation so it sounds like it is a necessary part of the conversation. Do not say, “As I said in my book. . .” without mentioning the title. This takes some practice to keep from sounding like your only intention is to promote. Radio producers and hosts love to interviews guests who know how to be promotional, that is, mention the name of their book without sounding like a commercial. Practice using the name of your book as if it were a person not a thing to promote.
When you say “in my book” you may come off as a pushy author. Instead, use the title of your book and give some helpful tips. You are there to teach, and the more you teach the more the listening audience will want to buy your book. Teach the audience at least several things that will make their life better. Make sure the host gives your Web site (or you do too) and send the audience there not to “buy” your book but to get a “freebie” from your Website.
It’s also a good idea to mention the host’s name now and then. Write their name on a Post-It note and put it where you can see it during the interview. This allows you to call the host by name during the interview and helps you relate to the listeners. Research the host. Go to the radio station Website and read their bio. Do a Google search. Call the producer of the show and ask some questions. The more you know the better. Then slip it into the interview. Make sure they know that you have done your homework.
Be sure to describe your book in a way that emotionally engages the audience and causes them to want to buy it and read it. Select several adjectives that capture the tone or style of your book so they get a “feel” for it.
While you are on the radio to promote your books or other products, you must also provide entertaining content for the radio audience. Talk show hosts will seldom invite you back if you do not first have their audience in mind. In other words. . . your book or the “hook” you used to get the host’s attention may get you on the show, however you must have something interesting to say that is unique, controversial or fascinating (besides an occasional mention of your book).
Talk show hosts will be more interested in having you as a guest if you can promise to deliver what you’ve learned about your topic and how other people can benefit from it. If you can tie-in a local angle to a national story, that’s good too.
Give the radio audience several “to-dos” they can do today that will change their life or make it better. Never sell your books or seminars when you are on the air. Teach. The more you teach them, the more they will want to buy whatever you are selling.
Put aside any prepared agenda you may have and let the host lead with questions. Listeners who listen to talk radio are smart. They know when someone is trying to “sell” them something. They want to be entertained and informed, not “pitched.” Say things that make them think. Listeners (and hosts too) become quickly annoyed with guests who constantly repeat the title of their book, your website or name of your business and will often tune out. The key is balance.
If you are a speaker, a radio interview is not a stage to speak from. It is an interview. Resist the urge to go on and on, never pausing long enough to allow the host to ask another question. If you are unfamiliar with the talk-show format, make it a point to listen to some of the top talk show hosts and pay attention to how they do it.
If you get a host who is inexperienced and is asking non-relevant questions. . . answer the question as best you can and bring up another point that may lead the host to another question or ask the host a question.
Better yet, in advance of your appearance, provide the host with a list of at least 10 questions that you deem important or may be questions that you are frequently asked. Put them in the order of importance or relavance as to why you are being interviewed. Make a copy for yourself with a few short answers to use as thought-starters if your mind goes blank. Most hosts welcome this idea because they rarely read your book and often will scan your media kit or list of questions just prior to going on the air. Do not focus your energy on what the questions will be when giving the interview, focus on giving your best answer to the questions you have provided them.
Develop questions that are hard-hitting, perhaps a little edgy and benefit-loaded for the listening audience. Producers and hosts love questions that will intrigue their audience (a hint of controversy) and glue them to their radio dials. Make each question better than the one before. Producers don’t want anyone switching stations.
When creating a list of questions for the host to be asked during an interview, keep them benefit oriented to your audience. Remember that the interviewer is there to get a good interview, not to “make nice” with warm and fuzzy questions. Avoid the question, “Why did you write the book” but rather weave this info into your answer and ask more compelling questions that command the audience to “stick around” for your answer!
A compelling final question on your list might include something like: “Do you have any final words for our listeners as we wrap up this segment?” Be prepared for a memorable sound bite for this question; one that includes your Website and where they can buy your book. Practice your sound bites to keep them short but extremely meaningful and you will be an excellent guest!
When you mention your Website, be sure to list a specific reason to visit. I will mention the Website, then say, “You will find a list of over 40 FREE relationship articles. Look for the “Articles Menu.”
Keep answers and explanations simple. If it’s short and gets their attention, it buys you more time to deliver your message. Complex information tends to lose or bore interviewers and audiences. People want a capsule of information delivered in a few seconds that is easy to swallow and switches on their mental light bulb.
Once you have your questions for the host, run them through with a good friend – preferably someone who can be objective. This will help make sure there aren’t any questions you missed or duplicate answers to questions you have listed.
Unless you are experienced at giving interviews, it is better to be cautious than candid. You can’t unring a bell. Once you say it, it’s too late. It is far better to be rehearsed and deliberate. Off-the-cuff comments intended as candor or humor may not translate that way to the listeners.
There is no rule that says you have to respond to every question. If a question is loaded, re-phrase it in a more neutral manner and answer the re-phrased version. Never use the phrase “no comment.” The public perceives it as an avoidance technique and many see it as an admission of guilt. Rehearse several clever ways to avoid answering the question without saying, “no comment.”
Be who you really are. Never worry about what you think someone else will think about what you say. When you worry about embarrassing yourself or saying the wrong thing you usually will. Besides, you have no control over what someone else will think. They will think whatever they think and there is nothing you can do about it.
Act naturally. You need to be a powerful guest. You cannot be a powerful guest when you are concerned about what you don’t want to happen. You need to sparkle while on the air. Enthusiasm speaks loud and clear, so in order to keep the audience attentive you need to maintain a high level of interest throughout the interview. Have fun with it Focus on your mission and your message and deliver it well.
Do your best to make the host look good! This is especially important if you want to be invited back. Never try to steal the limelight from the host or interviewer. Your job is to make them look good, while getting your main points across.
As a former broadcaster who helped introduce the “stand-up when you speak” concept to broadcasters in the Midwest, I have learned that you can speak more clearly and project your voice much better when you stand during a radio interview by telephone. Standing raises your energy level and will help you be more focused and alert. When you do radio interviews from your office you have that luxury. When you sit, often the tendency is to slump and take short breathes. When you stand, you can breath more deeply and project from the diaphragm. Remember to take a deep breath before you begin speaking.
I also suggest that you buy a telephone headset so you can speak “hands-free.” “Never” use a speaker phone (the broadcast quality in unacceptable). Holding the telephone or cradling the phone on your shoulder for an hour can cause stress to your neck. Many professional speakers use their hands when they speak to emphasis points. Using a headset allows you to act and speak more naturally.
If you spend lots of time on the phone during the day, it’s easy to let your guard down when doing a phone interview. Mistakes happen when you allow yourself to be “too casual.” Remember, the listeners do not know what you are going to say, so if you do make a mistake, don’t call attention to it. . . keep going.
Before the interview begins, find out who will be the interviewer and the correct pronunciation of their name. Jot their name, the name of the show, the station call letters and the city on a large piece of paper, put it in front of you and remember to use this info often during the interview; especially their name. It creates a more intimate conversation that draws the audience in.
When they ask a particularly insightful question, pass along a compliment. “That is an excellent question” or “I’m glad you asked that question” works. It also helps to draw in your audience. Even hosts like to be acknowledged and appreciated.
Look for a local angle or make an effort to make a local observation and mention it during the interview. Local talk show hosts especially like to hear that you are relating to their audience. If a major news event has just happened in the city where the interview will be heard, if it’s appropriate or ties in with your topic, talk about it. Know how your book ties in to breaking news.
www.50States.com is a terrific source for information, trivia (click on “Fast Facts”), and much more on every state in the USA. It has great info that can help you connect with your local audience and make you sound really informed.
Part Two will post on July 30, 2014.
Copyright © 2014 – Larry James. Larry James is a professional speaker and the author of three relationship books, “How to Really Love the One You’re With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship,” “LoveNotes for Lovers: Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing” and “Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers.” His newest book is “Ten Commitments of Networking.” Larry James also offers “Author & Speaker” coaching. Contact: AuthorsandSpeakersNetwork.com, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. CelebrateLove@cox.net – More than 110 articles especially for Authors & Speakers at: www.AuthorsandSpeakersNetwork.com
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