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Radio Interview Performance Tips for Authors
Here are performance suggestions for being interviewed on radio and drawn from my book,
"It's Show Time."
Hints for performing at your best
- Feel comfortable and know what you are talking about.
- Sit with your mouth 2 to 3 inches from the microphone and speak directly into it. Be careful
that you do not accentuate your P's or whistle on your S's although most microphones have a
protective cover to minimize these plosive sounds.
- If there are two or more hosts, continue speaking into the microphone as you turn your head
to redirect your eye communication with the one asking the question. If you turn your head away
from the microphone to speak to him or her, you will lose volume.
- One advantage of radio over television is your book will be in front of you as you speak. But
you will lose credibility if you take time searching for a particular quotation or fact to substantiate
your point. Facilitate your search by using bright-colored sticky notes and markers to highlight
major passages to which you can refer quickly. This will save time searching for the information
while under pressure to respond. If you stop speaking while searching for the appropriate detail,
the host will interject with his or her opinion on the topic. One thing the host will not allow is
dead air (periods of silence).
- Use props and visuals on radio shows. The host can describe them to the audience. For
instance, the radio person could say, "I'm holding in my hand an example of the networking card
you created. This is the most bizarre thing I've ever seen. Tell me about it." That enhances radio
Live shows allow people in the audience to call and talk to you personally. Welcome the
opportunity to perform under these conditions. It makes for a more interesting show, and if there
are many callers, the host is more likely to invite you back for a repeat performance.
Although most callers are screened beforehand, you have no control over what the callers will
ask. Their inquiries will run the gamut from off-the-wall questions having nothing to do with what
you are talking about to pertinent questions dealing directly with your topic. Some will even
take exception to your comments. But all this makes a good radio show.
You may get an abusive caller, but the host is there to protect you. If the abuse is directed at
you personally, the host will normally cut off the caller. But if the controversy is about your topic
or position, the host will usually let the two of you discuss it within the bounds of decorum. No
matter how much you want to berate the caller, do not do it. Be polite, explain your points and
Get the audience involved in your discussion and it will be more likely to call you. Do that by
offering a prize (your book) to the first caller who answers your question correctly. This
technique also gets your book's title mentioned more frequently without you being pushy.
Another idea is to offer an analysis of a major news event and request people with the
opposite view to call and explain their position. As the listeners hear you respond with an open
mind to callers, others will be more likely to call.
After appearing on several radio shows, you will be able to anticipate many of the questions
the callers will ask. Yet, in most cases it is difficult to have a stock answer because each one will
contain an individual concern. Your challenge is to turn a question into a platform to discuss one
of your agenda items. Here are several guidelines that will help make each call-in show a
- Before the show, ask friends and relatives to call in. Give them the station's studio number
(which is usually different from the main number) and questions to ask relating to your agenda.
Many people do not like to be the first to call, and your plant will break the ice.
- The host may give you a headset so you can hear the caller. Do not be frightened or annoyed
that your hair will get messed up (remember, this is radio and people cannot see you). Use the
headset and you will be surprised at how much clearer the voices will be.
- Keep a note pad with you. As the caller gives his or her name, note and mention it during the
call. Also, jot down key words to which you can refer while answering. Listen to the entire
question for a familiar word you can use to make the transition to one of your agenda items
(which may or may not be the point of the question).
- If you need more information to answer properly, ask the caller to expand on the question.
The more the caller talks, the more likely you are to find the one familiar point on which you can
base your answer. Use reflective statements ("Oh really? Tell me more.") to keep the caller
- You may find it helpful to rephrase the question. This will make sure you are addressing the
underlying meaning, and it gives you the chance to restate it, making it easier to answer. Repeat
the question, perhaps making the transition into your agenda. Then say, "Is that what you were
- If you are asked two questions simultaneously, choose the order in which you will answer
them. Answer the easier question first, then ask for the other to be repeated. This not only gives
you time to think, but the second question may be answered in the process, or forgotten.
- Always be courteous and never belittle a caller. Make something interesting out of what you
think is a frivolous question by saying, "That's an interesting point, especially if you consider this
aspect of it...." If the question was already covered (perhaps before this caller tuned in), mention
it and briefly summarize your previous answer. If you can add something to what you said earlier,
- Make each caller sound important. If appropriate, remark, "That's a good question." Pause
briefly, as if pondering your reply, and then proceed with your response.
- Some callers may seek their 15 minutes of fame by trying to trip you up. Maintain your
composure and use your grasp of the facts and figures to back up your comments. Do not try to
prove a questioner wrong; prove yourself right by citing your research.
- Do not lose your self-control and do not argue with a caller. State your case professionally
and back up your remarks with facts. Tell irate callers you understand what they are saying
without agreeing with them. If a caller becomes argumentative or profane, the host will usually
cut him or her off.
- Remember your agenda and do not allow yourself to be led astray. Avoid confrontational
issues not related to your objectives.
- If you do not know the answer, admit it. If the question is out of your area of expertise, tell
the caller where he or she can find the answer.
- Visualize the caller and talk to him or her. Make it sound as if the two of you are sitting in a
living room having a friendly conversation.
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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