Radio: Seven Ways to Rock Your Next Interview

By Brad Phillips, Author, The Media Training Bible

imgresI’ve done hundreds of radio interviews throughout my career. They seem simple. After all, you just pick up a phone or visit a studio and have a conversation with the host.

But radio interviews are nothing like normal conversations (unless your friends take listener phone calls and toss to a commercial break every few minutes!). Remember these seven rules for your next radio interview:

  1. Prepare for an abrupt start: Most radio interviews are done by phone, not in studio, and most stations prefer to call you rather than have you call into the studio (it can work either way). Some producers call a few minutes before the interview begins, allowing you to listen for few minutes to get a feel for the program’s tone. But others wait until the last possible second, meaning you’re on the air within moments of picking up the phone. When you pick up the phone, be ready to go live on a second’s notice—or on no notice at all. You’ll hear the host over the phone line, so turn your radio off to avoid hearing a distracting delay.
  2. Express passion: Sure, you’re on the radio. But listeners will hear it if you stand, move your hands, and smile—so get a telephone headset and gesture away. Try to match or slightly exceed the host’s energy level to avoid sounding flat.
  3. Sit close to the microphone (in studio): Ari Ashe, a reporter and producer for Washington, DC’s top-rated WTOP-FM, advises guests to sit close to the microphone, no farther than a “fist’s-length” away.
  4. Connect with the host (in studio): Mr. Ashe says it’s key for radio guests to make eye contact. “Look at the interviewer,” he says. “Speak to him or her, and speak like you’re talking to a friend or spouse. If you exude confidence and comfort with the interviewer, the listener will feel confident and comfortable with you. Be friendly, be cordial, and act like you’re just chatting with your best friend.” It’s okay to take a few notes with you and glance down occasionally to remember your key points, but try not to lose your connection.
  5. Don’t depend on them to make the plug: You’re probably on the radio because you want to promote something—a new book, your website, your company. Although many experienced hosts are adept at “plugging” whatever you want promoted, some aren’t. So it’s up to you to mention that information a few times throughout the interview. You can increase the host’s odds of getting it right by sending in advance the information you’d like plugged. I also often send the producer a shortened version of my bio, which many hosts use verbatim to introduce me on the air.
  6. Treat crazy callers with respect: If you appear on a radio show that takes listener calls, you may get an angry caller who goes on a rant that has little to do with your topic. Maintain the high ground. The public recognizes angry callers for what they are, so impress the audience with your graceful and kind handling of the caller. Push back on incorrect assertions, but do so respectfully.
  7. Listen to the tape: Few people enjoy listening to tapes of their interviews, but doing so can help you identify and fix problem areas. At one point in my career, I was surprised to hear that I said “uhhh” a few too many times during my interviews. That self-awareness allowed me to kill the “uhhhs,” eliminating a problem I otherwise wouldn’t have known existed.

Brad Phillips is the author of The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview. He also writes the world’s most-visited media training website, Mr. Media Training.