One of the first articles I wrote was about radio interview techniques. I was arrogant enough to think that after a couple of interviews, I was sufficiently expert to tell others how to handle themselves.
Looking back on that article, I now realise that although I highlighted some of the major points, I missed out important pieces of advice.
I now consider myself a veteran of the radio circuit, having given about approximately sixty interviews on BBC radio stations scattered about the UK, in the US, Australia and even New Zealand. I made mistakes along the way but now will happily chat to anyone on air for hours hardly repeating myself, apart from saying “I think” about fifteen times an interview. So here are a few pointers if you are going on a radio show.
Firstly, you must relax! Yes, easier said than done, but you are not being interviewed for a job or a promotion. The host wants to give you every opportunity to talk about yourself. In fact, the more you chat, the happier that host will be. Pretend you are talking to your best friend – no, don’t tell them the sordid details of your romantic night last night – and it will be much more fun. You have just made their job very easy.
Make sure you listen to the show you have been invited on, before you give your interview. Know the name of your host. Calling Dave, Dick is not going to go down well…sorry, Dave! It’s also good if you say the name of the host when you respond to questions as in, “Yes, Dick…I mean Dave…I started writing before I could walk.”
Please try not to answer with your mouth full. That may sound like an obvious statement but during one interview, I was given a large yellow cupcake and greedily started to scoff it, not realising the host was about to begin the interview. (Note: interviews can begin abruptly.) The same applies to coffee or water. In my experience it is best to refuse all offers of drinks and food. I am pretty sure the technicians try to catch you out to amuse themselves.
Never take in notes. You won’t be able to read them if you are in a studio. The chances are it will be dark in there and even if it isn’t, you don’t want to be caught rustling paper at the microphone. My first ever interview was an utter shambles because I took in reams of notes so I didn’t get caught out on any questions. I couldn’t see them because the lights were dimmed in the studio. I tried to get my glasses out of my handbag to help see, got tangled up in the headphone wire and knocked over my handbag, fell off the chair trying to reach for it and pulled the microphone and stand over, then nearly choked with embarrassment. Surprisingly, I was invited back for another interview but the technician said it was because I have provided the best entertainment for weeks.
Try not to consume any fizzy drinks prior to a show. Belching seems much louder when you are on air!
Turn off your cell phone. The dulcet tones of Prince singing “Do Me, Baby!” at high volume while the host is asking a question will not go down well. (It will make the tech support team break down in hysterics though.)
Make sure, if there are other guests due on the same show as you that you know who they are. I managed to confuse the cast of the excellent BBC drama The White Queen with a pop group and came out with some very strange questions about gigs and costumes.
Don’t nod your head or say “Uh-huh!” You can’t be seen.
If you are doing an interview overseas get the right time for the show and allow for the time zone changes. I agreed to do an interview in the USA for a show at 11am. I converted that to GMT time. Up until the very day, I was convinced I was doing the show at 3pm my time. It was only just before 3pm when I logged onto the site to listen to the hostess, that I realised the show went out at 11pm US Eastern time which meant it would be 3am my time. I won’t tell you the gory details, but suffice to say I woke up my husband who came thumping into the office demanding to know what I was up to, and cursing loudly. I think it livened up the show!
Turn up early. You will have to wait for your interview but everyone will be more relaxed knowing you are in reception and not still on the bus headed their way. You may even get a longer interview.
Always thank the host or hostess, even if you think the interview went badly. You might need their support again in the future. Ask for their autograph and try and get your photo taken with them. It doesn’t hurt to appreciate them. Send them a thank you note or email after the show. It will be appreciated.
Be very polite to the staff on the desk at the radio station. They have the power to put you through to the person you want when you phone for your next interview.
When doing a Skype interview, ensure you have a back-up plan if your internet goes down. As sure as eggs are eggs, your electricity or internet will fail just when you need it most.
Follow these tips and you’ll have a wonderful experience. Most of all, enjoy it!
31 thoughts on “Radio Interview Pointers”
Good advice, Carol. Radio interviews can be fun. I have done two over the phone and one in person in the studio. Never been in a booth, though. I think that would be more nerve wracking. They were a great opportunity to get the locals to know I existed. Don’t let nerves stop you from doing this. It’s really not so bad.
Sitting on your own, waiting for that red light to illuminate can be nerve wracking, but in truth, talking to yourself after it comes on can be quite easy…or maybe that’s just me!
Seriously, the best interviews come when people can see each other and engage in a proper banter. Those are the most fun.
Great tips, Carol, thank you! I’ve yet to be in a booth, but when that day comes, I hope I’ll stay relaxed and not have a brain freeze!
Somehow, Laurie, I can’t imagine you would get brain freeze. I pretend I am talking to an invisible audience. I rather like the large microphone. It reminds me of singers from the 50s and 60s. Luckily for those listening, I didn’t burst into song.
Great advice Carol. I love doing Radio. It really is good fun 🙂
Thanks, Nikki. Next time you are on, let me know. Would love to hear you. I bet you are really bubbly.
Thanks, Carol. Great tips, some I’ve learned on my expenses :). I’ve been it two radio interviews over the phone (same radio, the called me to give a second a few weeks after the first: it looks like I did all the job, talking and talking, laughing, asking myself questions, and talking to the host, calling his name, as if he was in the room with me). The host said it was great, and I’ve sold 17 copies of the book DURING the one hour show. Fantastic.
I have another one scheduled with a different radio in January. No booth, yet, but I agree with you, that would be a blast 🙂
Brilliant stuff, Massimo. I was once told that the best thing you can do is smile, laugh and talk…a lot. Sounds like you did a perfect job and congratulations on those extra sales. Let us know when you are on next…we’ll tune in 🙂
🙂 Thanks. It will be on January 23rd at “It Matters Radio”
I have put it in my diary. 🙂
Well done Carol! You managed to make the experience sound less terrifying than I found it…
Will, the first interview I gave was dreadful. I was far too nervous and stammered and stuttered all through it. Your next will be much better. (Especially if you have a quick half at the pub on the way to the studio!)
Very helpful, Carol, thanks! I’ve only done one radio interview so far and it went as well as it could have. The hosts asked me to submit questions, which I did, then proceeded to ask me everything BUT what I submitted! Oh, well, improv can work, too. Loved the story about taking your notes in with you. I can only imagine how embarrassing that must have been for you, but great fun for anyone watching. Great teaching moment!
Ooh, Melissa that was very bad form on the part of the interviewer. Poor you! The worst I had was one where the interviewer said “What shall we talk about?” I replied, “How about my book?” “Well, I would, but I haven’t read it yet,” he said. As it happened we joked about and that worked too. I hope your next one is much much better for you.
That, too, seems a bit rude on the interviewer. 🙂
Excellent advice, Carol; sixty, wow! You’re an old hand at the game. I’ve only done four: three face to face and one over the phone, no booth yet (that sounds scary). I’ve been really lucky to have Zoë to coach me for interviews, but I was still nervous as hell. The phone interview was an easy one, I had all my notes spread over the table in front of me and I just rattled on with the interviewer, she was really nice, like we were old friends.
I’ve been very lucky. Once I got a few interviews, other radio stations heard them and wanted me on. probably because I am slightly mad!
Having notes when you do a phone interview is a great idea, TD. I think Zoe has done a marvellous job based on your excellent video.
A little adrenaline thanks to nerves is a good thing too but not too much.
I’d be a complete nervous wreck if I did television. At least with radio you don’t need to worry that people can see you. 🙂
Lots of good advice here, Carol. 🙂 Water is actually not a bad idea, in case you get a frog in your throat during the interview. Repeatedly going “ahem!” doesn’t sound great on the air, either. Just keep the bottle capped between sips, so in case you whack into it, it doesn’t dump onto any expensive electronic equipment. 😉
Good idea, Lynne. I didn’t dare in case I slurped it, or dribbled it, or gave myself a coughing fit! 😉
Hi, Carol! Thank you for the excellent tips. I love radio, especially NPR, and even use it for my alarm clock. It’s amazing how you form an opinion of someone just from their voice, speech style, and even the reaction of the host to their guest.
I worry about the new (to me) Skype calls from my home. I’m more like a deer in the headlights than on the phone with a friend having a relaxing phone call. Any tips for appearance? I’ve tried different settings, but am unable to find the right lighting or backdrop, or even hairstyle! Thanks!
Hello twigstories! I completely understand about this whole Skype thing. I only recently gave my first Skype interview and I was very nervous. I don’t know why I worried. Just smile, be yourself and chat away. People don’t tend to worry about your hairstyle. I generally look like a scarecrow 😉
I’ve never done radio. Truthfully, I’ve never even thought about doing radio, but if I do, I’ll refer back to this post. You gave some great pointers that make so much sense, only most of these things, you wouldn’t even think about until you were there and it’s too late. I have a less-than-mild cupcake addiction, so I would’ve been done for if they’d offered me a cupcake (or ten).
Do you find radio helps with book sales, or it just gets your name out there? And what kinds of radio programs have you been on? Mostly talk radio? Or music stations, too? I’m not even sure where a good place to start would be to figure out what kinds of radio programs would be a good fit.
Thank you, RJ. Oh yes, I can say that radio helps sales. Several big interviews resulted in significant sales of How Not to Murder Your Grumpy.
I always do chat shows and have featured on quite a few BBC stations and health shows where I discussed humour, ageing and grumpy old men! Check out stations and listen out for presenters you think would be interested in interviewing you.
Start with local radio. That’s always a good idea and you should get a positive response. Once you have done one or two you can use your exprrience to request interviews form others.
There are also lots of internet stations and presenters who. Talk specifically to authors. Google if you don’t know them or chat to fellow authors about their experiences.
I am abroad at the moment and don’t have my list but I’ll try to get some names to you.
Great post, Carol. Interviews can be so nerve-wracking…I imagine after 60 you’d be quite comfortable speaking to just about anyone. I defy anyone to resist your effervescent personality 🙂
You are too lovely! Thank you for the huge compliment. X
Thank you for your post, Carol. Congratulations. Your advise is sound (no pun intended, at first)
I used to work for the CBC, and one of the common ‘train wrecks’ I witnessed was when an interviewee answered questions in single words: yes, no, I’m not sure, and probably, followed by the sort of silence where spilling water would have been a welcome distraction. The red light can be intimidating.
It used to make me want to turn off the mike, smack the interviewee (lightly) with a rolled up newspaper and say: ‘c’mon, ‘get with the program.’
In any case, as it’s radio, there are sometimes a lot of gestures that have to be made which say: and then what? Come on give us more. Guests requiring a lot of these prompts are rarely asked back.
So, being somewhat (self-proclaimed) ‘mad’ and the ability to laugh is an absolute plus. ‘Dead-air’ space can seem like a year, and it’s often difficult for the frustrated interviewer to get back on track.The good ones are able to lure a reluctant person out of their shell, but they usually appreciate madness as the right sort of quirkiness to be entertaining, and it does get you other interviews.
You must have had/have the right degree of charisma and enthusiasm to have been so successful.
Veronica, thank you for yoursuper comment. You are absolutely spot on. It is difficult for lots of people but if you want a successful interview you need to fill those spaces. One of my friends is completely crazy but a wonderful interviewee!
Veronica, I learned very early in my broadcasting career to avoid asking questions that could be answered with a yes or no. You get less dead air that way. 😀
Great advice Carol.
I’ve yet to try a radio interview as I’m very much in the beginning stages of ‘getting out there’ with my books.
Do you have an advice blog on how to approach and actually obtain a radio interview?
Once there I will definitely refer to this stream of advice.
Somewhere, lurking about in my document file on my old computer, is a list of what to do and what not to do, along with some pointers. If you could send me an email to [email protected] I’ll try and retrieve it and send it to you.
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