Overcoming Radio Stage Fright

radio diarrheaBack when I was in journalism school, I was assigned to interview a professor I didn’t know for a story that would run on the campus radio station. On interview day, I yelled and hyperventilated all over my dorm room – to the point where my roommate said something to the effect of, “Gosh, Lynne, if this is so stressful for you, maybe you should change your major.” I calmed down, did the interview – the prof was perfectly nice and, in fact, probably had more radio experience than I did – and did not change my major. Then I went on to spend twenty years in the news business, and only occasionally suffered the sort of panic I’d had before that first interview.

Mumbledy years later, as an indie author and years after leaving the broadcast biz, I was asked to be a guest on a podcast. Just before the show started, I yelled and hyperventilated all over my apartment, scaring both my daughter and the cat. The show went fine, of course. In fact, I had such a good time that I’ve done a couple of other podcast “guest shots” since then.

It’s only now that I realize that both times, I was simply nervous. And if it can happen to me, it can happen to you. Here are five ways to cope.

1. Breathe. Deep, cleansing breaths – not the shallow, fast, hyperventilating kind. The point is to calm yourself by taking in more oxygen, not make yourself pass out.

2. Have a cup of something warm: coffee, tea, hot toddy. The warm liquid will soothe your throat and relax your vocal cords. Don’t have so many hot toddies that you get silly, though. And be careful of the amount of milk in your drink, because milk can gum up your vocal cords to the point that you’ll be clearing your throat throughout the interview. A little cream in your coffee is okay, but I’d avoid, say, a latte. And definitely save the milkshake for after the interview is over.

3. Pretend you’re talking to your mom. Or, if Mom tends to be critical and unforgiving, then pretend you’re talking to your most supportive friend or family member. The vast majority of your listeners have no preconceptions about you, and no knowledge of what you did to the cat when you were in third grade or whatever. In fact, they’re predisposed to like you. No, really.

4. But what about the listeners who aren’t predisposed to like you? Screw ‘em. You can’t be everybody’s friend.

5. If all else fails, play a role. The thing that kept me sane for all those years in radio was that I felt I was conducting interviews as a representative of the station or network I worked for. In a way, I was an actress, playing the role of reporter. Now, when I sit on the other side of the microphone, I’m representing my writing business. It’s Lynne Cantwell, Indie Author, who’s talking to the listeners, and she’s a Very Interesting Person.

If you can do most or all of these five things, you’ll be fine. And the cat will be vastly relieved.

Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

20 thoughts on “Overcoming Radio Stage Fright”

  1. Great post, Lynne, I can so relate to this. After all these years in the public eye, I’m always nervous before speaking. Frank Sinatra said he was before all his performances and that it’s a sign of taking your craft seriously. Love the hot toddy idea!

  2. I’ve done four short radio interviews and actually enjoyed them, once I got over my butterflies. Most interviewers are really nice and already have some questions to ask or ask you to provide some. My TV bit was the same. They do try to put you at ease.

  3. Great post Lynne, but you are a day late and a dollar short on this 🙂 –where were you last week when I experienced my very first radio show. I didn’t rant, rave, scream and holler to scare the cat, but my 27 year-old son was wondering what we were talking about…was a Romance broadcast. I know I was nervous and I didn’t really talk much, can’t even remember what I was drinking. Oh wait, it was a “drink” but with just enough stuff (coconut rum) to put me at ease. I just hate hearing my voice though and always think if I don’t like it, no one else will. I do think I’d like to do more of them. Thank you

  4. Great post. 🙂 I had a few butterflies before a Skype session with a book club a week ago and my husband said, “What in the world are you nervous about? You WROTE THE BOOK, for Pete’s sake. It isn’t as if you won’t know the answers!” That brought me back to earth. 🙂

  5. I’ve done five radio interviews, two by phone and three in the studio. The phone interviews were a breeze: I had lots of notes and prompts in front of me and so was very relaxed. The studio interviews, not so much, I was more nervous but I was lucky and had good, professional interviewers who kept me on track and made me feel at home.

    Excellent article, Lynne.

    1. Thanks, TD. 🙂 I was saying to someone earlier today that I prefer being in the studio, if only because it cuts down on the distractions. But most podcast interviews seem to be done by phone or Skype these days.

  6. Excellent post. I haven’t been asked to do a radio interview (yet!) but my introverted self would get through it if the interview would interest readers in my books.

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