Be an Ace at Radio Interviews – by Jo Gilham

Radio can be one of the most persuasive ways to reach your target audience; though for an interviewee it can seem just a wee bit daunting. As someone who’s set up many an interview and coached lots of nervous people in interview technique I know that with a few handy tips and a number of deep breaths you’ll be fine – promise.

Background research

First things first, if you’re to be a guest on a radio show then make sure you’ve listened to it (ideally more than once) and are familiar with the format. Is it likely to be a chatty, fun interview or something rather more formal? See if you can identify a segment that has a similar interviewee to you – how was it handled by the presenter?

Know your place

Where are you appearing? Are you in a short news bulletin – which will mean that you need to be succinct in getting your messages across or will you be taking part in a longer talk-show style interview? When you are setting up your interview with the radio production team don’t be afraid to ask how long the broadcast interview is likely to be, it’ll help you with pacing yourself.

Pre-record, live or as-live?

Knowing whether you are being broadcast live or will be recorded is useful in helping you in your approach to the interview and with knowing what to expect:

  • You’ll find with a pre-recorded interview that you will be asked the same question several times in different ways; this is so that the best answer can be selected for the final edit. You may feel like you are repeating yourself, but don’t worry – this is standard practice.
  • A live interview can be pushed down the schedule to make way for other items in the programme so always allow plenty of time from the initial time-slot that you are given. If you are taking part via telephone then you’ll usually receive a call from the producer about five minutes before you go on air. You’ll then be passed through to the studio where you’ll hear the show going out just prior to being introduced.
  • As-live interviews are a recorded option where it’s not possible to take part live, perhaps due to your schedule, but the production team wants a “live” feel to the piece. The important thing to know here is when the interview is due to be transmitted so that you can think forward and talk as if you are on the right day!

Where are you going?

If you are being interviewed in the studio then ALWAYS check the location and how to get there. Allow plenty of time for parking and arrive early, if you miss your slot then you may find you are dropped altogether.

Before the interview

  • Have it clear in your mind what you want to say – three to four key points are ample.
  • Provide the production team with some background information for the interviewer to work from – if you have a press release make sure you send it over.
  • Don’t be scared – remember the interviewer wants to get the most interesting story they can from you so it’s in their interest to be encouraging and to tease information out of you.

During the interview

  • Breathe
  • Slow down – it’s very easy to speed up when you are nervous and that makes for a very uncomfortable listening experience and people will switch off.
  • Don’t have reams of crib sheets – you’ll get lost and lose your train of thought mid interview. Speaking from the heart sounds far more natural.
  • Talk to your neighbour – try to think beyond the microphone and talk as if speaking to a friend or acquaintance – it’ll make you sound friendlier and more engaging.
  • Smile – people can hear a smile over the airwaves (really they can!)
  • Make sure you cover each of your key points, dates and times.
  • Try not to read out long-winded telephone numbers or web addresses – listeners are unlikely to have a pen to hand and can always Google you. Sometimes the production team will kindly agree to providing a link from their website or social media site, so it’s always worth asking.

After the interview

Follow up with a thank-you email to the production team and the interviewer. It’s a small thing, but it will go a long way in making you memorable. After-all you may want to repeat the experience again in the future!

I hope you’ll find these tips useful in approaching a radio interview – please do pass the link onto others who might also find it helpful.

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