Radio interviews are great because they birth new & original content.
Getting famous & interesting people through your doors builds up your image and authority.
And don't you love stimulating conversations?
Information is still power – the last time I checked.
So your quest to pull off perfect radio interviews is a truer as a quest can get!
Image by Michal Dziekonski
Before you start reading this post, please tone down any negative mind chatter.
Your little voice or inner speech may be saying:
“Gosh, you’re terribly shy! You’ll never pull this off. You’re easily intimidated, so don’t pursue celebrities! Guests won’t love you. What if you mispronounce words.”
So none of that as we proceed...Nada!
Let positivity be a way of life. “Yes, I’m a great radio interviewer. I’m the best.
I can interview the president or any famous cultural icon without breaking a sweat."
Kind powerful words and good vibes…
Okay, you might still be apprehensive about interviewing people on your podcast or radio show...
But there is nothing to be scared about. In fact, there is little that can go wrong during an interview.
Few things that can go wrong during an interview
- The guest might catch a bad case of Phronemophobia (fear of thinking) on the interview day. And dodge every question you shoot their way. Or regurgitate that same canned response driving you mad.
- Equipment failure and mishaps. It is not bad luck when the power goes off for the first time in years, then the backup generator fails. Such things happen.
- Landing a challenging guest. One who is tough headed. Pushes your buttons. Makes you want to tear the hair roots from your skull. And leaves your mouth gaping like an empty swimming pool.
- The guest walking out. It is an occupational hazard. You say something unpalatable or go places where you ought not to venture.
The most terrible tragedy would be not delivering a grand informative interview to your listeners. So let’s get to the radio interview tips:
10 Radio Interview Tips
1. Questions – are not your only assets
Witty questions aren’t everything. Questions are verbal communication, and words alone are not 100% effective.
There is an easy way to think about this. Picture yourself as a miner.
Your miner’s toolbox includes a rock pick, shovel, bucket, gloves, etc.
As an interviewer, you have a plethora of tools including your eye contact, posture, gestures, facial expressions, voice tone & intensity, delivery technique, and etiquette.
Think of how you can use the sum total of all these to extract valuable information from your guest.
Did you know that 90% of all communication is nonverbal?
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You’re mining for information here! A shovel alone won’t get you far.
2. Book your guest early
As soon as you can is the best time, not a second, minute, or a day later. It's especially true for viral guests who will be sought after immediately as the news breaks.
But in most cases, you’ll have time to select your guests carefully.
I can agree with the statement, “Free time is time wasted.” So book guests as early as possible.
That's because some people have a limited number of interview slots. Once they are fully booked, it’ll be your loss.
Booking early also means more time to mitigate any contingencies. In case a particular guest can't make it, you can move up another interviewee to that slot.
Which also reminds me…
Leading up to the interview day, contact them in scheduled intervals. Leave reasonable gaps, say 7 days, 4 days, 1 day.
You don’t have to pester on and on with the same boring question: “Are you coming?”
Ask how their day is going or the topic of the interview. The weather could slip up, and end by wishing them a good day.
Just get them thinking of you and the interview.
3. Go for people who truly fascinate you
For one, it’ll make interviewing them a joy!
If they fascinate you, chances are they will thrill your listeners. And if you need complete certainty, it helps to find out about your listeners’ interests.
But have an open mind when booking guests. Take a chance on people who are truly beyond you.
Maybe as your popularity grows, they will call and say, “Hi, I'm sorry for snubbing you a couple of months ago. Is the interview slot still up for grabs?”
Also, have a mix of guests. Frequenters are good, but no one likes to eat the same meal day in day out!
4. Make your guest comfortable
Here is a fact: People talk more when they are comfortable. When they feel safe, they can let out more than they hoped to divulge. And take more risks.
So how do you make someone comfortable around you?
Smile cheerfully to convey that you’re a friend, and looking forward to heartful conversation.
Deliver genuine compliments with a smile. It will boost your likability 100%.
Your guest is bound to have dressed sharply for this moment. So you have no excuse not to say something nice!
And if they are tense or shy, show them that a radio studio is a friendly space.
To top it off, keep your body language positive. Maintain eye contact, and if they don’t like it, be considerate. Be like them by mirroring their expressions, manner of speech, gestures, etc.
5. Come prepared
Are you planning to just wing it?
I have news for you…that’s not a brilliant nor an intelligent plan. But there are a few dos and don’ts to consider before you pour hours into your research.
First, don’t prepare fully worded questions that you plan to recite word for word. You may sound like a rhyming robot. And the interview could take another direction very quickly.
Do plan your talking points. Focus on the main issue of the interview, its goal and ultimate direction. So if the interview goes south, you can steer it back to true north.
Carry out research into your guests with the aim of finding out:
- What are they currently working on?
- Do they have a website or blog?
- How many awards have they won?
Watch or listen to past interviews they have given. And remember to probe a little into their social media accounts.
Researching will make you confident. But it is hard work and you might be tempted to brush it off! Well…
6. Ask these quirky original questions – Have some risky fun
Guests walk off due to inappropriate questions, or should we say, inappropriately asked questions and perceived rudeness from the host!
Well, as the host, you should master the art of tiptoeing on the edge of a boiling cauldron.
Ask fresh questions that guests have not been asked before! Get into the teasing game, it’s jolly fun.
You may be working with pre-approved questions, I know. But still, you can inject a surprise question here and there.
Milk that interesting info that the guest is stubbornly trying to keep! But remember, you always serve your listeners, and shouldn’t be asking questions for your own selfish reasons.
What are listeners are dying to know right now?
7. Can they write a book on it?
Ask radio interview questions that force more than a mere ‘yes’, ‘no’ or an ‘ummm.’
Your questions, if the situation allowed, should have a guest write an essay, chapter or an entire book just to answer it.
Wait…I don’t mean they should talk, talk and talk.
This is radio! We need short snappy replies. 2-3 minutes’ answers - good, 5 minutes or more…someone cut him off, please!
Your radio interview questions should prompt the guest to tell a quick short story. There is this famous short story attributed to Ernest Hemingway, “For Sale,
Baby Shoes, Never Worn.”
Need examples? Great, try these questions:
- What are some of your defining moments in life?
- In 30 seconds or less, tell us what kind of kid you were in high school
- What do you think about this and this issue?
8.Listen first, then talk
You’ve finally made it and become a celebrity. You’re getting interviewed on how you made it.
But the host seems to have their attention divided, cos as you talk with passion & vigor in your voice, they are:
- Looking down on their smartphones monitoring their Twitter Feed
- Staring out the window – if the studio has one.
- Fidgeting with a fat stack of papers – it bears the questions they plan to pound you with.
- Looking at you, but really, they are looking past you. You can literally see the gears turning in their head. They are probably lining up the next question. Or their mind is not in the same room at all!
- Maybe they cut you off often to talk about their life story or inject some tasteless joke.
Can we agree that such actions are annoying and unprofessional?
So be the ideal host who gives your guests undivided attention. Nod, maintain eye contact, smile and be present.
Interrupt only when it’s appropriate such as when seeking clarity and more understanding.
9. Have a title & goal for the interview
Have a goal, aim or desired outcome for your interview. Some goals could be:
- Educating your listeners by interviewing a medical doctor, lawyer, or nutritionist.
- Inspiring them to believe they can accomplish big dreams by bringing on someone who has overcome great adversity.
- Shocking your listeners to their core.
- Making them laugh.
- Championing a cause such as free speech.
- Getting them excited about sports, politics, etc.
See, don’t invite guests for the sake of having someone to warm that extra seat in your radio or podcast studio.
It will be much easier if you have a list of objectives you want to accomplish. Then finding the right people that will help you meet these expectations.
Here is what I mean.
Objective: “I want to teach my audience about championing for a cause.” So I'll invite an activist for the free speech movement, animal rights movement, etc.
See…it’s really that easy.
10. Let the audience see you
Have a photo session with your guest. Snap a few pictures for your radio website or social media pages. Better yet, record the interview and upload it to your YouTube channel.
Your listeners won’t mind the chance to see you in action. In fact, it builds credibility as people will actually see you right there with the guest.
If it is a Skype call, also figure out how you can obtain your guest’s image. Not to forget, by publishing your interview on multiple platforms you expand your content’s reach.
The audience who listen to the interview, the folks who watch it and those who read it are totally different. In fact, I tune in to these live debates with a couple of live listeners.
But when the show is on YouTube, after a while, it has garnered tens of thousands of views.
Learn from greats
Watch how some of the best interviewers pull of great interviews. Most of their techniques are invisible to the naked eye. It’ll require careful observation on your part to uncover their secrets!
- Larry King
- Guy Raz
- Stephen J. Dubner
- Guy Raz
Feel free to recommend interviewers that you adore so we can expand this list!
And broadcast the smartest way!