“Hi, is this Brad? Good. You’re on the air in three seconds.”
I’ve done hundreds of radio interviews throughout my career. They seem simple. After all, you just pick up the phone and have a conversation with an experienced talk-show host.
They’re actually nothing like normal phone conversations (unless the friends with whom you chat take listener phone calls and toss to a commercial break every 10 minutes or so).
Based on my own experiences over the past 10 years, here are seven things you should know before your next radio interview.
1. Radio interviews can begin abruptly
Most of the radio stations I’ve worked with have arranged to call me rather than having me call into the studio (it can work either way, but many producers prefer to control the timing by calling the interviewee themselves).
Some producers call a few minutes before the interview begins, allowing you to listen for few minutes and get a feel for the program’s tone. Other producers wait for the last possible second, meaning you’re on the air within seconds 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.
2. Help your host
Short answers allow the host ask another question, take another phone call, or throw to commercial—so keep your answers to 30 seconds or less.
Finish your answer with a declarative sentence that ends on a vocal downtick to make it clear to the host that you’ve completed your answer.
3. Express passion
Sure, you’re on the radio, but listeners will “hear it” if you stand, use well-timed gestures, 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.
4. Don’t depend on them to make the plug
During one of my recent interviews, the host gave the wrong plug. Another host offered no plug at all. Although most experienced hosts are adept at sending their listeners to your toll-free phone number or company website, some are not. That means it’s up to you to mention that information a couple of times throughout the interview.
You can help the host’s chances of getting the plug right by sending the information you’d like plugged in advance of the interview. I also often send the producer a shortened version of my bio in advance, which many hosts use verbatim on the air.
5. High drop-in, drop-out rates
Many people who are listening at the beginning of your segment aren’t going to be there at the end. Other listeners will join in the middle. Therefore, repeat your main messages—or themes—several times during the interview.
You shouldn’t use the same words, so find different ways of articulating the same main points.
6. Treat crazy callers with respect
If you do radio interviews long enough, you’ll get the crazy guy who goes on an angry rant that has little to do with your interview topic. Maintain the high ground. The public recognizes angry callers for what they are, so impress the audience with your gracious handling of the caller.
That doesn’t mean you can’t push back on incorrect assertions—you should, every time-but rather that you do so respectfully. (Click here for three additional tips to help you handle crazy phone calls.)
7. Radio hosts hang up on you
At the end of most radio interviews, the host hangs up the phone. They’re not being rude; they have to move on to the next segment and clear the studio line for the next guest.
Still, I recommend you stay on the line after the interview ends. Some hosts (or producers) will pick up the phone to thank you, and some will ask your availability for a future interview.
Brad Phillips is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm, and author of “The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview.” He blogs at Mr. Media Training, where a version of this article originally appeared.