Be the best on radio – Part 2

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When Deb Ferns, author of “Babes with Bullets,” released her book in early 2006, she wasn’t prepared for the numerous requests for radio interviews she received. With the experience of more than 500 radio interviews, plus hosting her own local talk radio show for several years, Ferns gives helpful hints on how to be an effective radio guest. To make digestion of these hints even easier, she divided them up in short learning lessons noted as Radio 101 to Radio 109. Previous lessons appeared in the October issues of Outdoors Unlimited and the final installment will be in the December issue.


  • If you are nervous going into your first few radio interviews, even after you’ve done a bit of homework, that is to be expected. Set a timer equal to the number of minutes the show host estimates you will be on the air; this timeframe is usually referred to as a segment. With the timer in place, practice with a tape recorder, first acting as the host asking a question, then switching over to answering the question, keeping to short sound bites of information.
  • Play the tape you just recorded. Make sure you aren’t giving too much air time to the famous “um,” “huh,” “ah” and “OK” moments. If you hear that happening, come up with a momentary “stall” technique. Try something like, “Jim, I’m glad you asked me about … ” That beats a long pause and validates your host.
  • Too much dead air while you think about a question equates to you either not knowing your subject matter or nor being passionate about it. Though you can get away with it on television, there are no long pauses allowed on radio; within a few seconds of dead air you will have lost your audience.
  • If you sense the interview is languishing, make sure to have a few talking points that include your website. Believe it or not, many radio hosts are not good interviewers and they want you to make their job easier, not harder.


  • Remember that the radio show belongs to your host and you are a guest. Let the host appear knowledgeable about your subject matter even if you have to “massage” a moment. For instance, if a show host incorrectly states a statistic you published in your book or magazine article, there is a gracious way to correct the error. For example, “The statistic you just mentioned is an interesting one and I appreciate you bringing it up. The real number in my book is … ”
  • If you are working with a host who you doubt has a good grasp on your subject and seems receptive to a “talk line,” then email them at least 48 hours in advance with a list of interview topics. Explain that the ideas you are presenting are what most people are interested in when they contact you, or are topics you get the most feedback on via email.
  • Do not take it personally if a show host does not cover the topics you suggested. Again, it’s their radio show and your job as a guest is to go with the flow and still figure out how to get your message across. Strong sound bites are imperative.
  • Radio time flies by, so keep the topics to something an audience, who can’t see you, can feel coming through the airwaves. This will be based on your energy plus the energy coming from the host back to you (so the host is your “reflector” of sorts).
  • Don’t get off into areas that are esoteric, you won’t have time to make a full case and you aren’t delivering a summation to a jury. Keep it to easily understood concepts about who you are, what you do and what your product or service will do for the audience.


  • Mention your website and contact information at least a few times during the interview. I can’t begin to tell you how many radio interviewers forget to tell the audience anything other than my name, aside from one mention of my website address. Your website address should come up at least once every two to three minutes during a radio interview. Also, if your radio host will link their website to your website (some will, some won’t), that is a win-win situation.
  • A radio host might be able to get away with a toxic or inflammatory statement; you will not! Passion and energy for your subject must be projected in a positive fashion. No radio host wants to invite back a guest who comes across as toxic.
  • If a competitor in your field has been a previous guest on the same radio show, do not say anything derogatory. Even if the radio host tries to setup a competition of words between you and your competitor, refrain from the bait and take the high road. Just restate the question you are asked in a positive manner and give your answer in a way that leads into one of your sound bites, which leads back to your agenda.
  • Homework never ends. Make sure you do some of your own homework regarding the radio show you are a guest on. Try to figure out in advance what subjects make the radio host toxic and what subjects keep the show positive. ♦

—Deb Ferns, of Tucson, Ariz., is co-founder of the women’s action shooting camps, Babes with Bullets, held across the country since 2004. She also writes a column, “Outside My Comfort Zone,” and is the executive producer of the Babes with Bullets webisodes hosted at Contact her at

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