Be the best on radio – Part 3

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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 and November issues of Outdoors Unlimited


When you are interviewed on radio, there is a strong possibility the host or hosts will want to include a Q-and-A session with listeners. Be prepared for listeners who call in often. They are not interested in your viewpoint; they just want to make sure you hear their viewpoint. Do what you can to control Q-and-A time before it goes too far off the topic.
The majority of radio programs, even small local shows, are streamed on the Internet. A week in advance, take a few minutes to listen to the same radio show you are doing an interview on. This allows you to get a sense for how the host controls (or doesn’t control) callers and how much time they normally allow for Q-and-A.
My experience is that most radio hosts do not have a solid handle on breaking up the monologue from a caller. In this case you are on your own and should be prepared with what I refer to as “Radio IT.” Radio IT is not about computer information technology, it means “radio interruption techniques.” When a caller gets on the air, give them a few moments to get to their point. Remember, radio audiences are very fickle! They cannot see a face or body language; they only hear voices and a caller droning on will cause a listener to change the station rapidly.
Make sure to write down the caller’s first name (which they always announce) and use it with authority to sum up the caller’s question. Or if the caller is droning on and never gets to a question, then have one ready for them. Offer it up as, “So Paula, it sounds like you are concerned about the new legislation pertaining to the state’s concealed weapon carry law.”
Once you have interrupted the caller, be ready to roll with an answer. There is no reason to go back to the same caller. Instead, go on to the next caller or return to the interview with the host.


Radio interruption techniques take practice. If a caller is droning on and on during your radio interview, be ready to nudge them back to your subject. For example, “Roger, I appreciate your calling in and there are a lot of other listeners who want to weigh in on this subject, so stay tuned and we’ll get more feedback on this issue.” Typically, the radio guest does not have to cut off a droning caller, but it never hurts to be prepared. I’ve used this technique more than once when a radio host does not control the flow.
Keep in mind that a radio interview is fast paced — it lives and breathes. Practice with your own tape recordings to make sure you aren’t droning on and on.
In an email to your host prior to the interview, mention that you welcome call-ins as long as they are not toxic. Sharing with a radio host what you expect during the interview might seem a little pushy, but be aware that some hosts think on-air jousting is enjoyable, and it probably is when it is offered as a one-on-one with the host responding to the caller. I have no problem with jousting as long as I know the rules of fair play going into the interview.


This is where we start to get into the “nitty gritty” of a radio interview. You — yes, you, the guest — may need to help the show host limit the number of callers in each segment and control the tone of the interview. For a little test, close your eyes and picture three people (show host, you and a caller) all trying to talk over the top of each other.
It is confusing to listeners if all three parties are talking over each other, or even worse, doing any type of verbal mudslinging. Think of it in terms of watching a tennis match, except you can’t see the ball volleyed back and forth Frustrated listeners will turn off the show. No one wins if listeners don’t stay engaged in the topic being discussed.
If you are taking your time to do the radio interview, I assume you want listeners to hear what you have to say. More importantly, are you clear about what you want the listener to buy — whether a product or the idea behind your program or mission?


How many sound bites do you have down pat in your radio interview? If the answer is less then two per segment, go back to the drawing board and work on more. For each 12-minute segment, have a minimum of two or three products or product pitches that could be integrated into the interview.
Take a look at a product other then your own. In this case, I’ll use gun safes. If I were a manufacturer with a new product line and I was being interviewed on radio, I would make up a list of pitches based on firearm vaults, safes and lockers.
Each of these three pitches is about a different type of product for a different use. I’d hone pitches that highlighted something unique in each product line, using a simple word or short phrase that could stick in a listener’s mind. ♦
—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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