Thursday, April 03, 2008

Tips on Doing Radio Interviews: With Special Emphasis on Promoting One's Books

Having done my first radio interview in 1983, I have done hundreds since then on various topics, on both secular and Christian stations. Through it all, I have noted some themes and developed some principles for engagement. I hope they are helpful in bearing Christian witness over the airwaves (and now on line as well). The advice here is mostly geared to doing interviews over the phone, but many principles apply to in-station interviews as well.

1. If you are a professor or teacher, realize that radio interviews have little in common with lectures. I did not realize this during my first interview. During the opening ten minutes or so, I started a lecture. Just after I explained the New Age worldview, and the host started taking questions from the audience. One caller thought I was a New Ager, because I had not gotten to the critique of that aberrant worldview! Economize on time and concepts.

2. Realize that most radio hosts have not read your book. They will probably rely on the cheat sheet provided by the publisher—or they may wing it.
Find out exactly what the format for the radio program is and plan accordingly.

· Find up as much as you can about the basic spirit and outlook of the program

· Some programs have no commercials. When on these programs, one can develop ideas more fully. If you will be on a commercial station, try to find out how long the segments are.

· Figure out how many hosts you will be addressing. More than one host tends to make it more complicated. Use their names in your comments if possible. This adds warmth.

· Determine whether or when the program will take callers. Some programs are prerecorded and not live. If so, you may even ask the host to start the program or segment over if you make a mistake.

· The appearance of theme music means they are coming up on a break. It is a warning signal. Finish up the thought.

3. Callers can say most anything. It may or may not be related to your book. Many callers heap ideas upon ideas. Try to respond to one salient point of the caller. You need not respond to everything they say. Usually the host doesn’t want to spend that much time on each caller.

4. Try not to interrupt the host or hosts or the callers if possible. However, if someone is talking over you or not giving you enough space, you may need to interject yourself tactfully. I had to do this when interviewed on Intelligent Design on a Boulder public radio station. The anti-ID fellow was going on and on, the host was against me, and time was running out. So, I said to the host, “When do I get to respond?” The man was adding up fallacies so quickly that I was losing count and wanted to weigh in. It worked well.

5. Don’t be afraid to say the title of your book a few times, especially if the host forgets to do it. The main point of the interview is to get people to read your book.

6. Have a glass of water near the phone to lubricate your voice if needed.

7. Make sure you are using a phone that does not have call waiting. An incoming call would interrupt the flow of the interview.

8. Make sure you do not have a cell phone on near the phone you are using. This would also provide a distraction if the phone goes off.

9. Have your book near you for the interview. You may forget key points that you need to emphasize.

10. Pray before, during, and after your interview (1 Thessalonians 5:17). You want your words to count for time and eternity in this medium.

11. Conduct the interview in a quiet place where you will not be interrupted.

12. If you have to cough, sneeze, or make other bodily sounds with no intelligible content, cover the receiver or turn your head away from it. Otherwise you will blast out your audience.

13. Try to minimize stutter words and phrases such as “I mean,” “you know, “um,” “I tell ya,” and the like. These are unpleasant to hear and waste precious time. Make every word count.

14. If you are new to doing interviews, have a trusted friend listen to your performance and then give his or her recommendations and comments. "Iron sharpens iron."


CPCC Pastor said...

Great stuff! Thanks for sharing from your experience. You might also consider a post on "suggestions for callers" in to such shows -- especially NPR, with its frequent baiting of Christians.
Dave Bissett, pastor, upstate NY

Robert said...

6a. Keep lip balm at hand. Apply liberally.

Doug Groothuis said...

Lip balm is only needed for hydrationally challenged people in dry places, such as Doug in Denver.