Lessons learned: radio interview
May 26, 2005
Ok – here’s my notes from my first radio interview experience. I was on air for about 15 minutes on the 5/22/2005 Business of Success radio show.
- Calm down. If you listen carefully to people that speak well on air, they speak slooowly. They hit all the syllables. And more importantly, they sound calm or in control. My first 10 minutes were not calm, and I didn’t sound particularly in control. I smoothed out later on, but had the interview only been 5 minutes… I thought I’d be fine here since I’m a good public speaker and have tons of experience. The difference here was control: I wasn’t the host, I was the guest. I didn’t have my hand on the throttle, Alan did.
- Practice. Whenever friends have job interviews, I always offer to do a practice interview with them. Well, my wife offered to do a practice radio interview with me, which I declined. With a “I don’t need that kind of help” shrug. Well, in retrospect, it would have helped a ton. It would have forced me to run through things and recognize mistakes or bad habits. Since I didn’t do this, the live interview now serves as the place I learned from.
- Know the 3 things you want to say. The questions I got were open enough that I had lots of room to decide how to respond. If I were smarter, I would have related things back to the book, or back to the 3 or 5 key things I wanted to try and say. I’d have been ready to say 5 second, 30 second and 1 minute versions of those key things. I’m not suggesting spinning or manipulating questions: only that in this case there was plenty of room to answer questions and hit key things I wanted to hit. (This would have been a good thing to practice).
- Listen to other interviews. I listened to 3 or 4 other interviews from the same show just to get a feel for Alan Rothman (the show’s host) and take notes on how other people handled the interview. Especially if you do a practice run, it’s easy to catch good and bad things in other interviews.
- Know the format and how much time you have. I was lucky to have a 15 minute slot all to myself. It’s typical to get shorter slots, or be part of panel or talk show on some other specific topic. Either way, make sure you know exactly how much time you will have, whether you’re sharing the time with others, who is interviewing you, and what the focus of the interview will be. Use this to help practice.
- It goes by very fast. I expected this but still felt it all went by very quickly. This is another reason to practice – to help it seem familiar and slower. The commercial breaks, as annoying to listeners as they are, were great for me. It gave me a chance to calm down, consider what I’d said, and what adjustments I needed to make. Make sure you know how many commercial breaks there will be and how long they are.
- You are on your own. One surprising thing in being interviewed was how little guidance there is. Alan was kind enough to chat with me the day before which helped me know what to expect. But the day of had no prep at all: you call in a few minutes before you go on, then you hear him announce your name, and then before you know it, it’s all over.
- Consider what you are representing. Many of the better interviews I listened to were focused on one of 3 things: a company/service, a product (e.g. book), a person (CEO of JetBlue, rock star, etc.). Some people who were on because of their book spent more time talking about their company/service. Others went the other way. I think next time I need to be clearer on what the audience value proposition is: the book? me as a consultant? me as a person and my experiences? A combination of these things? Why are they not going to turn the dial? And within the things they’re interested in, what i can say that serves my own interests as well? I don’t have answers to these questions, but they’ll be what I’m thinking about before the next interview.
- You are on your own. One surprising thing in being interviewed was how little guidance there is. Alan was kind enough to chat with me the day before which helped me know what to expect. But the day of had no prep at all: you call in a few minutes before you go on, then you here him announce your name, and then before you know it, it’s all over.
- Ignore host responsibility. This is a minor one, but 2/3rds in I stop myself short because I heard the commercial cue music. Big Mistake. First, you can talk over the cue for a few seconds. Second, it’s not my job. The host will interupt when it’s time – because I cut myself off there’s a good 2 seconds of dead air for no reason. Let the host manage the show and you – keep going.
- Relax. . Even though all the other bullets are super analytical, none of the analysis matters if I’m not relaxed enough to make use of it. Personality counts, and I probably can’t be me if I’m doing interview calculus in my head while trying to carry a conversation. So practice a few times, consider the above list, but on the day just let what happens happens and try to have fun.
- No ums, or other bad speaking habits. This comes straight from any guide to public speaking. Watch out for bad habits you use when speaking under pressure. Common ones are: using um, like, or well, between words. Repeating the same introduction or endings to sentences such as “In other words” or “.. of that nature.” Sluring, slang, absences of any pauses are other common bad habits. The only way to get rid of them is practice.
If you listened in and had any comments or advice for me, feel free to leave it here.