Top tips for giving a radio interview

Video didn't really kill the radio star, even though The Buggles did a fantastic piece of pop along those lines. Radio’s hanging around very well, partly because the advent of the internet has given it a new lease of life. Being able to listen to almost any radio station from anywhere in the world anywhere in the world, makes for listenable radio like never before. “Listen Again” facilities add the option of catching up with programmes you may have missed. If you get the chance to do a radio interview, the chances for it working well for you are unparalled in radio history. Used in concert with social media, it can serve to further your publicity as never before.

© Liz Southall - In the studio with one of my friends!

I’ve given radio interviews in a variety of places for a number of reasons. I’ve had the good fortune to be interviewed on BBC Radio Stoke (among others) at various locations and on various topics, including:

This year, I’ve become involved with RedShift Radio, which has Crewe, Nantwich, Alsager and Sandbach in south Cheshire as its main geographical focus. Currently it's been mainly broadcasting via the internet, but it‘s set to become the permanent FM station for the area in 2013.

I appeared as a guest several times on different shows on RedShift and ended up with my own show, “History and Mystery”, currently airing at 10pm on Tuesdays. It’s been a steep learning curve, but I’ve come to know what to do if given a radio interview opportunity. If you’d like to add something, do comment. If you’d like to actually do a radio interview, read on to the end!

Now then, now then, what about these top tips for a radio interview?

Things to consider before the interview

Obviously you know what you’re talking about: your special site, your fantastic Heritage Open Days event. That’s a good place to start with. Just a bit of forethought and planning should help you get things right. Ideally, the station or interviewer should brief you before the interview on the context and format of the interview and the kind of questions you can expect. And if they don't do this automatically, simply ask.

Sometimes, you can over-prepare and feel overwhelmed. Sometimes it’s the spur-of-the-moment opportunities that work best. Some may use the motto, “Wing It” when having an unexpected moment. If you know your stuff in sink-or-swim situations, I believe you'll end up swimming like never before...

So if you can, be clear in advance:

  • Your interview length - is it 30 minutes or 30 seconds?
  • Does the presenter have any preparatory questions to help you know what’s coming?
  • Will you be phoning in? Meeting in person? Using something like Skype?
  • Will you be sharing space with other guests?
  • Is it going out live? or being recorded for editing and later broadcast?
  • Will the interview happen at a different location than the studio?

If you know well in advance that you’ll be on the radio, advertise and let your networks know where they can hear you.

OK - you’ve got the basic information right, and you’re in the right place to give the interview. What next? A couple practicalities:

  • If you’re not using your mobile phone, turn it off! Ringing or vibrating mid interview is distracting. Even if on silent, you may well get audible interference on electronic equipment nearby.
  • If you are listening to the radio station, and have it on near your handset, move away or turn it down. Squeaks from feedback won’t help you.

Tips for delivering the interview

  • If you’re an in-studio guest, have water to drink - sports caps preferred with all the electronics around! Have you ever spilled that sugary drink over your keyboard...?
  • If it’s a short interview, make it punchy. “Less is More” ethos. Give clear, enthused soundbites which listeners can quickly take in.
  • Say where folk can get more information - have website, twitter feed, facebook page, phone number, email details to hand.  Make a contact name, a phone number and website the priorities if needs must. Have details written on a postcard sized note if you’re worried you may forget in the moment you need to remember them!
  • Repeat phone number and other contact details. Having worked for the defunct 192 Directory Enquiries, repetition of that golden nugget of information is crucial as folk scramble to get a pen that works and a piece of paper!
  • Be clear and articulate - say things so others can hear what you are saying. I’m all for being proud of where each of us comes from, but if you know you have a strong regional accent, try to moderate it if you can. Having grown up in rural Dorset, giving tours to Mancunians or Liverpuddlians in my native accent could make me sound terribly posh, or a bit of a country bumpkin! Very few people speak ‘Queen’s English’, but making sure as many people as possible can get what you say is what you want!
  • And most of all, speak slowly. Especially, when you're nervous and you know you don't have much time to get your message across, you tend to speak too fast. The chances are you'll scramble your words. So, force yourself to slow down.

Although people can't see you, if you’re given to talking with your body as much as your mouth, still use gestures when talking. It really does help convey the energy of what you’re saying, and helps you come across better. A telephone sales motto I once heard says “smile when you dial”. A bit of a cringeworthy cliché maybe, but again facial expression will carry across and animate your words to your listeners. You needn’t be false, in fact, please don’t be! But if you’re having a bad day, try to speak your words with a twinkle in your eye. There are of course some subjects which this wouldn't apply to for radio interviews. For promoting your heritage event, it does!

Post interview

Will your interview be on 'Listen again' features? If so, find out where people can hear it if they missed it, and publicise that through your social networks.

Something I sometimes struggle with is punishing myself when I feel I didn’t do as well as I could have. Accept what you have said, and accept what you haven’t said. “Oh I WISH I’d said that” is something we all say at times. Your words have gone out and are working to achieve the end you desired. The ubiquitous social media may give you chance to add a little something, if you really need to.

Fancy having a go on my show?

Now, you’ve read my tips for giving radio interviews, would any Heritage Open Days organisers out there be interested in doing an interview live on air? There are some slots available on my Tuesday show on 6th September, between 10pm and midnight. It'll be the exact 1st birthday of RedShift Radio, and just a couple of days before the 4,400 Heritage Open Days events begin!

So what's the deal?

  • Each interview will be up to 5 minutes long.
  • We need to be able to call you on a landline.
  • You'd get a chance to choose a piece of music in advance for the show.
  • Your interview will be available on 'Listen Again' for 6 weeks after broadcast (minus music).
  • Places will be allocated by 7pm on Monday 5th September to allow for preparation, and they are limited.
  • To apply to be considered for the Heritage Open Days special with "History and Mystery" on RedShift Radio, please leave a comment below stating which Heritage Open Days venue or event you'd like to promote.

Good luck!