[pullquote] “You might not expect this, but Internet chats provide the easiest way to practice for the questions you’ll get from typical radio listeners during an interview.”
Practice Makes Perfect for Radio Interviews
If you’re considering publicity via radio interviews (or, for that matter, publicity
in general), and you haven’t done public speaking or interviews before, you’d be wise to practice a bit before you actually get on the phone with a station.
Here are some specific things to do.
Start your training by doing what you’ll be doing eventually–calling in to local talk shows. However, at this point, call as a listener and try getting into longer and longer discussions with the hosts. Some popular radio talk-show hosts (such as Laura Schlessinger) actually got their start by calling in as listeners. And there’s a nice side effect. You’ll become familiar to the hosts and their screeners, which will help you (or your booker) get their stations to invite you on as a guest without a lot of hassle.
Call your local college radio station and say you want to volunteer to help out around the studios. You’ll probably get some on-air time, and you’ll also get to talk to callers and to other DJs and talk-show hosts. Plus, you’ll get a good sense of the equipment they use, which will help you when you’re talking to otheing ations because they’ll feel you know the moves. Volunteering to help out at commercial stations may work too, although they will be harder to penetrate despite the fact that you’re willing to work for nothing. You might have to start off in the business office, but even there you’ll probably get to meet the hosts when they enter and leave.
A not-so-obvious benefit of volunteering is that you can observe other prospective guests (or their PR people) who are calling, mailing, and visiting the station in order to book interviews. Finding out how the station reacts to different booking techniques–as well as how actual interviews are carried out–will be of tremendous value to you when the time comes to try to book yourself.
After months of call-ins and volunteering, you may find yourself being offered a chance to guest-host a show (or you might ask for the chance). In general, this means a live appearance at the station, as opposed to a phone session. The first show that you get will be a small one, but the lessons learned will be the same as if it were large. Actually taking calls from callers and interviewees, along with dealing with the broadcast clock, will give you insight for when it’s you who’s on the other end of the phone.
You might not expect this, but Internet chats provide the easiest way to practice for the questions you’ll get from typical radio listeners during an interview. The feedback you get from a chat differs from feedback at a paid speaking
engagement. The chat audience is much more like a radio audience since the chat is free, anonymous, and available in-home.
A chat will also help you identify the strong and weak parts of your presentation by letting you see when people are bored enough to leave. By contrast, people are reticent about leaving mid-speech during public appearances even if they’ve lost interest.
Obviously, it’s smart to try public speaking before you attempt radio interviews. Joining Toastmasters can be a big help.
When you begin setting up interviews, you’ll feel much more confident if you’re calling a small station in Iowa than if you’re attempting a Top 10 station. The big reason for starting small, however, is that you’ll get 10 times the number of interviews. Although the audiences for each of them will be relatively little, you’ll presumably be doing interviews for the rest of your career. So spending the first six months to a year with smaller markets is a good way to build skills, not to mention a good way to build friendships in the radio broadcasting world.
Bryan Farrish is the President of Bryan Farrish Radio Promotion in Los Angeles. He is hired to obtain radio interviews on stations in the U.S. mainland, Canada, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Virgin Islands. For more info, call 818/905-8038 or visit