10 Tips for Being a Great Guest on Radio or Podcasts

Appearing as a guest on a radio or podcast show is a good way to position yourself or a company executive as an expert -- and attract PR for
October 26, 2009

Appearing as a guest on a radio or podcast show is a good way to position yourself or a company executive as an expert -- and attract PR for your business.  Perhaps you have thought about appearing on a radio or podcast show at some point.

For the past five years I have been the host of an Internet radio show and podcast series.  The format is an interview series.  We have nearly 300 interviews under our belt.  We’ve interviewed Fortune 500 executives and two out of the last three Administrators of the SBA. 

But most of our interviews are of small business people.  Those are the interviews I personally enjoy most. They tend to be the most interesting interviews with “from the trenches” insights.

We’ve experienced our fair share of trial and error. On the show we’ve made just about every mistake you can think of.  And we’ve been witness to mini-disasters or bloopers of every kind, including dropped phone connections, garbled voices, barking dogs, crying babies, power outages, and fire alarms going off in the middle of an interview (twice!).

I’d like to share 10 points we have learned about how you can be a memorable guest who gets invited back:

1)     Never EVER cancel – Your host and the show have paid you a HUGE compliment by inviting you. Nothing short of being seriously ill or a hurricane should keep you from appearing, especially at the last minute when your host is unable to get a replacement for the time slot.  The host may be paying for air time or podcasting support, and if you cancel at the last minute they will be stuck with the bill even if you do not make it.  Don’t ask to “reschedule” a live show.

2)     Be early – Be ready for your appearance 10 minutes ahead of your start time.  That way, you will have enough time to take the call from the station or dial in (this can take up to a minute or more), allow for re-dialing if there’s a bad connection the first time, and get situated -- all without feeling panicked.  In a live show, it’s extremely awkward if the host has to blather on for the first 5 minutes stalling for a late guest.  And you can hardly make a great impression if you enter the show breathless mumbling apologies.

3)     Have a good phone connection – Today most Internet radio and podcast shows are conducted with the guest calling in over a telephone line.  Therefore, the quality of your telephone connection is crucial.  I highly recommend a landline phone that connects with a cord to a phone jack in the wall.  Don’t even think about mobile phones, wireless headsets or speaker phones – the sound quality is usually terrible, and calls too easily drop.  Some VOIP connections are iffy, too, and can result in “digitized” sound.  Turn off call-waiting.

4)     Have a single page of notes – List your key points in bullets on a single sheet of paper, so that you won’t forget anything important.  Why a single page?  Because listeners can hear you rustling papers. And nothing adds to your pressure like madly hunting through 7 sheets of paper while people are waiting for your answer – a few seconds feels like an eternity.

5)     Take a breath, please – Answer a question for a reasonable length (no more than, say, 3 minutes).  Then pause.  This allows your host to lead the conversation, develop a crisp pace, and keep the show on track.  If you talk non-stop for 5, 7, 10 minutes on a single question, unfortunately this could force the host to eventually interrupt you mid-sentence. Plus, alternating voices back and forth is more interesting for listeners.

6)     Be in a quiet room – It never misses! In the middle of your big interview is when someone loudly barges into your office or starts banging on your door repeatedly. So, tape a sign on your door: “On air – please do not disturb.”  Shut off your mobile phone; and close out of email and instant message programs (the little beeps can be heard).  Put out the dog and get someone to watch the kids if you are doing the interview at home.

7)     Speak “mindfully” – Pay attention to each word that comes out of your mouth.  Enunciate words completely. Avoid “fillers” -- such as um, uh, ya know -- by being mindful.

8)     Highlight key points – Punch your key points with verbal cues.  By this, I mean use ‘verbal bullet points,’ or a slight pause between points, or words such as “let me emphasize these 3 points, number 1 …”.  This way your key points won’t get lost in the midst of a long drawn-out explanation.  Also, offer a few crisp, one-sentence sound bites. These sound bites are quotable – and memorable by listeners. Practice them in advance so they roll off your tongue effortlessly.

9)     Extend vowels – Long vowels convey warmth, as in the word “slo-o-owly.”  They sound more interesting than words spoken in a monotone. Your personality comes through, too.

10)  Prepare, prepare, prepare!  -- Last but not least, my best advice is to prepare well. This is what separates the newbies from the pros – many newbies underestimate the preparation. So how do you prepare?  For business shows, many hosts ask for a few “seed” questions in advance.  These questions are important not only for the host, but they force you to anticipate questions. Also, answering them is something you can practice in advance.  Know the answers to these without having to search for words.

Above all, relax. Develop this picture in your mind: you in the interview, in command of your material, with the audience hanging on your every word.  This will help you feel confident. 

Whatever you do, don’t take yourself too seriously. If something goes amiss (like a fire alarm aborting the interview), stay cool and authentic. Everybody listening realizes “stuff” happens that may be out of your control.  

If you’ve prepared well, you should feel confident and the experience will be enjoyable.  You’ll soon be in demand as a guest – and invited back!