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Authors: Here’s How to Become the Ideal Radio Show Guest

Updated: Jun 6

You’ve recently published a book or significant article and been asked to appear as a guest on a radio program. You’re thrilled. Radio has a broad reach and can help boost your book and brand in ways print media cannot. If you’re a good guest, that is.


So, assuming you know your subject well, here is a guide to becoming the ideal radio show guest. As with anything, practice makes perfect. After your first few shows, you probably won’t achieve “platinum” status. But if you continue to hone your craft, you’ll reap the benefits as radio hosts take notice and reach out to you regularly.


Before the Interview


Before the interview, take time to prepare. It’s a big deal that you’ve been invited on a show, if not for you, then for the host whose livelihood is tied to the broadcast and the audience whose loyalties are connected to the show. Thus, as a good steward of this God-given opportunity, take time to prepare yourself in these three ways:


First, familiarize yourself with the program on which you will be airing. Research the show’s demographics and the host’s biography and ideological commitments. Listen to a few episodes of the show. Note the host’s interview style. Know how to pronounce their name. Pay close attention to the most compelling guests, gleaning some pointers for your guest appearance from their approach.


Second, prepare several talking points. The audience can remember no more than three talking points for any given radio show. So, during the lead-up to the interview, think long and hard about what you want the audience to remember about your book. Hone those two or three talking points to perfection, being prepared to deliver them in a memorable (and, if possible, entertaining) way.


Third, prepare your space and equipment. Generally, a quiet space, a quality phone or internet connection, and a water bottle are the essentials. However, if you’d like to go the second mile, acquire quality headphones and an excellent microphone to strengthen your interview. Headphones allow you to be hands-free during the interview and focus exclusively on the interview (never, ever use speakerphone because of its notoriously poor sound quality). An excellent microphone, such as the Blue Yeti, plugs into the USB port of your computer and takes your audio quality to the next level, making you sound like a pro.  


During the Interview


When introduced, thank the host and say something nice about the show. For example, “Thank you for having me on the show, John. You’re known as a top-notch radio host and an intelligent commentator on cultural issues, and I’m grateful I get to be part of the show.”


Keep your responses brief. Respect the genre of short-form radio by keeping your responses between one and two minutes. On the one hand, avoid giving flat-footed one-word answers such as “yes” or “no”; follow up your yes or no with a brief explanation. On the other hand, avoid delivering five-minute monologues in a short-form genre that thrives on the rapport between host and guest.


Maintain balance by answering the host’s questions and sticking to your talking points. The best radio guests listen carefully to their host and respond to their questions as directly as possible while finding ways to return to 2-3 predetermined talking points. By striking this balance, everybody wins—host, guest, and audience.


Be aware of your body posture. Body posture affects one’s tone in significant ways. Thus, if possible, stand during the interview. Standing helps you to manage nerves better and allows your voice to project more clearly and expansively. Also, it doesn’t hurt to smile while answering questions. The audience will be able to “hear” the smile in your voice and will respond positively.


Don’t get frazzled if a question stumps you. Be careful if you are faced with a question you’re unsure how to answer. On the one hand, you don’t want to reply with a flat-footed “I dunno.” On the other hand, you don’t want to lie or give a long-winded answer with no real substance. Instead, redirect to an aspect of the conversation you can discuss.


At the end of the show, thank the host and say something nice about the show. For example, “John, it’s been a joy to talk with you today, and I look forward to tuning in again sometime soon.”


After the Interview


During the hour after an interview, make an on-the-spot inventory of your performance. What did you do well? In what ways can you improve? As with most things, practice makes perfect.


Next, if the show was recorded, promote it through your social media channels. Make sure to link to the show’s website and tag the host. Consider including a compliment about the host or show in at least one of your posts.


In the days following an interview, send the host a written note or an email thanking them for the opportunity and offering your services for future shows. If you are a blogger or columnist, suggest they subscribe to your website so they become aware of possible topics for future shows. Doing so boosts your chances of being invited back to the show.


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