How to Be a Great Radio Guest
You're asked to appear as a guest on a radio program. You're thrilled. Radio has a huge reach. Radio can help you brand yourself in ways print or Web can't.
If you're a good guest, that is.
I've spoken to lots of live audiences, some numbering in the thousands, but I know nothing about appearing on the radio. And I suck at it.
So I asked Austin Hill, author, consultant, and host of Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business, for tips on how to be a great radio guest.
Assuming you know your subject--because if you don't, you shouldn't be on in the first place--here are ways to make the audience and the host enjoy your appearance:
Relax and be yourself.
You were booked because of who you are--not who you think you should be.
Realize it's called a "show" for a reason.
Many experts and writers try to be too serious and display all their knowledge all at once. They forget that they need to be entertaining as well.
Interview shows are thoughtful and substantive, but if what you say doesn't entertain listeners on some level--make them laugh, make them cry, get them fired up or angry and excited or motivated--they're not going to stick around.
Spoken word content is consumed differently than articles, magazines, websites, etc. Radio consumption is active, but if it doesn't meet my needs right now I will punch to something else.
It's called a show for a reason, and when you're the guest, it's show time.
Think bites, not meals.
Serve up your content in digestible, easy to understand morsels. Think three steps, or five habits, or four tips... not only is that good for the audience, it helps the host guide the show.
Chunking is also a great way to help the host establish a nice flow. Say you will describe three steps to starting a business. Say, "First of all, put together a business plan... and that's step one." The host will step in to either ask a question about step one or prompt you for step two.
By signaling that you will chunk your information it creates a nice framework for the audience and provides room for the host to create a natural give-and-take.
Allow for listener familiarity.
Radio listeners generally go with what is familiar and comfortable. "Take my show," Hill says. "It's been on for about two years and is heard on several stations. I'm a familiar voice.
"Listeners who switch to the station and hear me might think, 'Hey, that's Austin, he's the guy who talks about business...' and be likely to stick around to find out what we're talking about."
But if a guest talks non-stop for an extended period, the listener might move on to something more familiar.
Help listeners see the host is smart and insightful.
Respond to questions with statements like, "That's a great question..." or, "That's something most people don't recognize..." When the host shines, you do too.
If possible learn a little about the host and fit that knowledge into the conversation. Say, "I saw the story you posted on Facebook and it reminds me..." or, "In your book I noticed..." or, "You made a similar point on your blog..."
The host will appreciate the gesture and the implicit credibility boost.
Show the listeners some love, too.
Occasionally reference the listeners. Say something like, "Austin, as your listeners know one of the toughest start-up challenges is finding capital." Affirm the listeners' knowledge.
Help the audience feel good about themselves while you inform them.
Learn from the best.
Hill was still in his first year of doing Monday through Friday talk radio in 2000. Wink Martindale (game show host and DJ) had just released his autobiography. He was on local radio in Los Angeles when Hill was growing up and was a national TV star. "I just wanted to talk to him so I booked him," he says.
"We went live and he said, 'Hey Austin, it's great to talk to you, how have you been?' Later he said, 'Well, Austin, that's a great question.' And, 'Austin, I'm glad you raised that point.'"
At the end of the interview he said, "Austin, buddy, it's always great to be on your program..." "To the listeners it sounded like we were old friends," Hill says. "He could not have been more gracious. I had never spoken to him before."
On the other hand, earlier this year Hill interviewed several of the presidential primary candidates. In one instance he went a full nine minutes with Newt Gingrich. He never once said Hill's name, and, while certainly astute, nonetheless sounded like he was reading from a list of talking points. "It felt like he had no idea who he was speaking with or where we were at--not me, and worse, not the audience," Hill says.
If you sound like you are the host's friend you put the host at ease. You fit into his or her show. And you make your appearance more comfortable and enjoyable for the audience, too.
The audience always enjoys a conversation between friends a lot more than a one-sided presentation. And if you connect with the host--and as a result the audience--it's more likely that you will be asked to appear again.