I’ve probably put in at least a couple hundred hours of time as a guest on different talk radio shows and podcasts over the last few years and I’ve had a few people lately asking me for some tips. Here are some basic suggestions that can help improve your performance as a talk radio show guest.
1) Keep it short. Some people have a tendency to ramble when they get on the air and they end up giving really long answers. Short answers are almost always better. Make your point, hit it hard, say what you want to say, and stop. Let the host pick it up from there.
2) Slow it down. Most people who haven’t been on the air a lot tend to talk way too fast. Slow it down, take a little more time when you speak, and enunciate. Try to talk more like John Wayne and less like an 8-year-old kid when the ice cream truck drives by his house.
3) Vary your tone. Sadly, it usually does not matter what you say if you can’t say it in a way that interests people. Vary your tone, toss in some pauses, speed up a bit, and slow down. If you listen to pros like Rush Limbaugh, you’ll hear them do this constantly. That’s part of the reason they can keep an audience riveted for 3 hours.
4) Prep if you can. As often as not, when I do radio, I have no idea what we’ll be discussing. Although that teaches you to be quick on your feet, preparation helps tremendously. Having some statistics, maybe a few good soundbites highlighted, and some basic idea of what you want to say can improve your performance tremendously.
5) Be Yourself A lot of professional political operatives actually sound awful on the radio because they repeat talking points and generally sound like drones. Be conversational, be authentic, let the “you” come through in the interview.
6) From the stomach, not the throat. Try to bring your voice all the way up from your stomach, through your chest instead of speaking from your throat. Practice activating the muscles down in your stomach and letting the air flow up into your throat from there. It’ll give your voice a deeper, heartier timbre that sounds better on the air.
7) Sidestep if necessary. Sometimes, a host may ask you a question and you’ll have no idea in the world what he’s talking about. Take a lesson from politicians in debates. Give a very brief or superficial answer to the question and then shift the conversation. “Example: I’m sure you’re one hundred percent right about that, but the real problem is….”
8) Don’t sweat small mistakes. People who haven’t done a lot of radio have a tendency to be hypercritical and overreact to small mistakes. This is like the best looking woman in the room thinking she’s ugly because she forgot to put on nail polish. Mistakes happen. Don’t freak out.
9) Record it, judge it, fix it. Record your appearances, listen to them, pick out specific things you’re doing wrong, and consciously work on fixing them. This is how you hammer out “uhs” and “ahms” and phrases you may repeat. Keep in mind most people HATE the sound of their own voice when they first hear it on the radio; so if you do, too, don’t be alarmed.
10) Practice, practice, practice. The more radio you do, the more practice you get, the better you’ll get if you keep working at it. I’ve done syndicated shows with millions of listeners and podcasts that probably had the host, his mother, and me listening. All of it refines you, prepares you, and helps you become better on the radio. If you get an offer to do radio or a podcast, take it if you can.