How to Give a Great Radio Interview


Photo: Renee Johnson, flickr

As I think about appearing on Premier Christian Radio tomorrow to celebrate World Book Day, I thought I’d share a few tips on how to give a great radio interview. I’m not a pro, but I’m much more comfortable behind the microphone than I was when I went the first time, shaking in my boots and nearly peeing my pants, to review the newspapers back a decade ago. That experience was a bit like baptism by fire, as I sat across from a tough interviewer who in Jeremy-Paxman style grilled me over opinions on issues I didn’t even know I had. Five days of that helped me overcome a lot of fear, and each day as I left the studios I breathed a sigh of relief, verily skipping my way back to the Tube station.

When my next interviews weren’t live but taped, I could hardly believe how fun and light the experience felt. Jeff Lucas and Ruth Dearnley invited me to their fab chat show “In Good Company,” which felt a dream in comparison to the live firing line. They talked; I listened; I chimed in… and we even could stop and go back and have bits edited out!


Imagine you’re talking with one person

This was my Best. Advice. Ever. I told a work colleague about my upcoming News Review interviews and he, an old hand at presenting on radio and television, imparted this wisdom. If we think of the potentially thousands of people who might be listening, we’ll clam up and sound stilted. Instead, imagine you’re having a conversation not only with your interviewer, but that one person from the audience is there in the studio with you. You’ll come across as much more personable.


Shut up!

Oh my goodness; I’ve learned this one the hard way. When I listen back to some of my early interviews, I cringe at how I would go on, and on, and on, and on. How boring for the listeners; how insensitive of me not to let the interviewer (or if you’re in a group, the others) to get a word in edgewise. I can see now that nerves were driving this drivel. Don’t be afraid to say your answer and then stop speaking; the interviewer, after all, is probably a seasoned professional and will carry the conversation. Your silence will also give her the opportunity to follow up on what you say or steer the conversation in another fashion.


Prepare – then let it go

You may be tempted to bring a load of detailed notes with you into the studio; don’t. Do prepare in advance, writing down your main points and even practicing some snappy lines or phrases that you’d like the listener to engage with. (Having a family member or friend conduct a mock interview is a good way to see if you need to practice more.) But if you are slavishly poring over your notes in the interview, you’ll probably sound scattered and disjointed.


Exude confidence – even if you don’t feel it

This is a tough one, for if our nerves are screaming at us and we’re live on air, we may feel anything but confident. Yet confidence breeds confidence, and as we slow down, take a deep breath, and focus on the interviewer and his questions, we’ll become more articulate and calm, maybe even exuding a sense of assurance. The interviewer too will gain in trust, knowing that he won’t be having to carry us in the interview.


Photo: Andréia Bohner, flickr

Photo: Andréia Bohner, flickr


It may be radio (or television!), and you think the smile will be unseen, but what’s unseen matters (bigger spiritual principle alert). The smile in your voice will come through, and the listener will hear it.


After the fact, listen up

We can all learn from our experiences, especially with interviews. They get easier the more we do them, and we can learn from our triumphs and our missteps. Get a podcast of the interview and listen back in the privacy of your own home, cringing or smiling. What did you do well? What do you wish you would have said? When did you speak too much, or too little? Which ideas or words did you stumble over? Do you have any pet phrases that you seem to say all the time, or words such as “um,” that you utter too much? Don’t be too hard on yourself though – you’ll probably be a much harsher critic than those listening to you.


At the end of the day, give thanks. Any opportunity to share with others seems to me a gift from God, well worth returning thanks for.

What tips did I miss out on?

2 Responses

  1. A friend added these great points (I love the second one especially): 1) be aware of your crutch words – we all have words we over use, so take a breath before replying to minimise ‘urms’ as well; 2) Don’t be afraid to say it you don’t know the answer to something – you are perfectly within your right to say ‘that is not my area of expertise, but it poses an interesting discussion about x, y, z’;

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