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And How My Spirit Soars: Learning to Pack for An Extraordinary Journey

How to Be a Great Radio Guest!

Larry James
(Revised January 30, 2004)

The tips below were gathered from personal experience (appearances on more than 450 radio talk shows) and from other speakers and authors who have coached me on improving my on-the-air presence while being interviewed by radio talk show hosts. In addition, as the former Associate Producer of the MarsVenus Radio Talk Show with hosts, Dr. John Gray, Ph.D., and Michael Najarian, M.A., the following guidelines are those that I recommend for guests who appeared on our show. microphone

Before you go on the air, have your book and notes handy. Isolate yourself prior to the call. Take a few minutes to focus on the key points you need to make to make your message stand out. Know your mission and your message.

Spend no less than 5 to 10 minutes alone before a phone interview. Relax. Breathe slowly and if it's early in the day and your voice in not yet up to speed, hum a couple of bars of "Kum Ba Yah" or read aloud some of your notes to warm up your vocal chords. Read them aloud with a smile on your face. Sip some tipid water.

Prepare several pages of notes for each of your topics, books, etc., (including your 800#, contact info, etc.) and put them in clear plastic page protectors. Have them available on your desk during the interview. They will be useful to "scan" to help you stay focused as you speak. When on-the-air, never "read" from your notes, "speak" from them. Keep them close by in a file folder for use for your next radio interview.

Do your best to remove all distractions around you. Turn papers on your desk face down to avoid the temptation of being inattentive to the host or preoccupied with something you must do later. Unless you will be viewing information relative to the interview from your Website on your computer during the interview, turn off your computer.

I have a list of nearly 40 relationship articles on various topics on my Website and will always have my computer tuned to the "articles menu." I use them as "thought-starters" for when a host suddenly changes the direction of the interview. Motto: "Be Prepared." (Hmmmmm. Heard that somewhere before!)

While you are on the radio to promote your books or other products, you must also provide entertaining content for the radio audience. Talk show hosts will seldom invite you back if you do not first have their audience in mind. In other words. . . your book or the "hook" you used to get the host's attention may get you on the show, however you must have something interesting to say that is unique, controversial or fascinating (besides an occasional mention of your book).

Talk show hosts will be more interested in having you as a guest if you can promise to deliver what you've learned about your topic and how other people can benefit from it. If you can tie-in a local angle to a national story, that's good too.

Put aside any prepared agenda you may have and let the host lead with questions. Listeners who listen to talk radio are smart. They know when someone is trying to "sell" them something. They want to be entertained and informed, not "pitched." Say things that make them think. Listeners (and hosts too) become quickly annoyed with guests who constantly repeat the title of their book, your website or name of your business and will often tune out. The key is balance.

If you get a host who is inexperienced and is asking non-relevant questions. . . answer the question as best you can and bring up another point that may lead the host to another question or ask the host a question.

Better yet, in advance of your appearance, provide the host with a list of at least 10 questions that you deem important or may be questions that you are frequently asked. Put them in the order of importance or relavance as to why you are being interviewed. Most hosts welcome this idea because few have the time to completely read your book and often will scan your media kit prior to going on the air.

Be who you really are. Never worry about what you think someone else will think about what you say. When you worry about embarrassing yourself or saying the wrong thing you usually will. Besides, you have no control over what someone else will think. They will think whatever they think and there is nothing you can do about it.

Act naturally. You need to be a powerful guest. You cannot be a powerful guest when you are concerned about what you don't want to happen. Focus on your mission and your message and deliver it well.

As a former broadcaster who helped introduce the "stand-up when you speak" concept to broadcasters in the Midwest, I have learned that you can speak more clearly and project your voice much better when you stand during a radio interview by telephone. When you do radio interviews from your office you have that luxury. When you sit, often the tendency is to slump and take short breathes. When you stand, you can breath more deeply and project from the diaphragm. Remember to take a deep breath before you begin speaking.

I also suggest that you buy a telephone headset so you can speak "hands-free." "Never" use a speaker phone (the broadcast quality in unacceptable). Holding the telephone or cradling the phone on your shoulder for an hour can cause stress to your neck. Many professional speakers use their hands when they speak to emphasis points. Using a headset allows you to act and speak more naturally.

If you spend lots of time on the phone during the day, it's easy to let your guard down when doing a phone interview. Mistakes happen when you allow yourself to be "too casual."

Before the interview begins, find out who will be the interviewer. Jot their name, the name of the show, the station call letters and the city on a large piece of paper, put it in front of you and remember to use this info often during the interview; especially their name. When they ask a particularly insightful question, pass along a compliment. Even hosts like to be acknowledged and appreciated.

Tell the truth. Hosts value real experiences so use some stories from your own life to embellish your message. If you have experienced a personal struggle or triumph, tell the story and be sure that it is relevent to the topic you are there to talk about.

Hosts also value brevity. Keep your comments as brief as possible and give them the opportunity to ask more questions. However, "never" answer a question with a simple, "Yes" or "No" unless you are prepared to add more words to your answer. Take a breath now and then. Make every word count. You would be wise to rehearse answers to questions that are frequently asked. Be prepared but don't sound canned. Speak from the heart.

Be prepared to pack a lot of information in a brief amount of time and with as few words as possible. This will take some practice. If you must, write them down, then practice, drill and rehearse. Most important. . . "don't read it, speak from it."

Unless you are a comedian and are known for being funny. . . don't try to be funny. A good sense of humor is an asset, however it comes off better if you relax and allow for humor to emerge during your conversation. Allow for spontaneity.

While there are some hosts who will verbally attack you and do their best to create controversy, do your best to keep your cool. This is why it is better to speak from the heart rather than to allow them to rattle your cage and cause you to say something you may later regret. Roll with the punches. You may want to prepare some "come-back" lines for such emergencies. The real pros never hang up on a host. "Be" the expert you are. Engage in the conversation. Know your stuff!

My belief is that it is much better to have your purpose of doing radio interviews be to reach out and help others. With this as your highest priority, the promotion of your books or products will have more value to the listener. The listener needs to know the benefits of taking action to purchase your products before they will buy.

One of the best pieces of advice I received about being interviewed came from my good friend, Gregory J.P. Godek. In preparation for appearing on ABC TV's "The View" with Barbara Walters, he told me to be sure to "say your best stuff first." That came in handy. Learn to work what "you" want to say into the conversation in the beginning because you may not have the opportunity later.

Remember, the person who is asking the questions is in control of the conversation. Had I not followed his advice, it is quite possible that I would not have been able to mention my Website on national TV. This goes for radio too. Barbara Walters was a pro, however one of the other hosts of the show would often interrupt before I had finished my sentence. Rude? Perhaps, and it was their show. Be prepared.

Also remember that listeners channel surf. According to statistics I've read, the average listener only listens in 20 minute segments. They often flip around the radio dial until they hear something that grabs their attention. Be an "attention grabber."

When a host asks you a question and you do not know the answer, it is far better to admit that you do not know than to "make something up" and sound foolish. If this happens to me, I usually respond by saying, "That is a very good question, I'll have to do a little research on that so I can give you a good answer. Next question."

Weave the name of your book into the conversation so it sounds like it is a necessary part of the conversation. Don't say, "As I said in my book. . ." without mentioning the title. This takes some practice to keep from sounding like your only intention is to promote. Radio producers and hosts love to interviews guests who know how to be promotional, that is, mention the name of their book without sounding like a commercial. Practice using the name of your book as if it were a person not a thing to promote.

It's also a good idea to mention the host's name now and then. Write their name on a Post-It note and put it where you can see it during the interview. This allows you to call the host by name during the interview and helps you relate to the listeners.

When you go to a break and the info is close by, get it and let the host know that you have the answer, etc. If the answer is not close by, make a note to remember to send the information to the host after the show is over. This is more acceptable than to "wing it" and look stupid. While the host may never bring it up later, they will be impressed that you kept your word.

Talk show hosts are not interested in "fluff." If you have written a book, you are considered to be an expert on your subject. Act like one. They want people who can not only answer their questions but who can present solutions for their listeners. Be prepared to explain and state your position and to follow with a solution when it is called for.

Do your best to match the pace of your conversation with the pace of the interviewer. Don't be a lazy talker. If the host appears easy and laid back, be easy and laid back. If they talk fast, talk fast. If they sound excited, you better sound excited too.

An experienced host can usually tell if your an a novice at being interviewed. Speak up. Be loud and clear. If you have an accent, it is wise to speak a little slower so as to be clear and easily understood. Be articulate. If you know that you need some help with your grammar, get help. You are often judged by the words that you speak and by the tone of your voice.

Imagine that your are speaking to only one person when you are on the air. Listeners listen that way. Be conversational. Be a friend of the host and the listeners.

Do not speak the jargon or techno-terms of your industry! This is very important. Listeners need your information to be understandable and presented on a layperson's level. Keep it simple and to-the-point, and don't try to impress the host with your vocabulary.

When doing a TV interview, be sure to make good eye contact with the host. Let the camera technicians do their job. Talk "to" the host, don't look around the room.

If you're doing a radio or TV interview, take care not to wear or bring anything that beeps, rings, jingles, cries, barks or otherwise makes noise on its own. If you are doing an interview from your office or home, close the door to avoid any interruptions. Turn off radios, TV, music, cell phones, phones, fans - anything that might make noise - and lock the pets in the other room. My media coach, Ellen Kaye asked me to remove a gold bracelet I was wearing before my appearance on "The View."

If you've written a book or have product and are appearing on TV, bring samples with you. Sign them to the host (radio hosts too). While appearing on KTVK-TV 3 in Phoenix, I not only brought all three of my relationship books, I brought an 11 x 17 poster of my best-selling book. Dan Davis gladly put in on the table and the TV camera panned it several times during the interview. My philosophy is "self-promote or disappear!" Shameless? You bet. AND... it worked!

I used to worry when there were no call-ins if call-ins were accepted. No longer. Heavy call volume is not necessarily a good gauge for how well you are doing. If you are an informative and entertaining guest, listeners will often stay riveted to the radio and will not call. Just be your best at all times and say things worth listening to.

When you hear the music come up when you are talking, that means the break is coming up or the end of the show is near. That is the time you want to bring your comments to a quick close. It is wise to have a few brief sentences that you have rehearsed well with which to close.

I usually close by saying, "This is Larry James reminding you to Celebrate Love." I pause briefly and quickly add "Dot com!" Wheew! Got another plug in for my website and it was the last thing they heard me say.

Several other ideas:  I can think of several reasons why you should ask the host to give you a cassette of the interview. Give copies of the cassette to print reporters who may want to do a story on you and put a copy of the cassette inside your media kit. IMPORTANT: Be sure to make your request to the Producer for a cassette of the interview BEFORE the interview begins.

After the interview is over, ask the host, "Who else do you know who might be interested in having me as a guest?" Most talk show hosts often have valuable contacts in other markets and If they were pleased with the interview and say so, they will refer you.

Ask the host to take a moment and jot you a brief note on their station's letterhead. Use this when you solicit other radio stations for interviews or to post on your media page on your website.

Include a sheet in your media kit or on your website listing all media appearances by category (radio, TV, newspaper, magazines) and update it regularly. Send the list, along with your "pitch" letter, to editors, reporters, talk show producers and news directors, to let them know you aren't a media novice. Media professionals identify newsworthy items by testimonials from media peers before your self-promotional comments.

Remember to tell clients and print reporters in the station's listening area to listen to your interview. If you are a guest on an out-of-town radio show, call the newspaper in the city where the show is airing and ask if they would like an interview, too. Be sure to give them no less than a two week advance notice.

Many of the radio stations in the USA have websites. Before you agree to an interview, it might be a good idea to listen to the host. Here is a list of radio stations who have websites and broadcast on the Internet. You can browse by state for their websites. Go to

You can use the Radio Locator to locate all of the radio stations near a U.S. city.

Also check out American Journalism Review and NewsLink - They feature an expansive list of radio, TV and print media links plus the latest in journalistic news.

Copyright © 2004 - Larry James. Larry James is a professional speaker and author of "How to Really Love the One You're With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship," "LoveNotes for Lovers: Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing!" and "Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers." He can be reached at: Larry James,, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. 800-725-9223.

For more on this topic, read the article, What Makes a Guest Great? Tips from Talk Show Pros! by Roberta Gale.

Soundbites Soundbites: A Business Guide to Working With the Media - Kathy Kerchner - With 14 years as a TV new reporter and anchor she's seen it all; good interviews and "really" bad ones. There is no substitute for hands-on experience and personal coaching. Soundbites coaches you on how to make every interview work "for" you.

Larry's Review: Learn from the expert! What to say, when and how to say it and WHY you need to learn to speak in sound bites! That's it in a nutshell. This book was my bible when I appeared on ABC TV's "The View" with Barbara Walters. I highly recommend it.

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Relationship books by Larry James:

How to Really Love the One You're With:
Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship

LoveNotes for Lovers:
Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing

Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers (Career Assurance Press).

Author Larry James is a professional speaker. He presents "Relationship Enrichment LoveShops" nationally for singles and couples. More About Larry James

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