A few weeks ago, out of the blue, I received an email from a radio producer in Houston, TX, interested in interviewing moi about a recent happiness study. I was thrilled and quickly accepted the invitation to be live on the radio (over the phone) the next morning. I was pleased with the result but things didn’t go as smoothly as expected.

You can listen to it here http://elainewellman.com/radio-interview/.

As I prepared for the interview and navigated the unexpected days that followed, my background as a publicist served me well. Without this expertise however, the experience could have been very challenging. I thought I’d share with you what happened and offer my top five tips for acing an on-air interview.

#1 - Go With The Flow
That email from the producer came in on a Tuesday and I was scheduled to go on air live during “morning drive” (that’s the time block during rush hour which usually has the most listeners) at 6:45am the next day. Broadcast (radio and TV) works on a very short time frame.

That night, I set my alarm clock for 6:15am so I could brush my teeth and get some coffee in me before the interview. On Wednesday morning, the phone rang early and the producer apologized, saying we would have to reschedule. The big news in Texas (and around the country) that day was the memorial service being held for four firefighters who had recently died while on duty. I happily agreed to reschedule the interview for the following morning.

I caught a segment about it on the national news and got choked up. Firefighters from other cities covered the day’s shifts for the whole Houston squad so they could attend the service, which was held in an arena. Yes, that was more important and timely than the happiness survey. This is how the news cycle works.

Again I set my alarm clock. And again, just as I was about to get out of bed, the producer called apologizing that they had to bump me again. A tropical storm had popped up nearby. I sleepily said ok and crawled back in bed.

This is completely routine in TV and radio land. If Taylor Swift is spotted with a new boyfriend at the very moment you’re about to appear, or heaven forbid something serious happens in the world, feature and lifestyle pieces may be bumped. Since I already knew this from my days as a publicist I wasn’t phased.

The third day, Friday, was the charm. The producer called at 6:45am and said to hold for 2 minutes. Then, the interview finally happened. Had the interview been bumped again, it could have easily been cancelled altogether. The happiness survey that was providing the framework and reason for the interview could have been considered “old news” the week after it was released. When you’re dealing with live on-air appearances you just have to go with the flow and be grateful for the opportunity.

#2 - Talk To Yourself
One great thing about radio is that it usually isn’t on-camera. Interviews are often conducted over the phone; these are called “phoners”. There’s no need to worry about what to wear, getting your makeup done, having a bad hair day or the additional stress of being on-camera.

But you do need to sound like you’re awake! I didn’t consider how I would sound until I spoke for the first time that morning to the producer when he said you’re on in two minutes. The words came out of my mouth and I didn’t sound sharp at all. I did sound very sleepy. I spent the next two minutes on hold saying “hello, hello, hello,” over and over again to try to quickly warm up my vocal chords. I’m sure the singers out there already know this. Next time, I will spend the 30 minutes before a morning interview not only brushing my teeth and drinking coffee but most important, talking to myself so I sound my best.

#3 - Know Your Talking Points
Do you know what you would say if given the chance?
As soon as I accepted the invitation, I put together my talking points. Talking points are a list of key points, in bullet format, that will serve as your guidelines when talking to the media.

To take full advantage of your air-time, be sure you’re ready to discuss the topic at hand, in my case the happiness study, and also how listeners can find you when the interview is over. Try to anticipate what you may be asked and be prepared with appropriate answers. In some cases, depending on who is conducting the interview and the subject matter, you can request a list of questions in advance.

To prepare, I reviewed the happiness study. It stated that Americans were slightly less happy than they were last year. To me, the statistics were so similar to the previous year they didn’t matter much. Then, I noticed the survey was conducted between April 9 and April 15, tax day in the U.S., typically not a happy time for citizens. So, I included these insights in my talking points.

#4 - Timing Is Everything
The producer said the interview would be about three minutes. Three minutes is a decent amount of air -time on a news style program, especially when the world has moved more toward “sound bites.” (Sound bites are snappy one-sentence bites that are easy to edit or combine into other pieces.) My three minutes felt more like a New York minute. Luckily, I had prepared well.

Set the stopwatch on your smart phone and run through your talking points. Did you get to your key messages before your time was up?

You’ll have to figure out a way to slip your most important information into the interview early, while making sure to answer whatever questions you’re being asked. If I hadn’t done this important step in advance, I’m sure I would have run out of time and missed the opportunity to talk about the free happiness workbook I offer on my website (which is how I drive traffic to my site and build my database list of potential clients).

#5 - Practice Makes Perfect
After your talking points are in order, practice, practice, practice. You certainly don’t want to sound like you’re reading from a script. You do want to be familiar with all your key messages and be as prepared as possible. Know them inside and out so they roll off your tongue easily and naturally.

Keep in mind that most likely you will jump around since you probably don’t know exactly what you will be asked. That’s why the bullet format works so well and why it’s so crucial to get your key info in as early as possible. Be on your toes and look for those opportunities during the interview.

Once you’re comfortable with your content practice smiling when you speak. Smiling and laughing appropriately bring energy and confidence to your voice.
That said, you don’t have to be perfect. I certainly wasn’t. Having prepared well however, I wasn’t very nervous and ultimately was quite pleased the result. In fact, I had such a good time I’m considering launching a PR campaign focused on radio. I’m sure with practice and preparation, you’ll be ready for the same. And if you want even more help, seek out a media training class or work with a professional publicist.

You can listen to my interview here http://elainewellman.com/radio-interview/.

Author's Bio: 

Elaine Wellman helps women entrepreneurs and "professionistas" create more success by mastering the skills that lead to happiness. She is an expert on happiness and success and a certified life coach. For more information on committing to your happiness and success and a free copy of Elaine’s workbook The #1 Secret to Happiness for Successful Women, check out www.elainewellman.com.