Top tips for a successful radio interview

As a former broadcast journalist, I know only too well how daunting radio interviews can be for most people. During my earlier career, I realised that even the most senior leaders have been reluctant to go on-air, worried that they’ll face a ‘Jeremy Paxman’ style of interview and be viewed in the wrong light.

Although radio interviews might seem like a scary experience, they really are straightforward – once you know how to tackle them effectively. And because radio publicity is worth its weight in gold, it's important you learn the basics of giving a successful on-air interview, that's whether it's live or pre-recorded. Here are 10 tips to ensure you succeed:

1. Find out the location

Firstly, find out where the interview is going to take place. Will it be in the studio, over the phone or will a journalist come to see you? If you have to go to the studio, make sure you allow plenty of time to get there. If a journalist is coming to see you or you’re giving a telephone interview, you’ll need a quiet room so there are no background noises or distractions.

2. Live or pre-recorded?

Next, ask the journalist if the interview is going to be pre-recorded or live. Both types of interview have their own set of challenges so it’s important to know the difference. Pre-recorded will give you some leeway to make mistakes as you’ll be able to repeat your answers, if necessary. Live is when you will literally have no second chances.

3. Do some research

Find out more about the interview and your audience. Is it purely for the news bulletins or will it be part of a topical show? How long will the interview take place? Who listens to the station? You’ll need to know the nature of the interview, your audience and how much time you have to ensure you’re fully prepared.

4. Be prepared for other interviewees

Consider whether anyone else will be participating in the interview. Will they have the same views as you or will they disagree? Think about the criticisms you might face and how you might respond positively to each one.

5. What questions?

You are within your rights to ask the journalist beforehand the type of questions he/she will be asking. That way, you can thoroughly prepare your answers and avoid being ‘put on the spot’. If you are caught out during the interview, simply say: “I’m sorry, I’m not in a position to answer that but what I can say is…” and then repeat one of your main key points.

6. Stick to your key messages

Next, write three key messages or points that you would like to make during your interview. Keep repeating these throughout to ensure your message gets heard.

7. Avoid nervous habits

Most journalists will require ‘sound bites’ – small clips of audio to play during their news bulletins – so make sure you start each sentence clearly, avoiding any nervous habits like ‘ums’, 'errs' and ‘ahs’.

8. Stay hydrated & comfortable

Keep a glass of water to hand and don’t shuffle any paperwork. Avoid tight-fitting clothing and sit comfortably and upright with your feet flat on the floor. This will help you to feel and sound relaxed.

9. Be yourself

Be friendly and open. Use informal, everyday language. Speak as though you were talking to just one person and don’t use any jargon. Keep to the point and avoid waffling.

10. Keep your cool

Don’t lose your temper or sound defensive. Simply stick to positive statements and never resort to negative attacks. Most importantly, relax and enjoy yourself.