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How to Present Powerfully on the Radio
by Chris King

As a speaker or company leader you will, at some time, be asked to appear on the radio. It may be the taping of a panel discussion. It may be a one-on-one interview about a topic for which you have expertise. It may be to answer some questions that have been asked about your business and/or one of your products. For whatever reason you are going to be heard over the air, you will want to sound polished, professional and knowledgeable. In this article, I am going to discuss some of the ways to make it happen.

Remember that the radio audience can’t see you, so your voice, pacing, and words are all important. When we are presenting to an audience or leading a meeting, we have the benefit of our physiology — our breathing, eye contact, physical appearance, and movement, all of which give the most impact to our message. Recently, I was listening to the taping of a panel discussion that had been presented by several of the leaders of IT (Information Technology) in our region. It was disappointing, because even though it was known that this program was going to be broadcast, no one bothered to tell us who was speaking. The speakers, even though all are intelligent men, spoke so quickly and without any tonal variety, that they were difficult to follow. It took all of my energy to stay focused on what they were saying. If you know that you are going to be part of a radio program, start listening to the radio. And I don’t mean disc jockeys or the controversial talk show hosts. I suggest tuning into the news and other informative shows on National Public Radio (NPR). It never ceases to amaze me how day after day NPR’s news team is completely “on top of everything” and offer such great listening.

Be prepared. Just as I have repeatedly mentioned before, the more prepared you are for any presentation, the more smoothly it will progress and the more professional you will appear. If you are going to be interviewed about a topic or happening, type out a list of questions that you feel that your interviewer will ask, or you would like him or her to ask. When I have appeared on the radio, I have handed the person interviewing me a sheet of questions I would like to be asked, for which they are usually quite thankful. Then, there are few or no surprises for either of you. And, of course, you are prepared with answers to those questions.

What if I am asked difficult or uncomfortable questions? It is necessary to be honest with our answers, but if someone asks a question that is damaging or confrontational, you don’t have to be so honest that your answer harms you and/or your business. During the past month, we held a mayoral primary election in our city where ten candidates were running. All ten appeared at our City Club and besides speaking to a live audience that was in attendance, they were broadcast live on the radio. Each gave a short introduction, followed by questions asked individually and/or to the group. You can imagine that some of the questions were political and quite confrontational. Others were tricky and revealing. It is interesting that the two candidates who won the primary both took their time to answer, never got on the defensive — no matter how hateful some of the comments became — avoided saying anything harmful to others or themselves, and knew exactly what their platform consisted of.

If at all possible, try to inject some humor and lightness. Even if your topic is serious, make an effort to lighten up. This will help give you a “human” quality. I know that there is nothing humorous about the recent terrorist attacks, but when it came to the candidates I just mentioned, the program was made palatable and more interesting to listeners by some light banter and laughter among them. They became “real” people.

Avoid rambling. In an unfamiliar situation it is easy to be nervous and when we are nervous, we have a tendency to ramble. Of course, the host or interviewer should help control this, but often don’t want to appear to be rude. So, remember to stick to the point, say what you have to say as succinctly as possible, and stop talking. Make sure, however, that you do get a chance to say the words that you feel are relative to the interview and/or presentation. And this leads me to my last point.

Know what your most important points are and be sure that you state them. I suggest having those answers that you feel are the most important written down on a 3 X 5 card, and even if you are not directly asked the questions you want to be asked, work those points into the conversation. Otherwise, the interview may be over without your achieving your reason for being on the radio in the first place.

Remember that even though this can be serious business, it can also be fun and offer a big boost to you, your business, and your career. Enjoy it!







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