What Great Radio Guests Do (Part 2 of 2)

Click here if you missed yesterday’s article about the three terrible things radio guests do.

Radio isn’t an easy format for media spokespersons. Without the visual cues they normally rely upon during in-person interviews, they often feel like they’re flying without a net, merely guessing whether their answers are satisfying the interviewer.

Bob Andelman, the radio host known as “Mr. Media” (no relation to this site), has interviewed hundreds of celebrities over an accomplished career. I spoke with him earlier this week to ask him to identify four qualities that great radio guests have.

  1. They Live in the Moment: Mr. Andelman says his greatest guests are the ones able to have an off-the-cuff conversation.  “A lot of guests and their representatives ask for questions ahead of time, and I really hate to do that. I want someone listening to the show to feel like it’s a conversation, not scripted.” Great media spokespersons should always sound unscripted, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be prepared. Being unscripted doesn’t mean you wander terribly off-message or do yourself harm, but rather that you are agile enough to match your message to the moment.
  2. They’re Confident: Inexperienced radio guests are understandably nervous during the interview. But Mr. Andelman says it’s important to remember why you’re there in the first place. “I would go into it being confident that you know your stuff. You’re being interviewed because you have an expertise on the topic, and you have information that people want access to.
  3. They Match the Host’s Energy: NPR is obviously a lot lower energy than Howard Stern’s show. So how much energy should a radio guest convey during an interview? “Take your cue from the host,” says Andelman. “If that person is subdued, you don’t want to overwhelm them by shouting or pulling a Tom Cruise by jumping up and down on the couch.” One addition to that good advice: Remember that “subdued” doesn’t mean passionless. Nelson Mandela and Elie Wiesel are both rather subdued spokespersons, but both convey an astonishing amount of intensity.
  4. They are Sincere: Of all of the guests he’s interviewed, Mr. Andelman considers raunchy stand-up comedian Robert Schimmel one of the best. “I was not prepared for how charming and alternately sincere and crazy funny he was. At the end of the interview, I said what I always say, which is ‘I hope you’ll come back some time.’ And he said, ‘I’d love to. When?’ No one had ever said that before.”

To listen to the first of Bob Andelman’s two interviews with Robert Schimmel, click here.