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Jon Beaupré is a voice and performance consultant for radio and television performers. Under the name Broadcast Voice, he provides private training and workshops for reporters, anchors, sports and weather casters, and others working in electronic and broadcast media. He teaches in the Broadcast Communications program at California State University at Los Angeles, and conducts workshops and seminars with the Associated Press Radio and Television Association. He has been a fixture on the convention circuit, teaching workshops at a wide range of specialty journalism and broadcast conventions and stations on both coasts of the U.S.

Valerie Geller has trained and inspired a generation of broadcasters. It may be a bit of an exaggeration to say that she ‘invented’ talk radio, but clearly, there are few people in the world who can make as strong a claim to shaping, forming, and producing what has come to be known as ‘talk radio’. She regularly consults on radio format and production at stations in Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia, as well as across the U.S., Canada and Europe.

From my perspective, what Valerie brings to any discussion of radio is not only her encyclopedic knowledge of the medium and her sound, practical advice, but also her inspirational ‘go-get-’em’ approach.

As a change from the normal in this column, I’m passing on to you Valerie Geller’s tips for conducting interviews in conjunction with music programming for radio. While she has compiled these ideas for music radio, they apply nearly as strongly for all forms of broadcast interview. I offer them to you with Valerie’s good wishes, and my grateful thanks: Valerie Geller’s 12 Rules for Powerful Radio Interviews:

1) ASK: WHY IS THIS GUY ON? Know why you are doing the interview. Are you doing this because the person has something to sell or push to your audience? While listeners love story, they hate hard sell.
Ask: Is this person-topic going to bring anything new to my listeners? Will the audience get a talkable topic, new information, laughs, inspiration, or anything else from hearing this on the air?
Ask: How will this interview serve my listener? Does this person or subject cover topics that the audience wants to know about? Although you may want to meet them, many presenters have been greatly disappointed when the gorgeous Playboy Playmates actually have little to say when in front of a microphone. And you may already have had the experience of a top rock star, exhausted from touring, now on his or her 1000th radio or TV interview, burned out, hawking the latest CD or concert appearance without anything significant, new, real or meaningful to share with your listeners. But remember, a great interviewer is a human being. The best interviews feel like and sound like a normal conversations. Even the most bored, burned out and exhausted rock star usually will respond if you are genuine and authentic and act like a human being. NOTE: It works even better if you actually LIKE the persons works

2) Anything LIVE anything goes. When interviewing a live in-studio guest, listeners "get" that the interview can go wrong, veer off topic, get crazy or maybe even the studio ceiling comes crashing down. Its all OK. That's part of what happens in live radio. Here your job is to create a place where the interviewee is comfortable to talk and be with you and your audience. People understand that during live interviews, unpredictable things happen.

3) BUT should you pre-produce the interview, MAKE IT PERFECT. Here you've got the opposite of live radio. If you are doing the interview in advance you can cut and paste and create art. You have the opportunity, control and power to make this absolutely surgically perfect. Remember, â *when in doubt, leave it outs |â * The produced interview segments should sound exactly the way you want it to sound. Emphasize storytelling, truth, and of course NEVER be boring.

4) THERE ARE NO STUPID QUESTIONS: Only the ones you didn't ask. If an answer is complex...ask the question again. Trust that if you want to know something, chances are the audience also wants to know that same thing. Don't worry about looking brilliant, just ask the simple questions, that people want to know.. (Many interviewers are held back from greatness simply because they're afraid to look foolish, unprepared or dumb. Example as in Nairobi, Kenya I recently did a Creating Powerful Radio workshop at a station filled with bright on-air talent. Perhaps you recall the news story a while back, where US President George Bush nearly choked to death on a pretzel? In Kenya, after days of reporting the story, someone FINALLY asked, ‘What IS a pretzel?’ (Pretzels are not a familiar product in Africa and are not available there) Everyone on air was so afraid of looking ignorant or foolish, that for days NO ONE DARED to ask the one question that the audience really wanted to know. Once answered, everyone had fun with it.

5) Respect Responses Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. If the guest is a flaming idiot, that will come through all by itself.

6) BE PREPARED It is likely that if you are interested in talking with a guest, you may already know a great deal about the subject or topic. Your personal interest, connection and natural curiosity probably have led to decent show prep for the interview. (Don't pretend to be an expert in a subject if you are not. Its not genuine and very few can pull this off.) If you don't know about this topic or person, read up, use the Internet and of course ask others what they know about this subject. The secret of life in radio is: INTERESTED IS INTERESTING. BORED IS BORING.

CNNs Larry King is famous for not preparing heavily for his interviews. He counts on being the ‘everyman’ asking the common questions. Sometimes if you overprepare, you go over the heads of the listeners. Never be boring. If you, as a personality, find the topic, no matter how simple, crazy, obscure, bizarre or off the beaten path, interesting, you'll find a way to make it interesting to the listeners. (Remember: there are no boring stories, only boring storytellers!)

7) PUT YOURSELF IN THERE When doing an interview, many have been taught not to or are afraid to talk about themselves when a guest is in studio. The natural tendency is to sublimate your own ego and make the interviewee the star. But unless it is a straight news interview where you are collecting facts, it works better if you are a human being, part of the process. Participate. If you have a personal connection to the topic, don't be afraid to talk about or share from your own life. Remember you are developing a relationship with your audience as well as with the interview guest. Revealing certain details that pertain about yourself or your life can catalyze the interview into power.
NOTE: I'm not talking about spilling your private life all over the airwaves, but a genuine connection to the topic can work really well. Remember the personal (not private) is universal.

8) SHORTER IS BETTER THAN LONGER Use the short hello. No need to go into the entire list of accomplishments or awards - just give the listener the reason the person is being interviewed. The same for the end. Shorter is usually better than longer. You can follow up with a second interview at another time or use more of the tape later. Control the interview and keep it tight. Here's why. You don't want to ‘overfeed the fish’. I learned a valuable lesson from my nephew when he was a kid. He'd gotten a gold fish but it had died due to overfeeding. Much to my sisters' chagrin, I bought him another fish, which he then promptly killed off, again, due to overfeeding. By the fourth goldfish, Adam called one night exclaiming, ‘Aunt Valerie! I've got it! I figured it out - if you overfeed the fish, it dies, but if you don't feed it too much, when you come in the room, it swims to the top of the bowl and is happy to see you’ The moral of the story: Better to leave audiences hungry for more than to bore them to death by overloading or overfeeding with too much information.

9)VOX POPS In the USA we usually call these ‘Man On The Street Interviews.’ Asking a cross section of people who represent the target audience to answer a question or comment on a subject or issue is a powerful tool. People like to hear themselves (or people like themselves) on the air. Done right, this is a wonderful ‘color in your paintbox’ to help create powerful radio. However, many broadcasters are actually quite shy and HATE going out on the streets to interview total strangers (i.e. regular folk) about topics of the day, issues or ideas. But VOX POPS interviews can add excitement and life to your show, allow listeners feel involved and creates a feeling of holding up a mirror and reflecting life ‘out there’

10) WHEN GIVING OUT A PHONE NUMBER Its helpful to let the listeners know in advance that you'll be giving out a useful phone number. Many are driving, or otherwise engaged and cannot grab for a pen or pencil at the exact moment you throw the number out. In order to avoid a plethora of calls into the station later in the day (or week, or month) from listeners who want that number, try this: Tell your listeners, ‘In a moment well be giving out a number, so you might want to have pencil and paper handy’ Then give them enough time so they can find something to write with. Then you give out the number. Repeat it. And give it again at the end of the interview in case the listeners missed it. Your listeners as well as the stations receptionist, will thank you.

11) LISTEN Although this may be obvious, many broadcasters can ruin a potentially powerful interview because they are so interested in looking great or asking the right questions, that they miss great things being said. Remember, the listeners are listening with their full attention to what is being said. So should you.

12) NEVER BE AFRAID TO GO OFF TOPIC Like life, a powerful interview can often go off your intended subject. This is just fine. LISTEN. Be real. And remember the rules: Tell the truth and NEVER BE BORING. Think of it this way: imagine that you are on a driving vacation. If you stick exactly to the map, its never as fun or exciting as that ‘side trip’ you might spontaneously take off the main road. Sometimes the best interviews meander off subject (just as normal conversation does) and take you places that are EVEN better than you could have imagined. If you have fun, so will the audience. Relax. Be spontaneous. Make it great. Use your genuine interest and feelings for a topic. And keep it powerful.