The life-blood of talk radio is the listener base that calls into the show. The host and in-studio guests direct the conversation, but without listener feedback there’s no proof as to which issues really matter to people. When you pick up the phone to join the conversation, you instantly become a focus group of one—a singular voice that represents the feelings and concerns of thousands.
It’s not a secret that when it’s your turn to speak, you have a real opportunity to have an impact and persuade others. But when you join a talk show by phone, you’ll find out right away that time is very short. Making the most of the talk radio forum and the opportunity it represents is easy when you follow the advice below.
As always, tell us about your success. Let us know how you are doing as a call-in guest by e-mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org and telling us what show you were on and the issues you talked about.
1. Call-in etiquette.
Turn your radio down. You’ve heard it before, and it’s true. Most radio shows are on a brief delay, usually a few seconds. Being a call-in guest is about adding value to the conversation and giving people something new to think about, not about hearing yourself on the air. Additionally, consider using a landline phone whenever possible. Cell phones cut out frequently and often sound garbled. If your call is intended to be meaningful, give yourself every advantage.
2. Cut to the chase.
The first rule of call-in radio is to get straight to the point. There’s no room for the “long-time listener, first-time caller” routine. If you have an opinion, statement, or question, put it right out there.
3. A good question elicits a response.
Think about what you want from your time on the show. Most often, your goal will be to get people thinking and challenge the conventional wisdom. A well-crafted question will accomplish this goal nicely. So keep it simple. Start with “why” or “how,” and let it rip.
4. Stay on the line—and don’t interrupt.
When you’re done with your question or statement, don’t hang up the phone. Listen to the response from the host and/or the guest, and don’t interrupt. If there is a reason to follow up with another question or to clarify your point of view, start talking as soon as there is silence. Follow-up questions can really hammer home the point. Don’t miss the opportunity to keep engaging the listeners.
5. Make it personal.
Don’t be hesitant to share personal details on your call. If you’re out of work, are suffering from a disease, or have personal experience with the topic at hand, say so. Time may be tight as a call-in guest, but keeping it real means everything to those listening to the show. Authenticity is obvious and adds to your credibility and the points you make.
6. Listen to the show and the calls before yours.
Everyone wants to be appreciated. Use the opportunity to reference a previous caller or something said earlier in the show. When you give voice to the thoughts of others who are listening, it vindicates them and might just give someone else the confidence to join the conversation too.
7. Don’t sit on hold forever.
Call screeners deliver information to the host, but they don’t decide who gets on the air. If your call sits on hold for more than 10 minutes, hang up. Nothing good can come from staying on the line for too long. Many hosts get concerned that callers will be so frustrated after 10 minutes or more on hold that they might not want to pick up the phone due to a potential frustrated response. Remember, radio hosts are professionals who take their jobs seriously and try their best to get as many people on-air as possible. So if you don’t get through the first time, call back later or another day.
8. Make a specific reference.
If your goal in calling a radio talk show is to steer people to a website or a particular article, your best bet is to work the item into your question. For example, try something like this: “I read a remarkable piece of research presented by Generation Opportunity the other day; what is your take on why so many young Americans are unemployed?” This seeding of the ground might just result in the host asking you to tell more about the research findings!