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How to Conduct Telephone Interviews

How to Conduct Telephone Interviews

By Brian Jud

Performances on radio talk or news shows are the workhorses of book-promotion activities. With radio as part of your communication plan, you can reach hundreds, thousands or millions of people at little or no cost.

You can use your telephone to tape radio shows or perform live, from any place in which there is a good connection, no background noise and where you can talk uninterrupted for the length of the show. Telephone interviews provide inexpensive exposure because the producer will call you, typically. Here are several guidelines to make telephone interviews more effective:

* As you agree upon the time and date with the producer, confirm your time zone. The producer may say he or she will call you at 3:00, but is that 3:00 p.m. your time or show time?

* Do not use cellular telephones and do not ask the station to call you on a line with call waiting. Similarly, this is not the time to impress your friends by having them listen to you on an extension or speakerphone.

* Have a specific area set aside for telephone interviews, one in which you can keep your notes, books and pad handy. Unplug nearby phones if they are on a different line.

* Nobody will say, "You're on the air," so always assume the microphone is hot (live).

* Your host may want to give the audience the impression that you are in the studio. He or she may say, "Here with us today is Brian Jud, author of You're On The Air." Take the hint and do not make comments such as, "How's the weather out there?"

* While you are on hold, either before you begin the interview or during a break, you will hear the station's regular programming. Listen for key points to which you can refer later. On long shows, the host may talk to you during the break to plan what you will discuss during the next segment.

* Give your ears a rest. Alternate the telephone from one ear to the other during lengthy segments. If you have a speakerphone, engage it during the breaks only.

* Before a long show starts, ask when breaks will occur and how long each will be. Listen for the show's theme music, which will usually start at low volume and increase as it leads to the break. Close your answer as the music begins.

* Keep water nearby and drink it generously, but only during breaks so the sound of your swallowing is not heard on the air (and if the water goes down the wrong pipe, your coughing will not interfere with your interview).

* Keep your list of questions and answers in front of you. Refer to it regularly and make notes as you speak.

* After two or three shows in one day, you may begin to wonder if you are repeating yourself. Make notes as you speak to remind yourself of what you said earlier.

* Write the host's name phonetically at the top of your note pad and use it during the show.

* Sit in a comfortable, quiet chair. If you gesture frequently, try standing as you speak. Keep your head high to open your breathing passages; relax your jaw muscles and you will speak more clearly.

* Do not schedule telephone interviews too closely together. Invariably, one will be delayed due to an unpredictable event, perhaps impinging on the time allocated to another show.

* Rarely will you get bumped (canceled on short notice), but it can happen. If so, be polite and reschedule your show for another time.

* At the end of the show, you will get the chance to tell the listeners where they can find your book. If your toll-free number spells out a word, give both the pronunciation and the numbers.

If you are thorough in your preparation, you will alert your host to your potential as an interesting guest. You both will be relaxed, and the interview will be conducted between two professionals, both trying to create an interesting, informative and entertaining show to meet their respective objectives. When this occurs, you will be asked back to repeat your performance.