Industry Tips & Advice: Basic Radio Interviewing Skills by Robert Preston

Interviewing another person as part of a radio broadcast can be an intimidating assignment for somebody without experience in interviews or in radio broadcasting. To get the most out of your interview, enter the interview prepared, with knowledge of your subject and what you hope to get them to discuss.

Proper research on the individual you will be interviewing is essential in having a successful interview. If you don’t know who your subject is or why he or she is important, you won’t know what to ask them. If you don’t know his or her past statements and actions, you are more likely to be caught off-guard by an answer given, which can lead to hesitation and awkward pauses in an interview and can make planning the path of your interview difficult. Find past interviews, and attempt to glean new information from the subject which they have not been asked about. If the individual being interviewed is on a press junket, for example, you will have to ask the standard questions to get information on what they are promoting; however, you should also try to ask unique questions and explore avenues prior interviews have not.

Preparing a desired path for your interview enables you to keep the interview on course. The level of detail you use is up to you and can change from interview to interview based on whether your interview is flexible, with a general goal of an entertaining segment, or you are specifically focusing on addressing a set of issues. You can list the questions you wish to ask the individual if you are looking to remain regimented, or you can simply write notes of the key areas you wish to cover. Pay careful attention to the amount of time you will have to conduct your interview. Unlike an interview for a written article, you will likely have a set segment length that you must fill, and must have enough questions to do so, but you also do not want to run out of time without getting to important questions.

Practice asking the questions of the interview if you are unsure. This is particularly useful for individuals who are inexperienced with interviews, as it enables them to grow comfortable phrasing questions in easy-to-understand ways. Practicing your questions beforehand, based on the notes you have prepared will prevent you from potentially forgetting what your notes mean during the interview, which is potentially disastrous. If possible, practice using the equipment that will be worn during your interview. Entering an interview without having used the headgear your radio booth will utilize can leave you ill-prepared for your interview. If your producer will communicate to you throughout the interview, practice holding the conversation of the interview while also listening to and following your producer.

Staying Flexible
While a set goal for an interview is important, unless you are working under a very strict time constraint for which your allotted questions just barely fit, do not hold yourself to completely following your plans. If an interviewee provides an intriguing response to a question, follow through on it and attempt to gain further information. If they tell the start of an interesting piece of information, encourage them to go on. You can always return to your planned questions; however, it can be difficult to return to an avenue opened by an interviewee once it is closed.


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