Radio Interviews

I’ve just done two interviews for local digital radio station Sunflower FM.  Radio interviews are good for promoting poetry as you can read a whole poem on air whereas radio programmers might ask for only an extract from a short story and a brief synopsis for a novel.  So how do you make a success of a radio interview opportunity?

Before the day of the Interview

  • Focus on the purpose of the interview – is it about a new collection or a live reading?
  • List bullet points of key information you need to get across – date, time and place or title of collection and where it can be bought.
  • Think about questions you might be asked and rehearse some answers.
  • Rehearse reading up to two poems – think about which ones will be relevant to the interview.
  • Practice coordinating speaking and breathing – don’t speak out when breathing in as the microphone will pick this up.
  • Is it a live interview or a recorded one?  In a live interview you can’t stop or go back and read a poem again, however, live interviews tend to be one-offs so any mistakes are short-lived.  In a recorded interview, you can stop and read a poem again or ask for a question to be repeated, but it’s best to aim for one take for continuity.
  • Print or write your poems and bullet points on separate sheets of paper.
  • Check your route to the radio station and plan to arrive early.

Day of the Interview

  • Chose clothes that don’t rustle – leather can creak, silks rustle and the microphone will pick these up, even if you can’t hear them.
  • Get to the station early – it gives the staff confidence in you, especially if it’s a live show.
  • In the studio spread your papers out on the desk in front of you, even if you do have to pick up the piece of paper to read it, as if you pile up your papers or hold them in your hand, the paper rustles will be picked up by the microphone.
  • Smile – your audience can’t see it but they can hear it.

During the Interview

  • Be generous with your answers, “yes” and “no” doesn’t make for good radio and good interviewer will ask open questions.
  • Pace yourself – if you have a tendency to gabble, deliberately slow yourself down but otherwise don’t alter your normal speaking pace.
  • Focus on the questions you’re being asked.  Yes, you need to get your bullet points across but you don’t want to sound like a politician.  If the interviewer knows you’re promoting a book or a live reading, they will either ask the relevant questions or remind listeners at the beginning and/or end of the interview.
  • Remember silence makes for bad radio – the audience can’t see you, you have to speak.
  • Thank the interviewer at the end.

If it’s a live interview, tell your friends, family and contacts to listen in.  If it’s a recorded interview, ask when it’s likely to be broadcast (but don’t be surprised if the answer’s during a named show rather than at a specific time) and tell your friends, family and contacts.  If the listening figures get a spike while your interview is broadcast, the radio station might be happy to have you back.


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