Interviews can be terrific, or a nightmare, and the difference is usually making sure you’re prepared well in advance. This is especially true for live in-studio guests.
Interviewing guests can raise the perceived celebrity of the show, but they can also be a important source for marketing when handled correctly.
After working in the radio broadcast industry for over 20 years, first as a producer and now as an executive producer overseeing several major market morning shows, here’s what I’ve learned: If the guest appearance goes poorly, it’s probably your fault, not the guest’s!
First, make sure the guest is worthy and has something to say. There’s nothing you can do to improve a bad idea! So make sure they pass this guest test.
Here is an 8-point checklist. Follow these essential tasks and chances are you’ll have a successful, effective, and compelling visit.
In-Studio Guests #1: The Experience
It’s important to understand that this visit is likely a big deal for your in studio guests to be interviewed. They deserve to be guided through the visit every step of the way like the way a good host handles guests at a party.
It’s very much like a maitre d’ at a fine restaurant leads their guests to the table, explains the menu, and guides them through each course. You are their maitre d’radio! More times than not you’re in studio guests are nervous, inexperienced in public speaking and possibly even star-stuck by the whole process. I don’t want to say expect the worst but it’s better than being completely blind sided. Worst case you’ll be prepared for it and best case you’ll have a guest that’s a natural.
It’s important to understand your guests expectations and realize that they will undoubtedly share their experience with family, friends, co-workers, and followers on social media, so you’ll want to make the experience the best it possibly can be for them.
The good news is that it can be just as valuable for you as your guests. Leverage the entire experience and utilize it as pure grass roots marketing for your show.
In-Studio Guests #2: Pre-Appearance
Once the interview is confirmed, it is important to take care of some clerical work to anticipate problems that may arise. Confirm the appointment in writing. Including the date, time and length of their visit so both parties know exactly what to expect. Many interview guests go poorly because they expect to be guest hosts for an hour when you’re planning on having them for a three-minute segment.
Follow up with a quick phone call the day before the appearance. Be sure to ask if they have any questions or concerns before the appointment.
I have an email template that I have my producers send to every in studio guest with the producer’s mobile number, clear directions, parking instructions and a brief descriptions of their expectations during the scheduled visit. It’s also wise to get a backup number just in case they don’t show up. Just to be safe, you should plan a back up segment ready to air if the scheduled guests don’t show up or are running late.
In-Studio Guests #3: Arrival
It’s good practice to schedule your guests to arrive 15 minutes to 1/2 hour before the segment goes live. In fact, you may want to leave them the impression they’ll be on the air one or two segments before they’re really going on. This protects you against late-arriving guests.
Once they arrive, be sure to greet them, and make them feel comfortable. Have a “green room” where they can relax and hear the live broadcast. Make sure they’re comfortable with water (at the very least) or coffee and something to snack on if your budget allows.
The producer is responsible for making sure all the details are handled. Introduce yourself and confirm names, titles and get a brief background or description of everyone in attendance. Often times a few other people will accompany your guests. Don’t be shy and forget to ask who everyone is and why they’re there. These people can have a major impact on your guest’s perception of the visit, and it could lead to some quality on-air content or bonus content to use on your website.
I once had a guest bring their biological sister along to the interview. That’s not unusual, until we asked a couple of questions and found that they had met for the very first time that day! Needless to say that turned out to be way more interesting than anything that we had scheduled to talk about on air.
In-Studio Guests #4: Always Deliver
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is more embarrassing or unprofessional than teasing an interview and it doesn’t happen. You can avoid this level of embarrassment by simply refraining from teasing your interview unless it’s confirmed.
Or, you could record the interview in advance. This allows scheduling flexibility, and you can edit the audio to make it sound great when you play the “live” segment on the air. Plus, when you know how the interview sounds in advance, you can tease and promote it properly, building more intrigue into the setup.
One of the deadly sins of radio is to not deliver on what you’ve promised to your audience.
In-Studio Guests #5: Prepare The Host
After you’ve had a chance to meet the guests in the green room, brief the hosts on details. Make sure they know who’s coming in, their names, titles, background and any other pertinent information you’ve picked up about the guests.
This all sounds like a lot to do during the hustle and bustle of a morning show but it is extremely important if you want things to run smoothly. Even if you’re just repeating info that the hosts already know, it’s a good reminder. Look at it as quickly reviewing the plays on game day before you hit the field, even though you’ve been practicing all week.
Guests should be instructed on what to do until it’s time to come in to the studio. Once everyone is acquainted, begin capturing audio before the segment actually begins and edit it later. This gives you a little wiggle room to work with the content.
Another useful technique is “Hiding the Easter egg”. This is when you have the guests ask the hosts about a regular or recurring bit from the show and give your guests the appearance that they listen to every single second of the show even if they don’t.
In-Studio Guests #6: The Segment
Now that the big moment has finally arrived, it’s time to do one last rundown.
Here’s the big four to check before any broadcast:
- Make sure that everyone has headphones that needs them.
- Show the guests how to adjust their volumes.
- Show them how close they need to be to the microphone.
- Remind them of the host’s names. This may sound silly but it is sometime necessary.
Once everything is ready, stay in the main studio for the first few minutes before heading back to the producer studio to make sure all is running smoothly.
In-Studio Guests #7: Get Photos and Video
Don’t forget to take photos (and video) during the segment to get credit after the segment airs. And, be sure to take a few posed photos of the guests and the hosts. These pictures will be the most tangible form of the memories that your guests are making with your show and will most likely be what ends up on their social streams.
You can use them for your own purposes, and in press releases and media alerts if something noteworthy happens in the interview.
In-Studio Guests #8: The Final Touch
Before they leave, confirm the best email address to reach them so that you can send them photos, audio and video as soon as it’s ready to be published. It’s a nice touch to send the full segment in mp3 format.
And as a final but important touch always walk your guests to the door or front lobby and send them on their way with a friendly smile. And, if you have it, a gift bag with station/show memorabilia.
There! Your job as maitre d’radio is complete. Just follow these 8 points and you’ll have great experiences with guests. Now, on to the next show segment.