(By Jeff McHugh) Imagine you are at a restaurant with best friends. You are laughing, swapping stories and discussing your interests.
Now imagine the people in the next booth are eavesdropping and it is your job to prevent them from leaving because they are so riveted to your conversation.
Radio shows and podcasts are like that. Inexperienced hosts sometimes have unstructured, relaxed, on-air conversations which are great for chatting with friends over happy hour but not so good for holding short-attention-span audiences.
Here are 10 tips that experienced shows practice during every back-and-forth conversation:
• Yes, and… Build on what others say to move the conversation forward. Avoid “blocking” replies like “wow” and “that’s crazy.”
• Mic balance. No one person dominates the conversation. No one sits mute. Everyone is present and contributing.
• Precise interjection. Players sometimes interrupt strategically to accelerate the conversation or make a joke.
• Equal-opportunity interruptions. In real life, men interrupt women 33% more often than other men. Smart men in broadcasting are aware of that tendency and stop it.
• Name checking. Reserve the word “you” for speaking to the listener, but refer to on-air players by name.
• Limited zig-zags. Talk travels in a straight line from point A to B to C on topic; allow improvisation without going off-road.
• Rehearsal and planning. Dancing With The Stars performers work out their moves before going on stage, and savvy on-air players outline conversations and timing in advance.
• No weak language. Eliminate fillers like “um,” “ah,” “basically,” “in my opinion,” “actually,” etc.
• Clarity. Explain fully for first-time listeners who may not be familiar with the show, the players, regular benchmarks, or the topic. If one player forgets to reset, another jumps in.
• Pauses. Intentional moments of silence and waiting for a half-second before replying.
Jeff McHugh is a member of the team at the Randy Lane Company.