What Peter Mandelson can teach us on how to handle radio interviews (and our top 10 tips)

From a sudden onset of dry mouth syndrome or an attack of the nerves to all the ‘ums’, ‘erms’ you can possibly muster combined with that nightmarish moment when your mind goes totally blank as you struggle even to remember the name of your kids, radio interviews can turn even the most seasoned professional into a jabbering wreck. But why? Is it the knowledge that x’thousands of people are listening to your every word? Maybe you’re afraid that one wrong word could blow the whole interview – and your chances of that big promotion at work?Whatever the reason, a little tweaking here and there can turn you from a jabbering wreck into a strong, confident interviewee.

So the next time that innocent-looking fluffy mic is thrust in your face and you imagine yourself in some sort of modern Spanish Inquisition scenario, here’s a few tips that I have picked up on how to master the radio interview.

  1. Be prepared: Do your research beforehand on the subject being discussed, keep your notes to hand and highlight the salient points that you want to get across with marker pen – when the On Air light turns red and the nerves kick in you’ll feel more confident and less likely to suffer memory blank
  2. Understand the format: Will the interview be live? Pre-recorded? Who will the interviewer be? Who else will be taking part in the discussion? How long has been set aside for the interview? Just like a job interview you need to know all these things and prepare accordingly. If there are other guests involved do some background research into them before hand so that you can understand their potential viewpoint and anticipate any criticism they may make of your organisation
  3. Prepare for obvious questions: You can pretty much anticipate what you will be asked, so follow the advice of the Scout’s and be prepared for all possible questions that may be thrown at you during the interview. And have some great answers on the ready
  4. Sing for Britain: Practice out loud in the bathroom or in the car en route to the studio or office to clear your throat and avoid sounding like a pubescent teenager whose voice has just broken
  5. Avoid jargon: Always remember your audience and avoid talking in industry-speak – your listeners invariably won’t work in the same sector as you and won’t know an AVE from a ‘share of voice’, for example
  6. Keep key facts to hand: Editor’s feed off facts. What you say and what you do need to be supported by some cold hard facts that add weight to your commentary. So keep a list to hand with three or four key points that speak for themselves and have an impact on your audience (but keep them relevant!!)
  7. Keep still!!!: Microphones are sensitive wee things. So if you have a cold, blow your nose before you are mic’d up, don’t fidget in your seat, and avoid shuffling your notes – these sounds are magnified on the radio and will distract the audience from what you are actually talking about
  8. Keep it local: Make the interview as relevant to the region you are addressing. If you are on BBC Radio Wales, for example, make a connection with your audience and explain how the topic you are discussing affects them. For instance, when talking about the rise in unemployment in the UK, highlight the situation in Wales and how it compares to the rest of the country
  9. Never, never, never dismiss the opposition: Avoid entering into an attack on your competitors like the plague. Instead recognise your opponent’s strengths – by praising rather than berating your counterparts you inadvertently shine the light on you and your organisation
  10. Finally, be honest: Never profess to have all the answers. If you don’t understand what is being asked, simply ask for the interviewer to repeat the question. So never, under any circumstances try to blag your way through the interview – you are speaking ‘on the record’ and what you say now could come back to bite you on the behind. But if you don’t like the question that’s being asked, why not try a ‘Mandelson’. Peter Madelson has a unique way of avoiding answering a question he doesn’t like – he simply asks the interviewer to repeat the question by saying, “Do you mean ‘x’ by that question?” This simple, yet brilliant, tactic effectively steers the question to one that he is more comfortable at answering.

MacKenzie-Cummins PR: www.mackenzie-cummins.co.uk

Career Matters website: www.your-career-matters.co.uk

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About yourcareermatters
CareerMatters was founded as part of MacKenzie-Cummins Communications in 2006 by Paul MacKenzie-Cummins MICG (Member Institute of Careers Guidance), regarded as one of the UK's leading career's advice and guidance writers and specialist PR consultant for the UK recruitment industry. Since 2006 Paul has been the leading advice writer for Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com - the two biggest careers website in the world -tackling all aspects of workplace and management issues, job seeking, career change and hiring trends. In 2006, 2007 and 2008 his writing contributed to Monster winning the Best Employment Advice on the Internet Award for an unprecedented three times beating the likes of The Guardian, Learn Direct and Personnel Today on each occasion. And his work was a runner-up for the same award in 2009. In 2009 Paul was a nominee in the prestigious HR Journalist of the Year Award and Recruitment, Retention & Motivation Journalist of the Year Award. Paul has been commissioned to write more than 500 careers advice and guidance articles for a number of lpublications, from regional and national newspapers to industry publications and various career-specific websites in the UK and USA. Recently, Paul was the Technical Editor for career psychologist Dr Rob Yeung's Job Hunting & Career Change for Dummies (John Wiley & Son, 2007). Dr Yeung is better known as the TV psychologist for Channel 4's Big Brother and the BBC's Who Would Hire You? series. Clients include: Monster.com CareerBuilder.com MSN Careers (Europe) TheLadders TotalJobs SalesTarget.co.uk IntaPeople Recruitment Lifetracks/YouthNET MediaSalesJobs The Press Gazette

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