Five thoughts on how to survive being a guest on radio: how to accept sounding like an idiot

So for the last few weeks I’ve had the pleasure of being a guest on the radio program The Bookend on TBS eFM 101.3. It’s a show about good books. There should be more shows about books. I’ve been part of panels about Rilke, T.S. Eliot, Jeanette Winterson and Erin Morgenstern (an episode titled appropriately: Roundtable(Female Authors)). You can listen to them here.

But my first time on the radio was a long time ago in the glory days of college on RainyDawgRadio. Thinking back on that experience and now, this one, I thought I’d share a few lessons I learned/relearned/learning on surviving the whole guest on radio thing.

1.) Get the chair right.

There will be a mic, and depending on the height of the mic and you perhaps panic shrinking on the chair, you might run into the problem of running out of breath because your curled over like the hunchback. This happened to me. I sound like I’m wheezing for a don’t smoke advertisement.

2.) Don’t nod.

Doesn’t work. It makes the host’s job harder and you feel like an idiot. I do this often.

3.) Water.

Bring water. Parched mouths only makes you want to keep your mouth shut which defeats the purpose of being on radio.

4.) You will say something stupid/obvious/absurd.

I do this because I get excited and think that I’m making the show more entertaining. Maybe I am. But really, I’m saying it because I want to make myself look good.

I’m a ham. I admit it.

This isn’t a good thing since really the best thing you can do is something that I heard people say about what makes Steven Colbert so good:

He always tries to make the other person look good.

If you’re on the radio having that in mind and relaxing enough to actually have a conversation with other people makes the event so much better. Speaking of speaking…

5.) Look at the people you’re talking to

It’s odd when you’re not looking at the people you’re talking to. In most circumstances it’s rude. But in the studio you’re just looking down at your notes, (and you can never find what you’re looking for) and there’s this big ass mic in your face, it’s gets intimidating. Edgy.

I chilled out the minute I started looking at the other people I was recording with, even if I was talking to their headphones.

And when it’s all over you get to have the pleasure of hearing how different your voice sounds compared to what you think. I always thought I had a great baritone voice and thought that if I played my cards right I could’ve been a singer. Now, well, maybe it would’ve been a bit harder than I thought before.

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