Sunday, 30 August 2009

A quick scan of last week's offering and my mention of radio broadcasts made me think. I little recollection, and a few notes, and I can recall most (I think!) of my radio appearances. Most have been on BBC local radio stations and, with the exception of the pre-recorded outside broadcast for BBC Radio Stoke (and on the floor of a showroom for a toilet manufacturer in Alsager) and an interview and a series of 'snippets' for BBC Radio Oxford, all the others (16 to date) have been live and on the air.

Obviously most of these were to promote the books, although there were a couple of appeals for help and/or stories in there. However should anyone ever face the same daunting prospect, I would like to offer my own advice. My first interview was live on air, I'd never known anyone who had faced such a prospect before and so turned up expecting to be treated with kid gloves - not a hope! I was bundled into the studio halfway through a track, introduced to the presenter, who then proceeded to flick through the book (on the origins of Staffordshire place names) and ask the meaning of certain places. Great, if I had a perfect memory or had had some warning of what was coming - of course neither was the case and the interview was a complete disaster.

I didn't learn quickly until I realised that these interviews were more for the radio station's benefit than it was for either me or the publisher. As an author I don't HAVE to have air time. The presenter has two or three hours to fill on a number of days every week, the more I talk the better it is for the presenter for it means they have to say less. Hence ever since I have become more confident and have always made a point of asking for some idea of the questions beforehand - not that I ever get them, but it does mean I have made the point that I won't allow the pace and direction of the interview to be governed by someone who knows little about the book (they won't have read more than the odd page).

Today I know the first thing they will ask will be a lead-in question. As this will always be: What got you interested? How did you come to write this? Why did you write it? I already have an idea what my first lines will be. Immediately after that you should already know what YOU want to say and keep talking for as long as possible - while you're talking they won't interrupt until you're out of time!

Clearly there will be times when you dry up, or the interviewer manages to get another question in. Listen to interviews and you will often hear the response: "Interesting you should ask that, for it reminds me of .....", which is when the speaker is thinking of the response, and think you will. One other thing, if you can get a copy of the interview it will help you improve next time. Everyone will naturally be their own worst critic.

What was once a daunting prospect is now not so terrifying. Ostensibly I am talking to one person in a room, while many thousands are eavesdropping! Treat it like a one-on-one conversation, plan what you want to say beforehand, and enjoy it.

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