Just before Thanksgiving I had surgery. A few weeks ago, I got together with some non-radio friends, and one asked how I was doing. Thirty seconds into my update, the other person interrupted and proceeded to tell me, over the course of several minutes, about his last three surgeries. The focus never came back to me and my story.
Have you ever listened to a morning show where they’re talking to a guest, only for someone on the show to quickly seize the spotlight back to talk about themselves? People being interviewed hate this and it ain’t good radio.
I think I know why this happens and will share that in a moment.
Truly great radio is a conversation the audience not only eavesdrops on, but feels they’re a part of, too. As I share with talent, terrific breaks are dialogues, not monologues. And it’s our job to create those dialogues.
An astute personality I work with recently asked how to protect a conversation from becoming one-sided. The answer is simple: be curious, ask questions. Then listen. Because the answers draw that person out, make them the center of attention, and their story comes to life and gives you that dialogue.
Had the person above opted to ask me questions about my surgery, my recovery, and my life around all of it, the focus would have been on me, and I might have told an interesting story about the experience that could have engaged and entertained everyone in the room. I believe I had that story but was prevented from telling it because the other person so badly wanted to talk about himself. Had I had that chance, he would have laughed at the name the nurse called the surgeon behind his back!
You fix this with prep, inquisitiveness, and an endless supply of questions (not statements) that make the story and its details come to life. By being genuinely interested in the person and their subject matter.
Great storytelling lives in the twists and turns that magically appear when curious people draw them out. The talent’s role in these interviews is to wonder a lot and wander freely around it. That’s where awesome storytelling happens.
I don’t fault the person above for cutting me off. I know why he did it and it wasn’t for egotistical reasons. He was looking for connection points with my experience: you had surgery, so did I, we have something in common. The mistake happened when he did it, at the beginning. His stories should have come after mine. Then we would have had that great conversation and I could have returned the favor with all my interest in him.
There’s a terrific article a smart program director shared called What Kind of Conversationalist Are You? It’s short but powerful and talks more about this. Find it here and engage your great talent to be even better communicators as you continue coaching them up.
That’ll push them further down the road to becoming epic for your radio station.
PS: My friend and 2021 CMA Country Broadcast Personality of the Year, Cody Alan, has written a book called Hear’s the Thing. It’s all about his story and how he became one of radio and TV’s best interviewers. Chapter 8 should be required reading by all personalities who want to be even better at the art of conversation.