20 Tips for Talk-Back Radio
from an Author's Perspective
by Hazel Edwards
- If the radio station is to ring you at home, turn off noisy appliances nearby. Inevitably the ‘frig has a
heart attack ,the dishwasher cycle goes into super-noise rinse or the neighbour mows his grass. Or someone
knocks at the door.(pin up a note or leave the door unlocked).
- Turn off your mobile too, unless it has to be available as a backup phone for them to contact you
initially. Keep the phones apart or they interfere electronically with each other.
- A radio interview can be done from in the studio, on your landline or even on a mobile. The station prefers
to have you in the studio to control the sound quality, but that may add considerable travelling time for you.
However, for a talkback, that may be essential to control the multiple lines for callers.
- Negotiate the location, especially if it is peak hour or the middle of the night.
- The ‘Tardis’ is often the term used to describe a tiny studio, where you are linked with an interstate
presenter or producer. Effectively it means you are talking to yourself or a blank wall. Imagine a face. Talk
- A talkback is different from a ‘straight’ interview in that you’ll be required to answer questions as ‘an
expert’ or at least comment on callers’ points.
- Jot names of callers on pad in front of you, so you can use their name. Or add their query, in case you get
off the topic.
- The person who calls you first will be the producer, but you’ll be talking to the presenter next. Don’t use
the wrong name. Usually the producer is an excellent psychologist who diplomatically says what a wonderful
subject or how well you answered, or usually they don’t even get two callers in this time slot!
- Check on exact times. Are they in the same time zone as you? My ‘f2m;the boy within’ co-author is in
Wellington , New Zealand which is two hours difference from Melbourne, so when doing an ABC dual, talkback
interview, we needed to know whose time zone.
- Don’t under-estimate the audience of middle -of –the- night programs. Not just insomniacs ring in. Often
podcast are made, and listened to much later. They can also be Googled by subject tags.For example my ABC
overnight talkback ( at 3.30 am Melbourne time) on ‘Writing a Non Boring Family History’ collected many keen on
writing their stories. That was national. And the podcast was around for Googling.(Luckily the studio will call
you 15 minutes beforehand to check you’re awake or that your alarm worked)
- Jot 4-5 points you wish to make about the topic. Or the useful links which can go on the station web site
- Answer the question and talk about the subject, don’t just ‘plug’ your book. An enjoyable conversation
on-air is your aim.
- Listen to the recording afterwards, and decide on ways you’ll improve next time. e.g. if nervous, slow
down. Lower your voice to sound more authoritative. Don’t be afraid to use anecdotes (mini stories) against
- Luckily it doesn’t matter what you wear on radio, but next time it might be a web-cam. Or TV
- What happens if no-one calls in? You just keep chatting about the subject. What happens if someone you KNOW
rings in, and admits on air they are your ex-boyfriend etc Relax. The producer has a control button with a time
lag of 3 seconds.
- Useful to have a humorous, short piece with which to end. I use a recipe for ‘Writing a Non Boring Family
History’ from my book.
- Remember any noise is magnified. If you have notes, take out the clips, spread the pages beforehand, and
don’t make turning noises.
- Have a glass of water nearby in case your throat tickles.
- If the interview ends suddenly for a commercial break or the news, you might be cut off, and left wondering
if you should stay on the phone. Just hang up. They won’t necessarily ring you back to say what a terrific job
- Enjoy yourself. Remember that for every response there were 100 listeners. As you’ll discover in subsequent
© Hazel Edwards 2011
Go to: http://www.hazeledwards.com/page/aspiring_writers.html
for further hints
ABC Overnights with Rod Quinn podcast of talkback with
Hazel 4-5am May 14th includes a range of listeners' queries about writing their histories.
On February 17th, Hazel Edwards and Ryan Kennedy appeared on ABC Life Matters to discuss co-writing the
book f2m;the boy within.
Listen to the podcast here.
You might also like to check out Hazel's podcast interview on ABC Life Matters : about genealogy &
military history researching 'Searching for a Lost Garnet'.