How to Overcome Radio Stage Fright

on the air

I’ll handle this question in one sentence: There is no way to overcome radio stage fright.

Every time I’m on the radio is the first time. Before every interview, I sit in front of my home altar, repeating my mantra so that my over-heated heart does not explode and squirt blood out of my ears. I’ve been this way as long as I’ve been on radio. That was the late 1990s.

It doesn’t matter that the radio host is a good friend and has been a visitor at our house. Doesn’t matter that she’s really smart, loves my work, and me, and wants me to succeed even more than my mom did.

This isn’t very helpful, is it? Or maybe it is. It’s real.

What can you do to overcome radio stage fright?

  1. Know your material. This should be easy. You wrote it.
  2. Make a detailed outline of what you want to say. Then simplify that. Make an even tighter statement of what you want to say and put it on index cards. Keep them where you can see them while you’re on the air.
  3. Know the answers to the interviewer’s questions. This should be easy, if you wrote them. If you don’t know what the questions are, the index card thing above will have to suffice.
  4. An hour before the program, take a walk. If you live in an area where you might be mugged or something, don’t take a walk.
  5. Breathe slowly and deeply and keep breathing until the show is over. Then you can stop breathing.
  6. Hook up an old-fashioned, wired-connection telephone and use it. Wireless phones don’t record very well. Don’t use a cellphone, ever.
  7. If you have any spiritual practice, now’s the time to haul it out: prayer, mantra repetition, meditation, tickling dog’s tummies. A trip to Lourdes (allow enough time).
  8. Play music you find spiritual uplifting and/or calming before you go on.
  9. Place an object or photo that has spiritual significance to you where you can see it during the interview. A saint’s picture, a sacred image, an icon. An archetypal object. Stare at it while you’re being interviewed. Keep breathing.
  10. The first three minutes establish the success of your interview, so make them good.
  11. DON’T BREATHE INTO YOUR PHONE. People will be able to hear it and you will sound like an ax murderer. Don’t forget about this. You will feel dumb when you hear it later. Heavy breathing can ruin a good interview.
  12. If the person interviewing you is friendly, relax and have fun. If the person is hostile, you can tell him that you’re not the person who wrote the book he’s talking about. You wrote Billy the Bison Barfs. Where are his questions about that? You can also cry. That works for women. I don’t know about guys. Alternatively, you can start karate classes two years before your interview. They probably teach stuff that would help there. Ditto assertiveness training.
  13. When it’s over, thank God and make a donation to your favorite charity. Schedule your next radio interview while you’re still high. (You’re gonna do great. Trust me.)
  14. Major meds, name your favorite, really help. Instead of doing all the above, you can drug yourself before the show. Just make sure that your speech isn’t slurred and you can remember your name.

Even if you do all of this, nothing will help. Radio stage fright is your body telling you that you are alive and facing a situation that could cause great humiliation. Or triumph.

Go on the air anyway.

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About Saleena Karim

Saleena is a writer and publisher, best known for authoring the political biography "Secular Jinnah & Pakistan". As well as being the co-brainchild of the Visionary Fiction Alliance, she is the author of the award-winning visionary fiction novel "Systems", which is also part of the curricular reading material and the Marghdeen Learning Center, Karachi.
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5 Responses to How to Overcome Radio Stage Fright

  1. esdragon2 says:

    All of the above. Been there: done that! However; on my first and only ever trip to the US of A, Albuquerque, NM, a dear 85 Y O lady inveigled me to come up to her hotel room, telling me she was due to broadcast her impressions of the 'Beyond the Mind, Scientists and Visionaries, conference we were attending. 'Please help me, Esme,' she said. "Ive got to do this broadcast, but my ear is sore and I'm a bit deaf. I can't get my ear-piece fitted into my ear properly. Can you just pick up the phone by my bedside and listen in, then tell me when they're telling me, I'm on air'

    Of course I did, and she did a brilliant intro, then suddenly announced, 'I've been reading this wonderful book by a lady from England. She's here with me at the moment and I know you'd love me to ask her some questions' The rest, they say, is history! Before I'd time to panic ……. we were well into our interview.

    Maybe you could try this!

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  2. Vic Smith says:

    Thank you, Sandy Nathan. You certainly deserve a byline for this instructive and funny piece. Will review before giving or getting my next interview. BTW re guys crying: some of our politicians like John Boehner have perfected it; it's worked to keep his job as Speaker of the House–not too shabby.

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  3. Admin - Eleni says:

    Funny, along with informative, Sandy! Wish you'd written this post before my first radio interview. It prompted me to join Toastmasters. My addition to the list: don't pop your Ps. A windscreen on your microphone helps.

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  4. You shouldn't be doing radio interviews, Sandy, but stand up comedy. I love your pointers, which, if I'm reading them correctly, imply that having a sense of humor can turn scary situations into opportunities. Okay, okay, so you say "radio stage fright is your body telling you that you are alive and facing a situation that could cause great humiliation." But your next two words give it away.

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  5. I have done all the things you mention…but humor was the one thing I didn't use to prepare me ….now I'll pull out this post and do better with my nerves next time!

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