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IV. ON THE AIR

Alternatives to Live (unedited) Calls


Here are some ways to engage listeners in your show other than live, unedited phone calls.

Use email to generate listener questions before shows - they're shorter, you can edit them and they don't have any follow-ups. Don’t read email verbatim. Reading copy is the least compelling thing you can do in the middle of a live call-in talk show, or a live interview. If you must do email during the program, paraphrase it and tell it, don’t read it. Condense it into the most important thing to add to the program. The great thing about a live talk show is that it is live and many and diverse people are speaking in their own voice. Reading copy is a bad fit in this context, unless it is done well, as described above.

Forward promote show topics and invite people to call and pre-record questions and comments in advance. You can edit “best of” clips and/or follow-up with callers whose messages indicate they’d make for good on-air conversation.

NOTE: The most extreme example of using call outs is Car Talk may which sound like a live, spontaneous show but is actually one of the most heavily pre-produced programs in public radio. The callers you hear on the air have gone through several pre-production filters. They’ve called the show’s 800 number and left a message about the car problem. They’ve been called back and pre-screened by show staff. If they clear that hoop they’re then interviewed on tape by Tom and Ray. And then that conversation is highly edited before air!

 

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