5 Mistakes Bad Radio Guests Make (And Ways to Avoid Them)

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May 20, 2022

Rude guests are the worst. Spot the warning signs early to avoid bad radio guests from ruining your shows.

Not every guest you invite onto your station will be a 10/10 sizzler.

Sometimes guests might be nervous, blunt, and straight-up rude. So spot the red flags early with 5 handy telltale signs to stop bad radio guests from ruining your shows.

5. They’re Boring

No one wants to listen to a boring person, right?

How you tell stories matters. Engaging and captivating listeners is the name of the game. So when a guest steers into mundane waters, nobody wins.

Popular UK TV host Graham Norton once said he sometimes feels “bored” while his guests are talking and zones out.

Bored Graham Norton.
Graham Norton putting on his ‘listening face’.

But broadcast consultant Valerie Geller says it best.

So just like bumpers in bowling alleys, you’ve got to bounce guests in the right direction.

Ask the right questions to put them back on track. And when they start to meander or lose focus, snap them back with quickfire follow-ups. Or even inject your own opinions, just like we do over on our MatchMaker.fm podcast ‘Matched’.

And that’s what radio is all about, sharing opinions you’re passionate about. But just keep in mind something Valeria Geller once said.

“Never put something on air if you can’t answer the question: why should someone listen to this?”

4. They Give Long Answers

There’s nothing wrong with guests covering topics in great detail. But when they go on for a bit too long, the point can get lost at sea.

British musician and all-round heartthrob Harry Styles is known for his dry quick wit. When faced with an open mic and patient host, he really goes off the deep end.

Short answers allow listeners to digest what was said. So stepping in to ‘freshen up’ the question keeps the guest on track.

Unless they disappear entirely like on the Rick & Bubba show, leaving you trying to fill an empty void. But I just love all the presenters getting concerned for the guest, now infamously known as ‘Dave?’.

Or callers can hang up altogether when pressed for a good answer like on LBC with James O’Brien.

James O'Brien on LBC.
James O’Brien on LBC.

3. They’re Alarmist

Strange question. But do you remember Y2K when computer’s were going to crash everything back in 2000? Or the Mayan prophecy when the world was going to end in 2012? Or even recently with the COVID pandemic.

Stories like this get overinflated by alarmists. People that exaggerate danger or cause needless worry. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Heated debates make for interesting listening. But when handled poorly, guests can attack, send out the wrong message, and derail shows entirely. Take Ben Shapiro on BBC News with Andrew Neil.

Ben Shapiro on BBC News with Andrew Neil.
Andrew Neil laughing off Ben Shapiro on BBC News.

But when handled correctly, conversations can play out entirely different.

Framing the questions in the right light and responding respectfully shows you care, even though you may disagree.

So take the same guest Ben Shapiro, but on comedian Russell Brand’s show ‘Under the Skin’.

2. They Give Complex Answers

Just like long answers, complex ones can often alienate listeners.

But this generally depends on your show and audience type. For mass-appeal, I’d say stay away from tricky topics that aren’t clear and well defined.

Unless, that’s what your listeners want, like on the Joe Rogen Experience when Elon Musk kept on getting lost in thought.

Elon Musk on the Joe Rogen Experience.
Elon Musk smoking it up on the Joe Rogen Experience.

1. They Leave Their Humour at the Door

There’s nothing worse than telling a joke or funny story, only for it to fall flat.

So having a good sense of humour and bouncing ideas around goes a long way.

But some guests can make things really difficult. Take the legendary Harrison Ford who’s known for giving stilted and sometimes awkward interviews.

The point is, you’re not always going to get comedians on your show. The best you can hope for is to try and get guests to play along.

Test the waters by going after a few different angles, like telling a funny anecdote or cracking a joke to loosen them up. With the right questions, you can make just about anybody crack up, even Harrison Ford.

Harrison Ford cracking up.
No easy feat, Harrison Ford cracking up during an interview.

Conclusion

Bad guests aren’t the end of the world. There are always little tricks you can pull to get them back on track. But that’s not to say there won’t be any bumps along the way.

In saying that, it’d be interesting to know how bad radio guest interviews went south for you. So share your stories in the comments below.

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