Interview Techniques Part II

Article 8 min
Watch Senior Airman Candin Muniz of the American Forces Network (AFN) Radio Refreshers explore advanced techniques to conduct better interviews with your guests. The main topics covered are formal IDS, breaking down content, maintaining control, prepping between breaks, talk break length and social media integration. 

Symbol of an i within a black circle representing a note of additional information.NOTE: Some tools, processes and applications described in this video have been updated. For example, AFN 360 Feed has been discontinued. AFN Go is the AFN's current audio streaming service.


Formal IDs

A credible interview demands credentials. Properly identifying your guests with their full name, rank and formal duty title at the start of their interview establishes them as a subject matter expert and the authority on whatever topics you discuss.


DJ Chris: Significant traffic on the E19, but I'd like to introduce a very special guest we have with us, Sergeant First Class Emmanuel Antwi, our USAG Benefits Equal Opportunity Advisor. How's it going today?

Sgt. 1st Class: So far, so good...

PRO TIP: When introducing guests live on air, tie what you're saying together to create seamless transitions that do not confuse the listener.

Listeners drop in and out throughout the show, so it's a good idea to reestablish your guests' credentials a few times throughout their time slot if they have multiple breaks. It's not necessary to do it every break, but make sure new listeners know who's talking.

PRO TIP: Try to build a rapport with your guests before they come on air by conducting pre-interviews!

Breaking Down Content

Use the time before the interview starts to review with your guest the content they want to cover. It's quite common that a guest has some last-minute update to an event or an initiative they need added to their interview material. It's up to you to break down and arrange the information in a way that makes the content flow on air.

Some guests may have too much or too little content. You are the expert on what works on air, so feel empowered to tell a guest that they need to skip some content if they have more than you can effectively weave into your interview time. An interview packed with too much information is a turn-off, and you overwhelm your listener.

Symbol of an ā€œiā€ within a black circle representing a note of additional information. NOTE: When breaking down a guest's content, keep strategic communications in mind. Ask your guests their priorities before their segment rather than doing this live on air. You should avoid cutting your guest off, so if there is not ample time to cover all their priorities, ask them to rack and stack the most essential information and then work your way down the list.

You will have already prepared some of your content during your show prep using what your guest has sent you prior to the interview.


If your guest is the medical clinic commander and they want to discuss flu shots, a blood donation event and an upcoming first aid class, plan to talk about each of these in their own smaller talk breaks that are more digestible for the listener.

Flu shots are part of a large mandatory DoD campaign. This topic would likely do well in a longer break to include statistics on flu transmission, a prepared discussion of symptoms and a reminder that vaccination is mandatory for all active duty, leading into your push for your clinic's vaccination efforts.

You can plan to wrap this break up with a tease for the blood donation event over the ramp of 21 Pilots "My Blood."

Think about each major topic your guest brings and how you want to break them up throughout your show. Ensure your guest knows how you have broken their content up across the breaks in the interview before you go live. This way, your guest isn't randomly inserting information that you've planned for in a later break. It gives you control and your guest peace of mind. 

In the studio, you are the expert on how radio works. You will have guests of all backgrounds, ranks and personalities. Guests are relying on you to maintain a good on-air product. It's important to properly and politely use your authority to guide the conversation and follow the Eagle format. Guests may want to talk longer than a break should be, but most of the time, listeners will lose interest during a long rant. It's your job to keep breaks entertaining and concise. Remember to use your nonverbal cues from Interview Techniques Part I to firmly direct your guests. 

Maintaining Control

Between talk breaks, while the music is playing on air, you have the opportunity to direct how you want the upcoming break to unfold. Remind your guests:

  • of the next topic,
  • in what order you want the information laid out
  • and who will say which part.

This is especially important when you have more than one guest in the studio.

Prepping Between Breaks

Review how you will open the break and how you will cue them to start talking. Let's go back to our medical clinic commander example: 

  1. Tell them you will share a quick story of your childhood fear of needles so that they can respond about how your base medical center makes vaccinations as painless as possible. 
  2. Explain that this allows them to get their command information about the base flu vaccine campaign out in a conversational and digestible way. 
  3. Tell your guests to end with the immunization clinic hours. 
  4. Let them know you will take control of the interview at that point and exit the break. 

Explaining the break in this level of detail gives the guest a plan, and they'll be far less likely to stumble on air. At first, prepping between breaks might feel very artificial with your guests. Practice; it makes your interview sound professional. 

Talk Break Length

Your talk breaks should last as long as it takes to convey the information in an interesting way to your listener. A short informative break is much better than a long, rambling one. If the conversation with your guest isn't going in the direction you planned, steer the ship back in the right direction. Sometimes this means ending a mic break earlier than you expected. This is totally fine as long as you handle it with class and professionalism. Don't draw attention to the fact that something is weird or long-winded while on air. Use your hand signals to get out of the break and regroup with your guest. 

PRO TIP: Using a music bed with a known length can help you keep the conversation on track and add some additional flavor to the interaction. Additionally, playing a song with a long ramp is another great cue that supports the transition into the next song.


Radio Guest: We've got a blood drive going on today. You should really get out there, it's from 2 to 4 p.m. right outside of your local commissary. You should really make it there. Donate blood. You know it's for a really good cause DJ Duckman. I hope to see you out there...

DJ Duckman: Wh..whatever, we got to get to a song.


Radio Guest: It's 2 to 4 p.m. today, DJ Duckman, and they're gonna be doing a blood drive. I don't know about you, I'm a little afraid of needles, but I think I'm gonna be out there to support my community, and I hope that you are too. 

DJ Duckman: Well, I hope everybody can be part of that thing. Thank you very much, Hannah, we've got another one...

Despite your best pre-interview preparation, some guests will come in with too little content. Often these guests have been "voluntold" to go on air by someone in their chain and may only know a part of the content they could convey. If you know relevant content to augment their topics, weave it in. If not, then that guest can simply have a shorter interview. It's okay to cut an interview early. Don't feel you need to fill the space with the relevant content just to make it to the scheduled interview end time.

Social Media Integration

Advertising your radio interviews on social media ahead of time can increase its reach.

  • Post a graphic or photo highlighting the guest you're interviewing. In the description, post a link to your station's feed to give listeners an easy way to tune in.
  • When you have a commander's call-in show or a high-profile guest interview, work with their public affairs team to coordinate sharing the post on their commander's page. It will boost your listenership and potential call-ins. 
  • Going Facebook Live via your station's tablet for an interview is another way to involve your community and encourage them to tune in for more information. It's helpful to have another team member run the Facebook Live while you run the board.

Stay confident throughout your interviews and remember that you are in charge. Get creative, try new things and, most importantly, have fun. Practice makes perfect. Have a great show! 

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