Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Make the Microphone Your Friend

Do you get nervous when someone puts a microphone in front of you? That’s a pretty common fear – people who are very intelligent and articulate suddenly get dry mouthed, tongue tied, and lobotomized when asked to speak on mic. But authors often need to shine in media interviews, so read on for some moral support in those interview situations.

For all of my adult life, I got paid to belly up to the microphone, turn it on, and talk. I
worked on the radio for over 30 years. Would you believe that the fear of that microphone never totally goes away?
It was March of 1977. I had been working at my first radio job for 4 months, learning how to run the control board, how to switch between programs on reel-to-reel, the network and the turntables, plus how to take the transmitter readings so the guy from the FCC would be happy if he came to inspect us.
Finally, I was about to do my first on-air radio show. Steve Smith, the afternoon DJ, had been letting me watch him work so I could learn how to run a show filled with songs, commercials, jingles, phone calls, and live breaks. He made it look sooooo easy!
He came back to the studio to sit in with me as the last song in the 11 p.m. hour was ending. It was almost midnight, and my airshift was midnight to 5 a.m. I was about to open the mic of a radio station for the first time in my life, try to say something intelligent, and then play a record.

Although Steve made it look easy, suddenly all I wanted to do was run. Panic caused my heart to beat in my ears. Panic turned my face whiter and my cheeks redder. Panic made me swivel around in the chair, legs poised and ready to push me past Steve, who was right behind me.
Panic didn’t work for Steve.
He shoved me back into the chair, spun me around, pulled the mic to my face, and turned it on as the song ended. I should have said “540 WDAK – Columbus, Georgia’s home of the hits. Here’s the Rolling Stones.”
What actually came out sounded more like “540 WDAK Columns Georgie home hits. We’ll roll the bones.”
What a great start to a radio career, huh?
It got worse before it got better. Dad still has a recording of me from that same night. About two hours into the debacle that was that radio show, I played some commercials, then a jingle, and then a song should have played, but I let dead air happen. Dead air is the worst radio sin. I thought I’d turned the mic off. I hadn’t. Out came “what am I doing here?”
If you’d been listening to WDAK that night, you would have heard a young, scared, near-tears disc jockey trying hard to get it right, and failing ... a lot!
Steve is probably still laughing at me. Not with me – at me. I gave him a lot to laugh at that night.
We all get scared by the idea of an unseen audience hearing us, judging us, and worst of all, perhaps laughing at what we say or how we sound. It’s okay to be scared, but know this, if you’re scared a lot the first time, you’ll be scared less the next time, and even less the more you do it. With practice, those icebergs of fear in the pit of your stomach will turn into little butterflies. They’ll always be there, but you’ll be more in control of them. They’ll be your reminder to do the best you can do, so people won’t be laughing at you, they’ll be laughing with you.
Practice interview sessions with your friends and family members. Use a pepper mill, wooden spoon, or something similar as your pretend microphone. Get used to handling any question that gets tossed to you. The more you do it, the better you’ll be.
And I know this for sure, it does get easier. In my 30-plus-year radio career, not only did I get more comfortable, I actually won awards for my radio shows. Your awards will look a lot like royalty checks for book sales. Don’t forget to let me know when and where you’ll be interviewed. I want to hear how well you do!


Sandy Weaver Carman is CEO of Voicework On Demand, Inc. Her specialty is audio products: audio books, audio learning courses, podcasts. She partners with writers, speakers, coaches, and trainers, taking work they've already done and turning it into a revenue river. She is the author of the award-winning The Original MBA - Succeed in Business Using Mom's Best Advice and "Create a Revenue River."


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