As the saying goes, "there are no bad stories, only bad story tellers.” We believe there is truly no such thing as a "bad" radio guest. But there are guests who, in addition to their good qualities, can be rude, boring, overly-talkative, too complex, nervous, taciturn, or just plain unamusing. In other words: they're a buzzkill.
When dealing with a bad guest while recording a podcast, it's not so detrimental. You can be comforted with the knowledge that you're able to edit awkward parts out later. But with radio, bad guests can feel like a nightmare. Because your show is l-i-v-e LIVE, there's no way to cut out your guest's painful seconds-long silence or their really alarmist remark about an anticipated apocalypse. A bad radio guest can truly ruin a show.
You can take every preventative measure to avoid booking a bad guest, but sometimes accidents happen. Instead of cutting your trainwreck recording session short, there are some things you can do to get through the full conversation in one piece. Unfortunately, bad guests are bad guests and there's typically little you can do to change that. But there are some tricks you can use to lighten the load when you're on-air. And hey...maybe you can make things seem more entertaining in the process!
Worried about recording a show with a bad guest? Remember the five tips below and you'll have the skills to swim through it with ease.
1. Keep Things Snappy & Light
With guests who give long-winded answers or boring, drab responses, it's best to keep things moving quick. If they're prattling on about things irrelevant to the conversation, find a place to cut them off with your own response, and then quickly change the subject. If they're giving a really complex, confusing answer to a question, summarize to them what they just said or just ask them a yes or no question, and then move on to something else.
It's uncomfortable to just force a guest to stop talking, but it's even more uncomfortable for your listeners to sit through a bad interview. It can feel like a waste of time! So when dealing with a bad guest, put the clock first. The faster you can get through it in a polite way, the faster it will be over.
2. Be Passionate, Connective, & Funny
Sometimes guests will be themselves once they get into the studio, but as soon as you put a microphone in front of their face, they'll freeze. With guests who get nervous – or even guests who are boring or give short answers – it's best to be passionate, connective, and even a bit funny. Honestly, it's best to have all three of these attributes even with good guests, but with bad guests is where these three traits really count.
Be completely interested in what your guest has to say, even if it makes no sense, is boring, or is really edgy in opinion. Empathize with your guest, make them feel comfortable. Your guest is a guest, and they deserve to be treated like one. Squeezing in jokes whenever you can is helpful because not only will it make a guest feel more relaxed, it will entertain your listeners, too.
3. Freshen Up Questions or Add More
When actors learn improvisation, they learn the "yes, and" technique. Basically, it means that when adding to a story being played out to a crowd, you want to build on what's been previously established. When part of a conversation with your guest gets stale, you can use this "yes, and" technique through the means of freshening up or adding in questions. That way, you and your guest can stay on track with your topic while keeping things moving – and also digging deeper.
Let's say you and your guest are discussing the most recent dog show broadcasted on TV. Your guest starts talking about their beloved dog, but instead of keeping things light and relevant, they begin mentioning where they adopted the dog, the dog's daily routine, what the dog eats, etc. You can get things back on track by adding in a question that connects your guest's answer to the conversation's topic. You could ask, "would you consider putting your dog in the next dog show?" or, "can your fido do any of the tricks the other dogs do on the dog show?"
Additionally, if a guest is giving short answers to questions, you can keep the life of the conversation longer by coaxing them with additional questions. For example, if you ask your guest how their recent trip to Hawaii was and they simply reply, "yeah, it was good," you can follow it up with, "what was the best thing you did on the trip?" and keep following the next answer up with more questions.
4. Maintain the High Ground & Be Respectful
Rude guests are the hardest to deal with. Oftentimes, stories filled with tragedy or panic can get overinflated by alarmists: people that exaggerate danger or cause needless worry. It's not necessarily a bad thing. Heated debates can make for an interesting listening experience. But when handled poorly, guests can attack, send out the wrong message, and derail shows entirely with their blabbering mouths.
During a situation with a disrespectful guest, remember to stay calm. You don't want to cause a fight on-air! Instead, carefully listen to what your guest has to say, respectfully disagree if you must, and then change the subject. If you're feeling brave, you could even take the person's answer and reframe the question in a different light, then give your own perspective. It shows that you still care, even though you disagree with their point of view. A great example of this is Russell Brand dealing with Ben Shapiro on Under the Skin. Watch how Brand handles Shapiro despite their differing views.
To summarize, Brand firmly stands his ground while respectfully proceeding with questions for Shapiro. Always maintain the high ground! Remember: it's your show, not your guest's.
5. Bring More Guests Into the Conversation If Possible
The more, the merrier! If you have the benefit of knowing your guest is a bad guest beforehand, or if you work in a studio setting where you're not the only host who can jump in, or even if you can take callers on-air, consider bringing more guests into the conversation with your bad guest! That way, the vibes are balanced out.
You'll have a bad guest as well as an entertaining one, so listeners won't be completely uninterested. Your additional guest may even be able to respectfully drown out the other noise with more of their thoughts, or aid you in probing your bad guest with additional questions. Your other guest's responses could help the bad guest appear funnier or more interesting! After all, if another person besides you shows interest towards your bad guest, your audience will show interest towards them, too.
That about wraps up our tips for this week. We wish you good luck in getting through bad guests. We know the situation can be a pain, but we have faith you'll get through it. Happy broadcasting!
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Article Image: In front of a bright red background, a woman with headphones puts her hands over her face in sorrow. Internet radio equipment sits on a table in front of her. (Krakenimages.com via DepositPhotos.)