Broadcasting, Broadcaster, Guide, Tips, Talk Radio

How to Answer Phone Calls on Your Radio Show

Perhaps one of the most magical parts of being a radio show host is getting to talk to excited fans over the phone. Allowing your station to take calls opens up so many new doors for you. You can get your listeners' opinions on certain topics, have them play games, hear song requests, and let them tell stories on-air. Ultimately, having your radio show be more interactive with phone calls makes it more exciting...and far more valuable to new audience members.

But setting up a system of phone calls on your station may be difficult, especially if you're just starting out in internet radio. There are technological, programming, and even some behavioral components to being able to say "hello?" into a phone and have your caller's response broadcast to loyal listeners.

Fortunately, we have the info on how to answer phone calls on a radio show and are about to share with you all the tips we've gathered! Don't hang up on us just yet: if you're thinking about taking calls on your station, check out our guide on how to do so below.

Getting the Right Equipment

Sure – you could just take the Party Line route and answer phone calls on your station without revealing what your caller is saying on the other line. Or you could just put your cell on speakerphone when someone calls and hold it up to your microphone. But part of the charm of being a caller is getting to hear your voice broadcast over the airwaves in that smooth, radio sound. If you want to please most of your listeners, you're going to have to find a way to broadcast your caller's voice in a clear format. Let's talk about the professional way to take calls:

To do so, there are a couple pieces of equipment you'll need. Obviously, you'll need a phone that you can keep with you in your studio. So long as it has a headphone/microphone jack, you can literally use your own smartphone to take calls on-air.

After that, you'll need a good sound mixer. All sound mixers are different, but as long as your mixer has two sound channels or more, you're good. Each device, like a microphone and smartphone, will have its own channel on your mixer. For your setup, you may have several external devices connected to other channels like a turntable or CD player for music mixes. So the more channels you have on your mixer, the better. Essentially, everything that goes through the mixer gets combined into one channel and sent to your computer – even your phone calls.

Once your studio microphone is connected to the mixer (usually with an XLR cable), you'll need a standard RCA phono audio cable (such as this one) to connect your phone to another channel. It's very possible your phone may be missing a headphone jack plug. In this case, you might require an adapter, such as your typical iPhone lightning adapter. Depending on how high-tech your mixer is, you may even be able to connect your phone using Bluetooth.

Once your phone is plugged into the mixer, make sure each channel is set correctly. For example – your microphone will be feeding into channel 1 on your computer and your phone will be feeding into channel 2. When you're broadcasting, you can monitor all the audio through the master channel using a jack adapter and a pair of headphones. You'll be able to hear yourself through the mic, hear the caller, and any other connected device, like music from a turntable.

Once you've figured out how to plug your phone into a mixer and have its audio feed into the master channel, you'll want to test out taking calls. The best way to do this is just by quickly calling a friend. Make sure to ask them if they can hear your clearly, and if their phone audio sounds too low, adjust the volume on your mixer. Depending on your setup, you will either have to talk into your phone or you may be able to use your studio microphone in order for your caller to hear you.

We realize reading these steps may be difficult, especially since all mixers and setups are different. If you need a visual aid for this entire process, check out this video tutorial on how to set up your phone to an audio mixer.

Letting Your Audience Know You Can Take Calls

Congratulations: you've worked on your setup and are now able to take calls on your radio station! Now it's time to let your audience know about it. And what we mean by that is,'re going to have to encourage them to call in. Because there's nothing worse than going live and having your phone close by you in anticipation and getting disappointed by the fact no one's ringing in.

So, how do you make your audience want to call in? Besides letting your audience know on-air the phone line is open and reminding them often, a good way to attract calls is by making specific segments on your show for them. Here are a few you can try...

Games - There's nothing that encourages people to call in more than prizes and bragging rights! Several radio games utilize phone calls. The most popular are Guess the Song, Complete the Song Lyric, and trivia. Looking for more game suggestions? Check out our lists: Part 1 and Part 2.

Song Suggestions - Of course, you could just take someone's song suggestion without broadcasting their call, but it's a lot more fun when your listener gets to announce what song they'd like for you to play on-air. It can make for some quippy responses or exciting reactions from your caller.

Q&As - This is perfect to do when you have a guest in the studio with you, as your callers can direct their questions to said special person. But Q&As are also fun when it's just you hosting. They can also be tailor-made to whatever kind of niche your show is in. For example, if you're station has a gentle late night show where you provide life advice to listeners, you can ask callers to ring in with their current problems, and you can give them tips on how to get through their struggle!

Storytime Segments - You know what can make for good transitions? Having a caller tell a unique story to listeners right before a song hits. It's even more invigorating when you're able to link details of your audience member's speech to the track that's about to drop once their tale has been told. You can ask your audience for stories around a certain theme, or just let them tell any random memory they'd like to tell and thoroughly discuss the series of events with them. The possibilities are endless!

Remember to Record Calls Before Answering!

This valuable tip comes from broadcaster Robin Banks. Once you get good at the whole live calling thing, you may start to take pre-recorded calls from your audience. This means you'll ask your listeners to phone in to your station while something is happening in the background – like when music or ads are playing. You'll receive their call, record it to a software (like Audacity or Adobe Audition), and then play it back live once your break has ended.

Many broadcasters who take pre-recorded calls make one tiny-yet-fatal mistake that kills all of the magic energy in their caller: they'll answer the phone first before hitting record on their software.

Here's a textbook scenario: you've gone on to your music break and are eagerly awaiting to receive a call. Immediately, the phone rings and you pick it up.

"Oh my god, it's you!" your caller will cry, eager to give their song request.

"Hello, hang on, just gotta hit record," you say, putting the phone down on your desk while your guest is still on the line and clicking the record button on your software.

"Okay, now you can talk," you tell your caller. Suddenly, their voice is flatter than before. Or worse: they've hung up on you.

Always, always, ALWAYS make sure you're recording on your software before answering the phone! Not only will you get that magic charisma from your listener at the start of your call, but once you play that recording back for other listeners on your show, your audience will 100% believe the call is actually happening live. And that's one of the most beautiful parts about radio: the subtle illusions you can produce.

And that's all the advice we have for this guide. Want to learn about the history of call-in radio? Click here and keep tuning in to our blog to learn more radio tips and tricks. Happy broadcasting!

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Article Image: Close-up of a hand holding a smartphone with a screen that says "Calling." (prykhodov via DepositPhotos.)

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About Kathryn Milewski

  • New Jersey