Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wanna' Hear My Voice?

I survived my first radio interview last Thursday at WKCC, our local NPR affiliate (91.1 FM) and it was a very interesting experience. It was also extra meaningful to me because I used to be adjunct faculty at Kankakee Community College, where WKCC is housed. I have a lot of wonderful memories about KCC and it was fun to be on campus again (and it's a really pretty campus with gorgeous trees and flowers and I even saw a deer on the greenspace when I pulled onto the property. It's nice to see a college where the students aren't the only local wildlife!).

Mike Savage, the station manager, is a great guy and he's done wonderful things for the station -- and consequently our community -- in his tenure at WKCC. WKCC is a local gem of intelligent radio programming.

I wasn't nervous but Mike's style is so informal and friendly and utterly relaxing that I'd venture to guess that if I had been nervous Mike would have quickly put me at ease. He's the kind of guy who could probably talk a desperate person down from a rooftop -- that reassuring and supportive.

I've spoken before large and small groups in the past (and of course lectured in the classroom) and my style is loose and conversational and I know that my facial expressions and physical gestures are a large part of the way in which I express myself verbally. I suppose they could even be called "props."

What I never thought about before was how radio removes those props and makes a person totally reliant on voice alone to communicate their spoken words.

NO PROPS. Just voice. Eerily weird.

I also know that I enjoy watching faces in my ordinary conversations but monitoring faces when I'm teaching or public speaking is absolutely vital to me -- I take my queues from the subtle (or not so subtle!) feedback I receive in the faces before me (as well as, of course, the audible responses). I've pretty much learned to read an audience like queue cards and know when I'm right on the money or when I'm missing the mark. This is especially important in the classroom. I never liked to stand rigidly at a podium or a desk but preferred to sometimes wander around the room, taking various positions here and there... it allowed to me engage more fully with the students and read their reactions more quickly.

So what I found unnerving about my radio interview wasn't anything to do with having an audience (I hope to have a HUGE audience!) but the isolation I felt in the process. Not only was I blind to the audience, I was blind to the interviewer. This wasn't Charlie Rose or Larry King sitting across from me at a table and  interacting with me facially and through gestures... no, this was a radio interviewer sitting immediately next to me and I couldn't see his face.

Really hard to handle when you were taught at an early age to look a person in the eye when you're speaking to him or her...

A radio interview requires really, really listening to what is being said, to what you are being asked... and this is listening in its purest form.

That was unnerving at first, it really was; I couldn't read Mike's face to mine it for non-verbal feedback. It also meant that after each question -- as I moved forward to answer it -- I was literally on my own.

I was unable read Mike for queues. Was I was OK or sounding terrible? Was I hitting the mark or had I rambled into some inappropriate place? Was my answer too long? Not long enough? Did I strike the right tone?

I was at sea without the normal navigational tools we rely on in ordinary discourse and it took some getting used to, believe me. 

We rehearsed nothing. Mike said upfront he wanted a very conversational interview and very broadly mentioned what he thought we should discuss but he gave me no specifics so truthfully I had to take each question as he threw it at me and run with it (which I thought was sort of fun). Mike told me we'd tape a 9-minute session and that typically he edits material down to 5-6 minutes. He tapes extra material just to have it, I guess, which allows him to edit as needed.

As it turned out, Mike decided to keep the entire interview, all 8:59 minutes. This suggests to me he was very pleased with the results. I know I am.

It was a great learning experience for me and now that I've cut my teeth at our wonderful local radio station I'm more than ready for the big time -- which Mike @ WKCC and others assure me is certainly to come.

My interview will air Thursday, May 12, at  6:30 & 8:30 AM and again at 5:20 PM.

However, you may also listen to it here at my website: WKCC (91.1 FM) Interview.

By all means, please feel free to give me your feedback!


  1. Wow, I never thought about radio interviews like that before. I'd have been completely out to sea, also, without having all the normal visual cues during a conversation. I glean so much from that kind of stuff. Sounds like you definitely rose to the occasion, though. :-)

  2. Kind of a pretentious bitch, I'd say.