Monday, January 4, 2010

Handling Clueless Callers on a Live Show

Recently, on my talk show, a fun guest, Joel Zeff, was giving books away to listeners who would call in with a question about his topic. A first-time caller got through and asked about Randy Alcorn's Heaven book. I thought the caller was asking a question about it, so I said that it was considered the definitive book on Heaven, but did he have a question about the workplace for Joel? Then the caller had the audacity to ask about yet another unrelated book! I think he thought if he brought up every title on his wish list, we might mail him one!

Joel took it and ran with it. His experstise is improvisational humor, and boy, did he have fun with the caller not wanting his book.

In nearly four years of live radio and TV, I experienced more than a few callers that I couldn't connect with, but most were gracious, smart and generous.

If you, as a guest on a live show, encounter a caller whose comment doesn't seem appropriate or on topic, use humor if you can. If you're blank, give the host a "I need help" look, and let him or her take over. That's what they're paid for.

For instance, we had a weekly guest, a finanical coach named Parkey Thompson, and on one of his first appearances, a woman called and asked about laxatives. We all laughed uncomfortably, and then realized the caller had really meant her question for our previous guest, our health and wellness guru, King Hoover. So, it was easy to tell her to contact King by email or call back next week, but for now, we were taking money questions.

You know what? This miscommunication happens in real life, with everyday conversations. So if you want practice for live broadcasts, try talking to all ages of people with different backgrounds. As one broadcasting professor taught, "Talk and write for the five-year-old and 95-year-old. Make sure everyone understands you."

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