I’ve always found it strange listening to Nick Ferrari on LBC, how he asks a question then says ‘Good Morning’. Well, not that strange really when you think about it: it actually saves a lot of time and allows you to fire the first blow.
A typical Ferrari intro might be, ‘A fire in central London has closed several roads this morning and there are reports the emergency services took half an hour to reach the scene. Gerry Whitworth is the head of the fire service. Have you been asleep on the job Mr Whitworth? Good morning’.
You’d never do that in real life, of course. Even if the question was less interrogative, you’d first greet him, probably ask how he is, he’d return the pleasantries, then you’d ask the question. But on radio, and in podcasts, it wastes valuable seconds and is enormously predictable for the audience. What’s worse, it forces you to answer the first question. If it’s going to be a challenging interview, that’s not a good place to start.
Rather than hitting home with your killer opening, you’re forced to side-track, responding to a question about your health. And how do you answer that? “I’m fine thanks, Mr Whitworth, now tell us about this fire. Have you been asleep on the job?” Loses a bit of its punch, doesn’t it?
And, if you have a series of interviews, and everyone you talk to asks after your health, that can get very repetitious. Do we really need an update of your wellbeing every fifteen minutes? If you don’t respond and simply launch into your first question you’ll sound a little (more) arrogant.
So how does Mr Whitworth respond with the Ferrari approach: “Good morning Nick. No we haven’t been asleep at the job.” At which point Ferrari would almost certainly chip in with, “well it certainly sounds like it,” and so the combat commences.
Personally, I don’t follow the Ferrari approach. I skip greetings altogether and go straight to the first question. It saves two ‘Good mornings’, mine and theirs. Pleasantries are left to the end, if we’re still on speaking terms. If it’s a recorded piece and the answer starts with, “Good morning Phil, thanks for having me on,” I’d almost certainly cut it out.
It’s nothing to do with being uncivil, it’s everything to do with keeping the pace. It isn’t just a technique for confronting pieces, the time saved is a bonus for any kind of interview. And it applies as much to podcasts as it does to radio shows. Perhaps, more so. With podcasts you really are fighting against time, because the person who switched you on will find it just as easy to swipe to a new track.
So the rule is simple; always open with a question, and don’t say ‘Good morning’ unless you’re following the Ferrari pattern of backward sentence construction. And while we're at it, here are some other common timewasters - on the radio and podcasts alike:
- Repeating the podcast or station name immediately after a jingle or promo
- Using superfluous words - for example, "it's ten minutes past the hour of six o'clock," rather than "it's ten past six". In ye olden days Noel Edmonds always repeated the time in a very tedious fashion: "It's 17 past 7, 7.17 on Radio One". Really, just get your brain in gear and quit stalling for time. /li>
- Labouring the ending. If you are interviewing someone, know how to get out, don't let it fizzle out. Listen for the punch. It could be the killer point from the person you are interviewing, or something you can respond to with a strong comment that will leave people thinking.
These suggestions don't mean you need to have every second accounted for. Some of the best radio and podcast moments are when things seem to fall apart a little. These are times when spontaneity can reign and you get to show your human side. But beware of repeating the same unnecessary phrases. It's an easy trap to fall into and it takes work to avoid it. And cut out the small talk.