SIMON MUIR: Local radio is brilliant for us. It's VERY cheap, you get huge coverage, and people remember what they hear -- if it's the truth, which is what we're about anyway. I've a CIB friend who's been on so often that she gets recognised in shops -- she has a Norfolk lilt, which is unusual in Bristol.
Most phone-ins, local or national, happen at regular times, so it can be productive to note when they happen, which frequencies they're on, and who the presenter usually is, and circulate this to branch members. I'm normally at work when most of the local phone-ins are on, so I can't do much, but this is an ideal sport for the retired or housebound, of which there are many in our movement. Go for it!
Before you call:
- If you are able, listen to a few editions of the programme beforehand, to get an idea of the presenter's style. Personally, I would avoid shows which make fun of callers, or where the presenter interrupts excessively or shouts people down. Five Live does this a lot, and it's not just opinionated and patronising, but it's also bad radio. Don't be associated with it -- you won't win arguments, and could be ridiculed. Tough talking is OK though, as long as it's FAIR.
- Decide if, for this show, it's better to represent a political party, or just Joe Public. It's not an easy thing to decide, but sometimes it can be more effective to be anti-EU generally, as other anti-EU listeners will still be encouraged, and you might possibly not be selected to participate if the production team dislikes your party. I usually claim allegiance for local radio, but not for Radio 4 (Five Live or Talk Radio, I couldn't comment on).
- If you are going to get on air, you must be recommended by the person taking your original call, so be personable rather than angry, and work out an angle that will get the researcher's interest. (Remember that it is also the researcher's job to weed out those people beforehand who are quick to anger, so expect yourself to be provoked deliberately by the researcher. Don't let it bother you. Keep calm, remain humorous and friendly, otherwise you won't be allowed on. Ed)
- Have a few key facts ready (write them down if necessary, with the source) but keep them brief. These are things to back up your argument, not a checklist of points you MUST make. You may not get to use them, so don't force-fit them into the conversation.
- Call any friends who might listen, and start a tape running to record the programme. Both of these are for feedback later.
When you get on air:
- Have fun, but stick to your guns. Don't let yourself be bullied by the presenter or any studio guests.
- Concentrate on logic and reason, but don't be afraid to get cross (reasonably so!) if you're being patronised.
- Always challenge 'facts' unfavourable to your argument, press for sources. Often EUrophiliacs can't give them, and, even if you can't come back with a better statement, it makes them sound dishonest and untrustworthy when they can't answer. Of course the converse is also true (which is why you noted your sources, didn't you!).
- The phone-in call will probably just be cut off after the presenter thanks you on-air. If this happens, don't worry. It's probable that there aren't enough bodies available at the station to thank people privately as they come off-air. If, unusually, the producer does come on the line, so much the better. Thank him or her and say how much you enjoyed taking part, but DON'T be tempted to continue the debate -- at this point they'll be VERY busy with the rest of the show!
- Over a coffee, listen back to your contribution on tape. Once you get over the shock of hearing yourself as you really are, you'll soon spot things you might have said better, or opportunities you missed. Call your friends too, but don't get too obsessive about post mortems though, as being natural and NORMAL is always much better than giving yourself stage fright next time.
- Tell your other friends that you (yes, YOU!) were on the radio. Next time they might phone in too -- if you can get a friendly competition going for the number of appearances, so much the better!
We're in the right, we're saving the nation, so go for it!
MATTHEW HENDERSON: I find it useful to write down what I want to say before going live. Unless one has a very disciplined mind, the lack of notes can often lead to diversionary thoughts.
A little deep breathing before going on air helps the adrenaline to flow, fills the lungs for distinct diction and clears the throat!
If the telephone is in the same room then keep the volume on your radio right down, otherwise it will create background noise.
Courtesy costs nothing and a friendly greeting to the presenter at the outset and equally friendly thanks at the end, might well be the difference between minimum and maximum air time the next time around.
Always make sure your facts are sourced before going live. An upheld contradiction from a subsequent caller tends to weaken any further point you wish to make on a future occasion.
It can be advantageous to tell the presenter that you have -- say -- two points to make. The presenter therefore is more likely to allow you to make them. If the presenter thinks you are just waffling, it invites impatience and sudden abbreviation of your offering. Moreover, should you be interrupted on one point and your thought process sidetracked, there is the other declared point still to be mentioned. Don't try and make too many points, though, or it weakens the impact you can have.
As one who tended towards incoherent indignation when first using local radio, the measured, modulated delivery has proved the best way of being given a proper hearing and establishing some sort of empathy with the programme presenter. Avoid sounding, though, as if you are reading directly from your notes.