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More Audience Participation

Viewers, listeners, and social media followers can make powerful contributions to your show. Audience members can bring unique, compelling stories and a strong point of view that reflect the opinions and emotions of your community.

Audience interaction transforms a one-host monologue into a conversation, and fan voices are a great pattern disruption for multiple-host shows. Here are some things to know as you experiment with bringing your audience on the air.

Record and edit. Avoid airing people live. Most need editing to make their contribution compelling. When you pre-record, you can then tease their appearance effectively because you know what they will say.

Be a tough bouncer. Imagine your show is the hot club, and your job is to admit only the best guests. Some shows become less compelling when they air lots of calls just for the sake of adding interaction. A guest either adds to a show or takes away from it – there is no in-between.

Call-ins are down. Radio shows that once had non-stop calls now struggle to make the phone ring. Today’s audiences would rather text, chat, or post. In-car is where most radio listening happens — and where mobile phone use is restricted.

Mine social media. Many shows post topics on social media in advance of the show and invite those who interact to call in. Social media engagement is also a good gauge for which topics are hot or not. The Dex and Barbie T Show on Hot 98.1 Greenville reaches a few thousand extra fans through Facebook Live every morning, and the show benefits from comments and stories that only come through that channel.

Post on message boards. In my hometown of Portland, KOPB reporter Rebecca Ellis used Next Door to connect with downtown residents for a story. Some shows post on Craigslist and Kajiji in the “gigs” section seeking people with stories on a topic.

Use voice mail. “Car Talk” on NPR did not take live calls. Listeners left voice mails, and the producer lined up the best ones for the next show. A popular feature on Kelly and Wood at Wild Country 99 in St Cloud is Voice Mail of the Day; listeners respond to a daily topic, and the funniest stories get aired.

Web sign-ups. The John Boy and Billy Big Show invites listeners who want to participate in the show to sign up on their website. TV shows like Ellen and networks like HGTV have been using web sign-ups to find guests for years.

Build a list. When you encounter a funny, well-spoken caller, get their contact info and reach out to them for future shows. Some regular callers can become almost like part of the cast over time.

On-street audio. Jay Dixon at Classix 1079 Philadelphia taught me his secret for gathering fantastic listener comments — stake out the exits after concerts. Concertgoers on the way home are happy, adrenalized, and sometimes intoxicated — a good state for unfiltered expression and comment.