I know the Super Bowl well behind us, but will you permit me a quick football metaphor?
The LA Rams are Super Bowl champions, and a bunch of their success was thanks to Cooper Kupp. Watching the guy play, you don’t need many statistics to convince you he’s a special player, but there is one pretty interesting number on his 2021 resume.
Cooper Kupp led the NFL in yards after the catch, which means he was the best in the league at taking a pass from a quarterback and turning it into a bigger play. The pass may have only been worth a seven-yard gain, but in Kupp’s hands, a seven-yard gain could turn into a fifty-seven yard touchdown at any moment.
I’d like to suggest that if you chat with callers on air, this is where you can aspire to have something in common with a Super Bowl-winning wide receiver.
Think about it. Occasionally, you get a perfect phone call. The caller is exceptionally hilarious or thoughtful, and as soon as you hang up, you know your next break is going to be radio gold.
Other times, you get callers who aren’t natural storytellers and—unlike you—haven’t spent years honing their ability to tell a tight, compelling story. It’s a seven-yard call, if you will. Now is your time to channel your inner Cooper Kupp and pick up some yards after the call.
Maybe you’ve got some tips of your own to accomplish this—and if you do, I’d love to hear them—but these are three ways we take our calls a step further on Mornings with Taylor and Jen.
- Be curious
Sometimes, all it takes is the right follow up question to bump a call from a seven up to a ten. Asking things like “What happened next?” or “What would you have done if…” help callers go deeper into their stories, or even recall details that make the whole thing better.
- Be a good improv partner
Your listener is (usually) telling a true story, but that’s not to say they aren’t also improvising the telling of it. Be willing to “yes-and” the caller, even if they’re taking their story in a direction you hadn’t anticipated. Trying to wrangle their story to fit your phoner won’t help anyone. Figure out what kind of story they’re telling, and support the caller accordingly. You can always reframe the topic once you take the call on the air—or even save it for a different phoner.
- Be quiet
I am so guilty of jumping in with quips and questions the moment a caller takes a breath. You may be used to a rapid-fire pace—especially if you’re on a team show with good chemistry—but most of the time, you won’t be on the phone with a trained broadcast professional. Give your caller space to share that zinger they planned before they called the radio station. Let the silence linger, and see how the caller fills it. You can always edit out the pauses and make everyone sound wittier.
I should also mention the tip that goes with all of these is to only answer the phone if you have the time to use these tactics. We almost never answer the phone if we have to go on air in less than two minutes. It can be hard to leave someone hanging for that long, but I’ve had to remind myself that this is a way of showing greater respect for the listener. This way, they have time to say what they want, and you have the time to pick up a few more yards after the call.
Taylor Hohulin co-hosts Mornings with Taylor and Jen at Northwestern Media’s Life 107.1 in Des Moines, where he also serves as Program Director. You can contact him to chat radio or weird science fiction at [email protected]