My Life as an Introverted Radio Host

It’s early on a Wednesday morning and even though I would like to sleep longer, I have already begun to prepare for the day. I got up long before dawn to prepare for a weekly task that I could never have imagined myself doing during my shy days: hosting a radio talk show at the University of Winnipeg.

In many ways, I am the stereotypical Introvert. I’m reserved. I dislike telephone calls and prefer to let others do the talking yet somehow, against the odds, I have come to enjoy the weekly interviews and the banter with my co-host. Even knowing that I potentially have an audience of 10,000 people hanging on my words fails to deter me from continuing with this volunteer work.

So I started to wonder, despite the stereotype of radio personalities as larger-than-life, does being an Introvert actually help my radio work?

Here’s what I found.

I’m an awesome public speaker

Actually, most Introverts tend to be good public speakers. According to Susan Cain in Quiet: The Hidden Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Introverts tend to do well with addressing audiences, likely because we plan ahead and think through what we are going to say. Sure, we find small talk difficult -- and I definitely struggle with the banter that comes between segments of the radio show -- but presenting a prepared speech is often well within the abilities of Introverts.

The studio is like a one-on-one

It’s pretty well established that Introverts prefer speaking with people one-on-one rather than in large groups. Even though the radio potentially reaches thousands of people at once, the on-air studio gives the illusion of privacy; with no visible audience, it is easy to imagine that any mistakes or quirky remarks that I make will go unheard.

When I was younger, I always hated answering the phone at home because it often meant talking to strangers. Now, I talk to strangers all the time, but generally one or two at a time in a controlled environment. Even when I go out with a recorder to get comments from the public, the limitations of the microphone mean that I can approach only one or two people at a time.

This keeps things quiet and intimate -- and that’s an environment which the interviewees themselves seem to prefer.

Another of the hosts once said that I seem to be able to get more responses from the people we’re interviewing than other radio volunteers do. I like to think that my introverted, non-threatening nature is part of the reason for this.

In a studio, you can listen. Really listen.

Recently, a friend of mine mentioned that she had heard my show on the radio, and she commented that I really seemed to be listening to my guest and responding to what the person had said. This ability to listen is essential in radio work, especially if I want my guests to enjoy the experience.

One of the reasons why Introverts often make good employers is that they tend to have the ability to listen and to think things through before they act. I have found my preference for listening rather than speaking very useful in keeping interviews on track and interesting. Being able to respond to what my guests have said is important, not just to make them feel appreciated, but also to learn from them and to take the conversation to places that I might not have anticipated. Really listening is one way that I can prepare for the unexpected on the show.

Improvising is a skill you can learn

Generally, Introverts tend not to be the best at dealing with the “thrill of the unexpected.” We’re much less stimulated by risk or gambling than Extraverts tend to be. Yet, hosting a show where guests may or may not turn up; where there is generally no technician onsite to help if the equipment fails; where last-minute changes are the norm, means that risk is part of every show. Scary, right? But I am becoming more adept at improvising.

I remember one time when I had arranged a ten-minute interview with then-Governor General of Canada, David Johnston. He was coming to launch a book that he had written, and I had pre-arranged an interview, also writing out a list of seven or eight questions that I wanted to ask.

But the Governor General’s plane was delayed, and my longer interview was pre-empted to allow him to begin his public event as soon as he arrived. In the end, I had about two minutes to ask one question after the event had finished, which necessitated some quick mental readjustment to the situation.

Fortunately, most of the other people had already gone by then, and I could conduct my brief interview in relative peace. For an Introvert who likes order and the chance to plan ahead, the episode was somewhat stressful, though interesting. It showed me that improvising is a skill like any other. It can be learned.

It’s all part of the learning experience

When I think about my experiences as a radio host, I tend to have a few different reactions. One is to be amazed that I, the person whose ideal evening would involve quiet time spent alone, would be comfortable talking on the radio. Another is to realize that yes, I have many of the qualities that can lead to success in public media. Yet another is to wonder why I didn’t think of radio sooner, when I could have considered making a career of it! Still, I’m learning more and more each week, and something more might come of it in the future.

An Introvert as a radio host? Why not?

Susan Huebert

Susan Huebert is a freelance editor, writer, and dog walker. She writes for children and adults, and she is always looking for new ways to communicate more effectively. In her spare time, Susan frequently has random thoughts about word origins and grammar, which she shares with her furry clients. She lives in Winnipeg, Canada, where she attempts to keep warm in winter and to stay involved with a wide variety of events and activities.

Comments

Anita (not verified) says...

Loved this post. I’m an introvert and hosted a daily live radio talk show to an audience of 100,000 for 16 years. I always described it to people, who were shocked I was an introvert, as sitting down with one person to have coffee and a conversation. 

HopeFloats72 (not verified) says...

Susan, I am also an introvert and was a successful radio host many years ago.  I ended up with the number one morning show for our AM-Radio market...and it was for the very reasons that you state.  I was engaged with my audience and able to turn on a dime.  My favorite part of hosting that show was the fact that for the majority of my time on the air, I was in the studio alone!  Staff didn't report to the office until 9:00am, and by that time I was 2/3 of the way through my show.  I didn't have to deal with anyone for about 5 hours, except my faithful listeners who never failed to call and say "Good Morning" or ask for a specific song request.  I tell people that I would have worked there if they'd paid me in peanut butter sandwiches (LOL) because I enjoyed it so much.  I chose songs that I knew would touch people, speak to them and (this was a religion-based station) minister to their needs.  The worst part of the job, for me, was being out in public and people recognizing my voice.  I was at dinner with my then-husband one night in a restaurant with high-panelled booths.  We were chatting about something and suddenly this head popped up over the top of the booth, eyes wide open "I know you!"  This was a complete stranger I had never seen before invading the little bubble we'd made there in this public place, as folk do when they're out for a relaxing night.  I sat there, stunned, not knowing what to say.  "No, I'm sorry.  I don't think you do" I replied.  "Yes, yes!  I do know you!  You're that lady from the Morning Show.  I'd know your voice anywhere!  Wow, this is so neat!"  She was super-excited to meet me, and of course I was pretty much mortified.  I'd never had that happen before, so I didn't know how to respond.  My then-husband graciously stepped up and shook her hand, awkward as it was, over the booth and I thanked her for listening.  It made the rest of the dinner uncomfortable for me, as I worried the whole time she was listening to our conversation.  This happened  a few times during my 3-year tenure at that station.  I never enjoyed remote shows, either.  Too many people wanted to come up and make chit-chat which I really have no use for.  I did my best to be polite and gracious, because there were bigger market stations these folks could have tuned in to each day.  But all in all, this was a lot of fun for me-a lover of all kinds of music.  Programming that station was one of the most successful ventures I have ever undertaken.  I interviewed for another radio job (not an on-air position) a few years later and was told by the hiring manager there that he knew where my gifts lay-programming and as an on-air personality.  He'd heard my show and thought the way it was presented was nothing short of excellent.  Needless to say, he felt I'd be bored stiff sitting behind a computer screen plugging ads into a daily log.  He was probably right.  I didn't get the job, but I still remember him telling me that my former boss still used my format on her station because it worked so well.  Introverts can do anything, with a little confidence and knowledge.  As long as we challenge ourselves to push the envelope of our (sometimes) narrow comfort zone, we can do amazing things!  

DICK BARRY (not verified) says...

Your post was excellent and a reminder of my past life before I turned 80. I too am an introvert and backed into franchise sales uncertain of my future, because I was told only extroverts survive. My secret was to learn the product, be the product and listen. Listen to understand the prospects problem and then offer a logical solution. No hype! No false promises! For these reasons, I became the top salesman for two different franchises. A sale for the first company was $20,000...the second $250,000. That was when I knew being an INTJ was a blessing.

INTJ Marketing Strategist (not verified) says...

From one introvert to another, I can tell you that the old sales strategies disproportionately favored extroverts. Those hard-sell strategies are outdated and don't work anymore, and extroverts are having to learn new skills. Introverts who have a gift for listening, probing, and making deep connections with people are uniquely suited to sales, provided you work for yourself and are not beholden to some boiler room environment being forced upon you.

INTJ Marketing Strategist (not verified) says...

Small world... I'm also an INTJ with a radio show, interviewing business owners. I'm no Howard Stern, but people love the personal attention before, during, and after their interview with me and always describe it as so much fun. They would be shocked to know I am introverted, but this is where listening and focusing on one person actually works in a mass communication setting. One problem I have had to overcome as an INTJ is my mind is frequently thinking ahead, resolving problems and creating solutions, planning next steps, etc. So it took some practice to focus on being "here" and in the moment with people.

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