Industry Views

Ten Things You Need to Know to Be a Successful Talker (on or off the air)

By Michael Harrison


10. Have a flight plan before taking off on a monologue.  Know where and when you intend to land the plane.  This is true of any point you’re trying to spontaneously make in the course of a conversation. There’s nothing worse than a talker bloviating in search of a point.

9. Know what you’re talking about.  Don’t just go with half-baked information for fear of being late to the party or are desperate to fill time.  You can’t be an effective talker if you are not an equally effective listener. Also be careful about assuming you are the first to notice or know something when you might actually be the last.  Respect the fact that some of the people you are addressing might be more knowledgeable than you.

8. Take an extra fraction of a second to edit yourself.  Loose lips sink careers. Especially today!  The art of being an effective talker is like being a quarterback.  Get rid of the ball quickly… but not too quickly.

7. Don’t try to be funny if you’re not. This relates to the point above.  However, humor is an effective communications tool when used properly.  The key is to use it properly with an honest assessment of your own “talent.”  Everyone needs a director.

6. Don’t pander to your target audience (too much).  The daily dance of affirmation – telling people exactly what you think they want to hear and never deviating – eventually leads to a happier but ever-shrinking audience that will eventually turn on you. Super-serving the wrong-headed beliefs (or bad taste) of the target audience can lead to slow-but-sure audience erosion.  Don’t be afraid to occasionally piss-off the core. Its good for the soul as well as the cume. Always have an exit strategy. Don’t endeavor to deceive.

5. Don’t deviate too far from the course and point of the conversation.  Tangents disrupt the flow of a meaningful conversation and make people forget what they are talking about.  (This is equally important in off air conversations.)  If mid-conversation someone asks “do you have time for a quick story,” your first impulse should be to say no.

4. Don’t interrupt.  And don’t allow anyone to interrupt you.  If you must interrupt, do so with surgical finesse. Avoid conversations with wind bags.

3. Avoid worn out talking points. Be original.  Always bring something new to the table. Otherwise you deserve to be replaced by AI.

2. Don’t waste people’s precious time. In today’s world, time is as precious as money.  There’s no such thing as “free” media.  It costs people time to listen to you.

1. Know when to keep your mouth shut.  This is one of life’s most valuable lessons, on and off the air.

Michael Harrison is the publisher of TALKERS.  He can be emailed at