10 Ways To Turbo-Charge Phone Calls

Convincing listeners to call a radio station is harder than ever, but every show can sound like a party by applying some basic tricks used by great radio personalities. Here are 10 guidelines to get the most from callers, which will attract more listeners!

It Starts With Prep

Most problems can be solved with deeper and more effective preparation. Your process should start with attracting more reactions and harvesting all the value from those who call.

Keep a List of Questions: When listeners call in (for any reason), ask questions about a topic you are planning in the future. If you don’t know what you’re doing on the show tomorrow, the next day, and next week, you can’t ask callers to respond to those topics today. So plan evergreen content in advance and keep a list of topics and questions in front of you at all times. Every time a listener calls, ask them a question or two. They may be calling to request a song or win a prize, but you can ask and use them in a different context. Record the responses for use later.

Plan The Payoff: Getting what you want from a caller will be easier if you plan how a segment will end, yet many personalities identify a topic but have no idea where it will lead. Without an exit, you waste time and confuse the caller, not to mention the listeners. Are you just trying to get a listener story about a topic? Are you asking a question to start a debate? Or is there a problem that needs to be solved and you want advice? Plan the topic and how you will use calls and build the invitation to respond into the prep. Then, you can define what role listeners will play.

Be Creative In Prep: On the other hand, some shows start with a broad topic (First date horror stories), collect listener responses, and then craft their prep around the calls to get more specific. This can be an effective part of the creative process. This is hard to do in real-time. Instead, ask the questions to callers off-air, collect the information, then brainstorm how to use it in show prep. You can probably turn one broad topic into multiple stories later.

Work Ahead: When you know what will happen, your on-air story will be better because every segment can sound tighter, more focused, and amazingly spontaneous. When you have callers ready to add to your content in advance, they can be part of the conversation early in the setup. Some shows rarely use calls on the day they come in because they have everything they need without counting on the audience to respond instantly.

Be Creative

Ask Questions Differently: To keep a storyline going, you need different types of reactions, so part of managing phone calls is being creative to produce different responses. For example, if the topic is about cheating in a relationship, don’t ask each listener if they have ever been cheated on. You’ll get the same type of story. Instead:

– Ask listener 1 – Have you ever been cheated on? What happened? Did you give him another chance? Does it make it harder in your next relationship because of how you were treated?

– Ask listener 2 – What would you do if you walked in on him cheating on you? What if it was your best friend? What if he was drunk and said he was taken advantage of?

– Ask listener 3 – If you were best friends with the groom and the bride… and you learned that he actually slept with one of her bridesmaids, do you tell her right before she walks down the aisle? Or do you let it go and stay out of it?

The topic is still about CHEATING, but now you have more angles to explore.


Every show should get more value from its best content by recycling, including callers.

Use Callers For Multiple Breaks: Every caller will answer at least two questions. This will allow you to double the content using half the callers. If you air five segments for every topic, you must talk to about ten callers (two per segment on average). Asking the five callers two questions each produces ten breaks using just five listeners. Obviously, planning and preparation are once again the key!

Re-Use Great Calls: Sometimes, a listener offers more than one point of view about the same topic. If this happens, make two separate phone calls using the same person. All you need to do is change the pitch on one of the breaks to make the listener sound like two different people. Then insert your comments in post-production.

Repurpose Calls

Archive: Save every recorded caller for later use. Calls about bizarre things that happened in middle school can be edited and brought back later with a different setup and with clever editing, may be useful in a different topic.

Voice Parts: Start a digital folder of “voice parts” to use in promos, show imaging, and even as an extra voice at various times. For example, you could build a phone break without using a voice part to punctuate a tease.:

– “Win Justin Bieber tickets in 5 minutes (insert, ‘Oh my god… no way’) – I know, right! I feel like you’re going to be the next winner (insert, ‘I freaking love you guys’).”

Label Everything: Add digital labels and tags to every recorded segment to access it later. Name audio files after the main topic and add as many tags as possible to find it with a broad search later. It also helps to create special folders for various uses. For example, keep a folder called “Laughs,” an archive of nothing but listeners responding with great laughs. When you think of a punchline after a call is completed, insert a comment and find a laugh that fits the listener’s sound.


By following these principles for managing listener calls, you can have a show jammed with interaction even when the phone isn’t ringing. The key is to be organized and follow a system. It doesn’t take long. It just takes discipline.

Pic designed by kegfire for Envato Elements.

Tracy Johnson is a talent coach and programming consultant. He’s the President/CEO of Tracy Johnson Media Group. His book Morning Radio has been described as The Bible of Personality Radio and has been used by personalities worldwide.

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