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How Doctors Can Be Great Radio Guests

Congratulations! You want to make a bigger impact in your community, and youʼre booked on a radio show.

The skills that make you a great doctor do not necessarily make you a great radio guest.

Here are some tips to help you engage the listeners, delight the hosts and get invited back.

Keep it simple. Imagine the host asking, “If listeners can only take away one point , what would it be?” Have a pithy one sentence summary, and begin there.

Speak in tweets. Talk in short, memorable sentences. Package your ideas in words that are easy to remember. Hereʼs one of mine. “You do not have to be perfect; just be perfectly you.” Use visual metaphors; when people can see it, they can remember it and repeat it.

Lead with the headline. Say the most important thing first; that way the listeners will have your point if the host needs to cut to a break.

Tell stories. When you present at scientific meetings you persuade with clinical evidence. In virtually every other setting, the best way to persuade is through stories. Thatʼs because people make choices with their feeling brain and justify them with their thinking brain. Stories are the language of the feeling brain.

Have a different story for each point you make. Hereʼs the formula for persuasive stories: Someone had a problem. They did something different. They got a different outcome. Be sure to make the patient–not you–the hero.

Hereʼs one of mine. Mary Ann knew it was no longer safe for her aging father to live at home. She also knew that persuading him to move into assisted living would be like pulling teeth; he never listens to her. I suggested that if she wanted her father to listen to her, she could start by listening to him. I suggested she ask her father to give her the gift of telling his stories about his proudest moments in front of a video camera. The results were spectacular. Not only did her father agree to the move. For the first time in her whole life–almost 60 years– he told her he loved her.

Be positive. Brain science tells as that the mature mind is attracted to positive messages and ignores negative messages. itʼs called “The Positivity Effect.” If you want to be noticed, be upbeat.

Be practical. Offer at least one tip that the listener can implement today to improve the condition of his/her life. “It may take you some time to lose 50 pounds; you can make a big difference today with a ten minute walk.ʼ

Offer hope. Be responsible and only share problems for which you can offer a solution.You want to leave the listener empowered.

Practice, practice, practice. Tell your stories over and over. Share your main point with strangers in the grocery store line. Ask your kids what they think about your message. If they tell you that youʼre boring, ask how you could spice it up. Listen to a recording of yourself. I know–itʼs hard. Itʼs also instructive.

Thank your hosts. They take a risk–and put their reputation on the line–with each guest. Let them know how grateful you are to have the privilege of being on their show. Ask what you can do for them.

Keep learning. Listen to TED talks. Study master communicators. Hire a coach. Read books. Here are some of my favorites:

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and others Die

Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln: 21 Powerful Secrets of History’s Greatest Speakers

Working the Room: How to Move People to Action Through Audience- Centered Speaking

Keep going. You have an important message, and you can get make steady progress with one small step after another.

Vicki Rackner MD is a former surgeon and clinical faculty at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Now sheʼs a full time author, speaker and consultant promoting better collaboration between doctors, patients and family caregivers.

Dr. Rackner also coaches health care professionals who want to make a bigger impact in their communities by thinking differently about how they improve the lives of others and developing new skills.

Reach her at (425) 451-3777.

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