Top Three Mistakes Talk Show Hosts Make On Radio


Steve Kowch

From where I sit On The Kowch, I’m hearing the same three mistakes talk show hosts make whenever I listen to talk radio in Canada and the United States.  It used to be inexperienced talk show hosts made these mistakes. Today, these mistakes have become a new trend in talk radio. And I don’t like it!

I don’t know who to blame for these mistakes. Is it the talk show host or the talk radio program director? Whoever it is, they’re responsible for creating bad talk radio. It’s time for talk show hosts to get back on track and stop  making these three mistakes:

Mistake #1: Talk Show Host Doesn’t Have An Opinion

Talk radio is the most exciting format on the AM radio dial. It is home to some of the most talented and influential individuals on radio today. This is mainly because the format is all about the host. It’s all about you! It’s all about your opinion!

Lately, I am hearing too many talk show hosts shy away from giving their opinion on the topic they are discussing.

This is the #1 mistake I hear on talk radio today.

To stand above the crowd a talk show host has to stake out his or her position on the topic. You need to be brave and state your opinion. You need to be critical and question everything. You need to be fearless! You should never back down from an argument.

Listeners tune into talk radio to hear what the host has to say about what is going on in their community. When something happens, your listeners can’t wait to hear you give your opinion about it on the talk show. That’s why they tune into the show.

When you don’t offer an opinion on the topic you’re discussing, you disappoint your listeners.  When you make that mistake,  listeners search for a talk show host on another radio station who  has an opinion about the topic they’re interested in.

Mistake #2: Replacing Opinions With Questions

Talk show hosts get lost in the crowd when they have no opinion and just asks questions! Q&A radio may work at the CBC, but it’s the #2 mistake on talk radio stations. Talk radio is not about questions. It’s about polarizing the issue with your opinion to prompt listeners to call the show and debate you.

Only about five percent of listeners to a talk show actually call in. You have to give them a reason to call in. Asking a question isn’t the best way to generate calls. Stop asking your listeners questions and start telling them what you think to get the phones ringing.

Mistake #3: Stealing The Listener’s Thunder

The third big mistake talk show hosts make is telling listeners what the caller is going to say before putting them on air. It drives me crazy! It ruins the call.

Talk show hosts aren’t clairvoyants! They know what the caller is going to say because the producer screening the calls to the show, posts a  message on the computer in the studio to let the host know what the callers want to say. This is a tool for the host to choose the callers with the best reaction to their opinions. To prepare the host on how to respond in order to create compelling talk radio.

I believe when a caller gets on the air, they become the co-host of the talk show for the duration of the call. A host would never steal their co-host’s thunder by beating them to the punch with what they want to say. So why would a talk show host do that  to their caller?

What’s the point of putting someone on air after telling the audience what they’re going to say. It robs the listener of the opportunity to hear the excitement and the passion of a caller responding to the opinion of the host.

From where I sit On The Kowch, someone  is whispering in the ear of talk show hosts or talk radio programming directors that’s it’s now okay for hosts to not express an opinion, to only ask questions and to tell listeners what the next caller is  going to say on air.


Click here for more about my formula to do great talk radio.

Steve Kowch ran two of Canada’s largest newstalk radio stations in Montreal and Toronto for more than 14 years. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Making It BIG In Media that has an entire chapter on talk radio.

Contact Steve at 647-521-6397 or email st***@ko********.com


  1. Don’t you find it better when the host show’s his (possible) opinion by leading the guest with questions as opposed to just outright agreeing or disagreeing? Do listeners find it easier to relate to a host that presents more sides of a story than just one?

  2. Interesting…

    From where I sit, PD’s at music stations are far too hands-on, while PD’s at talk stations are are far too hands-off.

    The most talented talk host can develop verbal “tics” and someone should be there to point them out. The talk station in the city where I live is appalling in this regard, and though it’s a major market, the station sounds very bush league. The morning show host speaks in run-on sentences that would shame a 2nd grader. He drones on and and on, up-talking at what should be the end of a sentence . One is tempted to mail him some periods so he can use one once in a while. The evening host is a screamer. Speaking of 2nd graders, his schtick is to yell such gems as “…those bozos down at City Hall think they’re SO smart, okay? But they’re NOT, okay? My 2-month PUPPY could do a better job, okay? But if we keep electing them, nothing’s going to change, okay?’

    While I’m on my soap box, in the days when we all played music, we were constantly on guard against “tune outs”. Unless we were forced to do so by the government, we would never put a 3 minute dog-song on the air lest the people hit their presets. Why is it then, that talk show hosts will let a 3 minute dog-caller on the air? In my city there is a man who seems to be unable to join Mensa. You can almost hear the hosts salivating when he calls, which is often. They belittle him and make fun of him then weasel out of their behavior by using Don Rickles’ cop-out. “It’s all in good fun!” It isn’t. It’s disgraceful, lazy and amounts to radio self-pleasuring. And where is the PD?


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