Being a guest on live radio is similar to walking a tightrope without a net; a mistake can be fatal.
Oh sure, falling off the tightrope means the end of a bold career. Saying the wrong thing on live radio will only make you look like a complete idiot. I have the greatest respect for live radio celebrities who spend numerous hours constantly saying the right things.
This is exactly why I admire Terry Acton, veteran of live radio and host of “Show Me the Outdoors,” an outdoor lore program that is aired on Kansas City's 610 AM radio every Saturday at 7 a.m.
Everything seems to happen fast around a radio station. The morning starts when Acton's control-panel engineer arrives. The actual recording studio is separated by a glass wall. Control panels and a very busy engineer are at work on the other side of this transparent wall, making sure all sounds and signals are correct.
While the engineer is working, Acton and his guest slip on headphones and prepare for another show about the beautiful outdoors. Suddenly the rock classic, “Smoke on the Water,” graces through the earphones and the show starts.
Acton greets his listeners and launches into local outdoor news, outdoor events, where and when fish are biting and other items of interest. Each topic is regional and useful to Midwest listeners. Guests and topics are chosen to match the current or upcoming seasons.
Finally, the moment arrives when my name is announced and the first question is asked — now the safety net is really gone. Say it and it’s out there. That is why I try to speak slower than usual with more time to think before talking.
I have been on numerous radio shows over the past 35 years and really appreciate Acton's style of interviewing. He runs his interview with questions that set the guest up to discuss their subject.
This is a reflection of Acton's radio experience and his knowledge of outdoor subjects. He shows genuine interest in his guest's remarks, resulting in more relaxed conversations more about their subjects.
“I try to find experts in their fields of outdoor activities,” Acton said. “My shows feature experts talking about boat mechanics, upgrading hunting or fishing equipment, hunting dog care and safety, expert shooters, fishing tips and most any subject useful for my listeners.
“I have brought in guests who spoke on designing bass boats, winners of major bass tournaments and members from organizations like Ducks Unlimited, a good mix of outdoor subjects.”
Acton's listeners have discovered this is the difference between his shows and others. He constantly tries to give listeners something different. Listeners tune in every Saturday morning to see what Acton is going to do next.
This variety is exactly what outdoor enthusiasts need for improving hunting or fishing techniques. We generally have to pay for good outdoor advice that is available on Acton's show for free.
“I eventually want to either do a two hour show or maybe expand to two shows weekly,” Acton said. “I would be able to tell where the fish are biting twice a week, where to take your kids and more. A one hour radio show goes fast and there is always more to cover.”
So you want to be on Acton's show? This is a possibility every week through his segment where readers are encouraged to call in.
“I have received some darned good questions from call-in guests,” Acton said. “Many of my listeners are experienced outdoor people who really know their sports. This occasionally opens into discussions we might not have had.”
Oh yes, some callers call-in to win a prize or two given away weekly, the veteran host's way of giving back to his listeners.
“My audience has doubled recently,” Acton said. “This tells me my show must be entertaining for folks to tune in every Saturday morning instead of sleeping an extra hour. I really appreciate my listeners.”