I have to be a community leader in order to speak out...

Absolutely not.  in fact, the essence of open phones is to give an equally powerful voice to ALL community members -- not just the leaders or "higher-ups".  So often, people with power in a community are the only ones heard in public forums -- and that's really too bad because most of the really innovative ideas that I've seen come to pass have come from "just regular folks".  But if those folks are under the misperception that they must be in some kind of powerful position in order to be able to speak, then countless ideas will go unheard and "un-shared"

It's just too scary to speak out...

Well, if you feel that way, then the good news is that you're not alone.  When ranking potentially stressful situations or activities, many people rank public speaking/participation as a greater cause of stress than dying.

The flaw here, however, is that 99% of the time, a person feels like they will sound much worse than they actually do.  The reality is that virtually everyone who participates in Town Meeting sounds perfectly fine, if not GREAT.  Ask almost anyone who's ever been a full blown guest (i.e. in the studio) and they'll probably tell you that it was scary going in the first time, but after they got done they found it to be comfortable, easy, and nothing like the negative experience they expected.  And remember -- that's the report of GUESTS.  For callers or writers, the pressure is even less intense; but the level of positive outcome is about the same (i.e. callers also discover that it's easy, comfortable, and productive to participate).

Think of the scary issue this way:  ask yourself what's more important -- (1)  fear of sharing important information, or (2) the loss to the community if you have a great idea that you never share because of needless fear.  I guarantee you that if we had less fear and more information exchange, we'd already be past many of our community problems.

I'm too busy to speak out...

Hey, I know all about that one, and believe me I completely empathize.  But again, experience has shown me some big flaws in this one
    First -- many times, "too busy" is used as a cover for "too scared" (and in that case, see the "too scared" commentary above"
    Second -- calling or writing in doesn't take much time, but it makes a world of difference in community discussion of issues.  If everyone is too busy to participate in making the community better, then no one should be surprised if nothing ever gets better.  It's just like voting -- one of the craziest things I've observed in this job is seeing consistently low voter turnout, followed by numerous rhetorical gripes about how "those blankety-blank politicians never do what's best for the people".  Well, guess what?  Those blankety-blank politicians weren't put in place by anywhere near a majority of the people they represent.  In Cordova, we have 2500 residents.  Of those, about 1700 are registered voters.  Of those 1700, 500 would be a decent turnout to the polls.  Now let's say that a mayor gets about 55% of the votes -- that means a mayor elected to represent 2500 people was chosen by 275 people.  That's barely over 10%.  So WHY is anyone surprised if a politician doesn't seem to represent ALL the people when only about 10% of those people put him/her there?  But when you ask people why they didn't vote, many often say they were "just too busy".
    Now in public discourse (e.g. town meetings, council meetings, talk shows), the percentage of participants is EVEN LESS -- only a minute fraction of voter turnout -- which means community leaders only hear from the tiniest minority of citizens with opinions and ideas.  How can we expect any leaders to lead effectively with that kind of apathy?
    I implore anyone who thinks they are too busy to join a healthy public discussion to take a good long look in the mirror and ask themselves if they REALLY DO care about their home town.  It doesn't take much time to make a difference, but it sure makes a big difference when you take that little bit of time.
    And one final (and somewhat facetious) thought -- if you step up to the plate while the rest of the town fails to take my excellent advice and continues to remain silent, think how much weight YOUR THOUGHTS will carry, simply because you shared them!.  Now THAT'S some POWER!

People will laugh at me and/or give me a hard time if I speak out...

Point one -- that's RARE.  In fact I can't recall ever hearing a story of how someone who called in was given any relevant grief for it.  Usually, they are praised and envied.

Point two-- ANYONE who gives you genuine grief in a situation like this is a COWARD.  I'll bet you good money that the person who would be most inclined to abuse someone for speaking out is a person who has NEVER spoken out themselves.  These cowards slink into their hidey holes when it's time to step up, and then when it's "safe", they try to puff themselves up by knocking on the true heroes.  It's no different than the bully in the school yard, and such people deserve no more respect than the big slobby kid that steals other kids' lunch money.  Pity them, yes; worry about them, no way.
    Now there's always a chance that a friend, relative, or co-worker will give you a friendly chide -- and that's fine unless you are so nervous about the fact that you spoke out that you inadvertently become hypersensitive to ANYTHING that even remotely resembles criticism.  But I'll make another wager -- I'll bet that if you're the kind of person who cares enough to bother to read this, then you're also the kind of quality person who can deal with that friendly situation just fine if you can just remember to be aware in advance that it MIGHT be coming your way.  It's nothing to fear -- believe me I know, I've been in that very situation way more times than you probably ever will (unless you are also a broadcaster like myself).

Why should I bother to participate?  It doesn't make any difference if I speak out....

YIKES!  Please tell me you don't actually believe that.  I can name case after case where folks have made a TREMENDOUS impact with even one phone call or letter to Town Meeting.  One call got a childrens' park built behind the library.  One call got a guardrail installed that now protects a family's home from traffic.  Numerous times, callers and authors have helped to bring balance to a one-sided story, share ideas that became public policy, helped community leaders avert disastrous courses of action, stop abuses of citizens, improve community safety, stop Interior sports fishermen from destroying commercial fisheries, and the list goes on.
    People so often give ME credit for the fact that Town Meeting has made such an impact over the years.  Well here's a news flash -- it's not me.  The participation of the audience is the most powerful aspect of the show.  I certainly share ideas, or expound on the ideas of others from time to time -- but it's the stuff that comes right from the audience that makes the biggest difference.  I'm here to be a facilitator -- the town needs YOU for the great ideas.  So don't EVER feel like you don't make a difference.

I'm afraid I'll sound stupid if I speak out....

Again, this is a VERY COMMON fear.  But it's almost completely unfounded.  Ask almost anyone who's ever goofed while giving a speech or performing in a play and they'll tell you it felt like it took an eternity to recover.  But then you ask someone in the audience if they thought the goof was a big deal, and they'll usually say they hardly noticed it.  Every human being is MUCH harder on themselves when it comes to things they say in public.  Heck, it still happens to me sometimes.  But the outcome is never as bad as we think it's going to be -- and the same principle applies to calling this talk show.  You may fear that you are going to sound like you are stammering and fumbling, but I can assure you that you won't sound that way for two key reasons: (1) I've been doing this a long time, and it simply doesn't happen, (2) I'll be right there with you, pulling for you, helping you, supporting you every second you are on the phone.  I've got your back.  In fact, if you sound bad, it's largely MY fault for not being a good facilitator -- and I take my responsibility very seriously in this regard.  So fear not!

I sound bad/funny on the radio -- I don't like the way my voice sounds...
(also frequently applied to the use of answering machines, or recording one's voice)

OK, have a seat, because this may be a shocker for you.

I hate to tell you this, but the way you sound on the radio is exactly the way you sound to everyone else all the time, every day, every time you open your mouth.  If you don't like the way you sound on the radio, then you better stop talking all together -- because you don't sound any different to someone on the air than you do when you are speaking to them face to face.

Now if you're not stunned into a coma, I'll share with you why this is the case.

Try this little experiment -- cup your hand around your throat and say "AHHHHHHH!!!"

Go ahead, do it -- I'll wait....

Now what did you feel?  Vibrations, right?  You felt a gentle vibration as your vocal cords buzzed inside your throat.  Now think about where your eardrums are -- inside your skull, yes?  When you speak, you not only hear the sound that comes out of your mouth, you also hear the rich, resonant vibrations of your own voice that never leave your head, and that ONLY exist inside YOUR skull.  Your voice only sounds that rich inside YOUR EARS.  No one else hears that internal warmth (unless they walk around with their heads pressed to your skull, which I kind of doubt happens to you much).  Everyone else hears ONLY what comes out of your mouth -- and to them, there is no significant difference between how you sound in person and how you sound on the radio, or on a tape, or on any of the other media that people always "hate to hear themselves on".

So I put it to you again -- if you hate how you sound on the radio, then you better stop talking all together.  If you're not embarrassed for people to hear your voice in person, then you have NOTHING to fear about how you sound on the radio.

But let me close with a word of encouragement -- almost EVERYONE I have ever introduced to radio has had this very same misconception.  You are in EXTREMELY good (and vast) company.

I might give out the wrong information....

People worry about this way too much.  Mistakes happen -- we are human.  Obviously, the best thing to do is to be prepared when you speak out on something, and try to make sure you know your material.  But even if you goof, you can always fix it.  Simply come on again sometime and correct yourself.  Society makes way too big a deal out of information that's shared in the media.  A little mistake that would barely give a person pause in personal conversation becomes this major crisis if it happens on the radio or in the paper.  Truthfully, Society needs to lighten up and remember that we're all just people.

Believe me, if you should ever make a mistake when you speak out, I will be there for you to help fix it.  I will be your facilitator and defender.  So unless you have an ego so big that it prevents you from ever apologizing for a goof, you don't have anything to fear from mistakes in content.  Frankly, I can think of a lot of egotistical politicians and other public figures that would do well to learn this very simple lesson.  And on the flip side (and please don't take this as bragging), I have had no problem apologizing for mistakes over the years (and believe me, I've made zillions) -- and far from it hurting my reputation, I have been complimented over and over for honesty and my ability to "just be a regular guy" who happens to spend a lot of time in front of a microphone.  The same dynamic will work for you -- so don't sweat it!

I don't want to sound like a whiner or complainer...

You won't, IF you address complaints and concerns in a respectful and positive manner.  There is an extremely common misconception in the population that one must act like a jerk in order to complain about something.  That could NOT be more FALSE.  Being a jerk is the WORST way to voice a complaint.  And fortunately, I've included a tutorial on this very subject in the "Talk Show 101" section of the web page.  Feel free to take a look at it when you're done here.

In the meantime, rest assured that you CAN and SHOULD share your concerns and complaints in a way that not only conveys your intent, but that also contributes to solutions -- and we'll help show you how.  But just as important, concerns that go unvoiced simply because people are too afraid to sound "whiny" will never find resolution -- such situations will either just stay bad or get worse.

Talk show hosts are just out for their own agenda.  They just want to use me for ratings...

I wish I could say that this was universally false, but it's not.  Many (if not most) big talk shows are extremely guilty of that very criticism because egotistical hosts, or the need to be more shocking than the next guy in order to get big ratings, or whatever else compels these individuals to soil the potential of talk radio

However, with Town Meeting, I have numerous advantages over most other talk show hosts:

(1) I don't have to resort to scummy tactics to get ratings because I don't care about ratings
(2) I'm the station owner, so I'm actually allowed to not care about ratings
(3) I actually care about the town I broadcast in, and thus will not put ratings ahead of the ability of my show to make a difference in my town.
(4) I don't try to pretend to be something I'm not -- I'm just a citizen like everyone else.  What you see (or hear) is what you get.  I don't pretend to be smart, or to have all the answers.
(5) Sensationalism is not even in my dictionary -- I find it repugnant (unless something NEEDS to be sensationalized to spur community action, like an attack on commercial fishing or something of that magnitude)
(6) I have NO AGENDA.  I'm not right, I'm not left, I'm not anything other than a Cordovan trying to make a difference, and help other Cordovans make a difference.  I welcome all perspectives equally, and respect all efforts to share information.
(7) I welcome criticism.  Of course, I hope critics will read the section on complaining in this tutorial first so as to avoid being jerks; but regardless, I never consider myself above good criticism.  I can't learn to get better if no one ever tells me how I can improve.  And there have been many times where quality criticism has led to great changes not only in Town Meeting, but in our overall programming on KLAM and KCDV.

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