As the person who's responsible for taking caller number 25, I can tell you exactly how to win a radio contest.

That's right, I'm finally revealing the secrets that will give you the best chance at winning any radio call-in contest. I've been on the air for over 25 years, and I've given away everything from concert tickets to vacations to cash. In fact, I must have given away at least a million dollars in cash throughout the years just by picking up the phone.

So here are seven of my expert tips for being the right caller and becoming a big radio contest winner:

1: Don't call too early
Many people make the mistake of calling up before the contest even starts. That never works. In fact, it pretty much assures that you're not going to win. Phone lines are cleared out just after the cue to call in is played, so anyone hoping to hang on the line is just going to get disconnected.

2: Remember that timing is everything
Radio stations now broadcast over a digital delay of anywhere from 5 to 15 seconds. Take that into consideration when you're trying to call in. Also, you'll want to remember that the DJ needs to take off his or her headphones, turn off the microphone, and then start answering calls. This could take up to a minute or so after the cue to call in is played. Another thing to consider is that the online stream of a radio station could be delayed by minutes. Depending on the amount of buffering your device is doing, you could be hearing a cue to call in long after the winner has already been chosen.

3: Keep trying
If you get a busy signal that doesn't automatically mean the winner is on the line. Radio stations can have anywhere from 1 to 10 contest lines. Most DJs go through the lines one at a time, repeating the bank of calls until they reach the right number. Sometimes we need to wait for the lines to ring again before we continue to take callers, so don't stop dialing. Because many people get a busy signal and give up, your chances of getting through increases the longer it takes to get the correct caller.

4: Don't fear the hang-up
If you hear the phone ringing and it hangs right up, that doesn't mean the contest is over. Usually, that means the DJ is going through the calls trying to get to the right number. Sometimes there is a delay from the phone bank to your cellphone, so you don't always hear the DJ say something like "you're caller 7, try again" before hanging up. If you just hear a click, try again.

5: Don't fall for the endless ring
If you've been calling and calling to win and finally get a ring, stay on the line. It's possible the DJ is busy doing something and still hasn't picked up a winner. Or, it's possible he or she is talking to a potential winner who, for some reason, is not qualified to win. In that case, they'll need to take another caller. So, always stay on the line until the winner is announced on air.

6: Don't try to fool the DJ
Sure, radio DJ's aren't the smartest people in the world. But we're also not dumb. There are always very specific rules for every contest, and they're always spelled out clearly on the air and on the station's website. If you can only qualify once, only win a prize every 30 days, have to be over 21 or any other restriction, don't attempt winning if you're ineligible. DJs learn their listeners' voices pretty quickly. Using a fake name or pretending to be someone else never works. Also, prize winners will need to stay on the line while they are checked against a database of past winners to make sure they're not rigging the system, so you'll get figured out eventually.

7: Be enthusiastic
There's nothing worse than giving away a great prize only to have a contest winner reply with "yeah, can I get concert tickets instead?" While we can't take prizes away from boring winners, we can opt not to air your call. Most contest winners are pre-recorded and played back after they've been verified as a winner. If you sound excited, are grateful to the radio station for winning and play along with what the DJ is saying your phone call will make it on air. But, if you sound like a dead fish, have a bad phone connection or just seem ungrateful, your friends and family will never hear your voice on the radio. The DJ will simply announce your first name and town.

As for the other tips and hints you might have heard about winning radio contests, they're mostly untrue. Some people believe that calling from a landline is better than a cellphone. Others say that using redial works better than dialing the digits by hand. Honestly, I've never seen any evidence that the type of phone or method of calling has anything to do with your chances of winning. In fact, we've had some big winners call in using an old rotary phone. The only thing you really need to win a radio contest is persistence and a little bit of luck.

So, the next time you hear that cue to call in, keep these tips in mind and continue trying. Who knows? I may pick up the phone and announce that you're a winner.

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