Here are 10 tips to help on air personalities (especially on music radio) sharpen their performance. For some these may simply serve as a reminder, but regardless they remain relevant for all on air personalities:
- Intimacy. Avoid thinking that there is an audience listening to you. It should feel like it’s just you and I. I should feel like you’re right there beside me. Radio is about our unique connection. Our friendship. Our bond. Just the two of us. Think about that every time you go to say something. There’s no “out there.” There’s no “(station) listeners.” Choose to be intimate with the language you use and make me feel like it’s you talking to me. Only me.
- Feel the music. Don’t just talk over the 7 second intro but feel the 7 second intro. Match your rhythm to the song’s rhythm. Match your enthusiasm to the tempo of the song. Pause for the powerful drum beat or vocal post. Demonstrate to the listener that you appreciate and are talking with the music (not over it). There is often a disconnect as talent talk over the intro of a song oblivious to what is actually playing underneath their voice.
- Be in the moment. Attention spans are short. We’re all getting increasingly impatient. When someone turns on the radio, they want to connect with you. Right now. They want to begin a conversation with you. Right now. We seemed to have developed a habit where we can’t just talk to our listener right now. We have this awkward – and unnecessary – habit of over-teasing. 10 second breaks teasing something that you’ll tell me about in “7 minutes” or “after these 3 songs.” What would radio feel like if we stopped trying to serve our needs (driving more TSL) and instead focused on entertaining or informing our listener? Be in the moment. Entertain and/or inform me… right now.
- Make the first words count. If attention spans are so short, why must it take so long for me to understand what you’re talking about? We make instant – snap – decisions. We’re good at making choices. If you don’t make me care in the first sentence or two then you won’t have my attention, and I’ll choose to not hear what you’re saying. The first words you say are the most important. Say something provocative, unexpected, interesting to me. Don’t waste the opening few words.
- Stop reading to me. As a child there is something soothing about having a story read to you. There’s a magical feeling as your parent fumbles through the words and experiments with character voices. As an adult, when you read to me, I feel nothing. We don’t connect. Ted Talks are a great example of this. The compelling talks are those delivered by someone who is passionately communicating what they believe. The less compelling talks are those delivered by someone clearly reading off an auto-cue. Yes, you should be prepared. You should rehearse. But, don’t read to me.
- Exit earlier. When a friend sends you a YouTube video that’s 3 minutes long, I suspect you think to yourself, “3 minutes? Who has the time?” The lesson here is to get out of your content break at the first opportunity. Make your point and move on. Exit on the first laugh or poignant point. Don’t try and beat your own punchline. The more efficient you are the better. Your audience will love you more if you don’t waste their time.
- Be yourself. It is the PERSON part of the word PERSONality that is most important. I want to get to know you. I want you to share your point of view with me. Tell me what you think, believe and hope for. Every piece of content on your show should tell me something about you as a person. That doesn’t mean I need to know about the trivial and insignificant events in your life, but I want to understand your thoughts and feelings around the topics of the day.
- Be unpredictable. The greatest performers make us feel safe in their style but surprise us with their content. Unpredictability doesn’t mean being outrageous… it means doing something I didn’t expect. Life is boring if we can predict everything that is about to happen. Radio is the same. Ask yourself: What can I do today/this hour/this moment that would surprise my listener in a positive way?
- Crafting. You’re responsible for how the whole station sounds during your show. Pay attention to how every element on the station comes together. How will you stitch together the sweepers and music to maximize the flow? Take pride in ensuring the transitions are seamless. Making the station sound good is your responsibility when you stand behind the mic. That responsibility stretches far beyond just what happens during your content breaks.
- Trust your instincts. There’s a lot of personalities with potential, but often they sound like they are holding back. I get the sense that if more talent trusted their instincts and acted on their inner thoughts, rather than overthinking things, we’d have more entertaining radio!
VP, Product and Talent Development for Rogers in Canada