It’s Not All About You

My name is Wally and I am the host of the Wally Show on WAY-FM.  As the author of this article the irony of the title is not lost on me, but just because your name is on the show it is not all about you.

Yes, you need a certain amount of ego to do this job well, but keeping a healthy balance is vital. It is easy to feel that because you have a microphone and have a radio show, everything you have to say is interesting.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

A story with no point or that ends with, “Just sayin” is an instant tune out.  If you do this enough you lose the privilege to speak into people’s lives and they will leave you. The days of cracking the mic and regaling your audience with a mediocre story of some mundane occurrence from your weekend are over.

There is too much noise in the world that you are competing against…you have to create content that cuts through.

As a general rule people like to talk about themselves.  You have to resist the urge to monopolize that conversation and allow space for the people who listen to you every day to be a part of what you are doing.  Phone topics are only one way of bringing people into the conversation.

A topic that starts from a personal place is great, as long as it is compelling, funny, or revealing about you or someone on the show, but it can’t stay there.  It has to go beyond that. It has to be something that invites people in and encourages them to share their own stories and experiences. This is where you as a talent earn your money, by knowing when to talk and when not to.

Think of your job as that of a talent agent. Your job is to make stars of the people around you. Whether it is the person who cared enough to take time out of their day to call your show, or the other members of your show. It’s not all about you! Elevating those around you will cause the whole tide to rise and as the person who champions others, your stock with the people who listen will increase as well.

You might not be part of a big multi-person morning show. More likely it is you and one or (if you are lucky) two other people. In a scenario like this it is even more important that everyone is thinking of ways to make the others look great.  Here is a practical application to help make other people the star.

Each person on the show, should come up with a bit or segment that focuses on someone else. It should highlight the person’s strengths or be character defining for them. Some people have trouble seeing themselves like others see them, so going through the process of creating bits for other people will provide a chance for content they would not have thought to ever bring up themselves. Plus, it shifts the focus from self to team and that is always a win.

For example, we had a guy on our show named Zach. Zach liked facts, hated misinformation and loved being right.  It was part of his character on the air. So, we created two games that highlighted his particular set of skills (none of which were anything like Liam Neeson’s). That’s a Fact Zach and Great Googly Moogly were created to be funny, but also let the audience get to know Zach better as well as understand what we had to deal with every day. 🙂

These games were not about the questions. Any marginal show can do generic trivia or the impossible question of the day.  Those bits have been around almost as long as radio itself.  The idea behind games is not to give away a prize or fill in a segment for the show.  It is to reveal something about someone on the show with the goal being to help people who listen better connect with a person and ultimately the show.

If you do not have a team show you might think it has to be about you because you are solo.  Anytime I had to do a show by myself I always found other ways to pull people in. Radio is a dysfunctional business that attracts some odd characters, and I say that in the best way.  There are people all around you that have interesting stories and lives. You just have to be aware of them and find ways to work in content from them in small, controlled doses.

There is an art to developing other talent. You want to put them in situations that will highlight their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. Also, initially you want to minimize their exposure so that every time they are on it is focused, so they can knock it out of the park. People who do not do radio for a living will foul the ball far more than they crush it. So, it is imperative as a talent that you maintain control of the interaction and keep it focused on their strengths.

A real-life example of this for me is Walter.  Walter was that guy that called the radio station before I got there and sadly, most people saw him as a nuisance.  I saw Walter as a star.  When I met him, he was 50 years old, from Alabama, and because of his own physical and mental limitations had to live with his mom and dad.

I learned that Walter loved Christian music and would go to the Christian bookstore (R.I.P. Lifeway stores) every week to buy the latest Christian CD.  There was the bit: Walter Picks the Hits. We created his own theme song (because every star needs one of those) and each week Walter would call in and pick a hit for us and we would play the song.  People loved Walter…he was the star.  I treated him like a friend, kidded around with him, but always made sure to make him look great.

One added level to the Walter story was Walter did not have a computer and I never saw a picture of him. So, we created a cool moment for Walter to meet Mathew West.  Nothing special, stations do this all the time, but we are always thinking, “How can we take this to the next level?” We had Matthew West describe Walter to a sketch artist and then when we were finally able to get an old Polaroid picture of Walter we posted that and found that the sketch was not too far off.

The byproduct of this was a fun radio bit.  The real value has been helping a person see value in himself and building a friendship.

So, it’s not all about you.  It’s not all about me.  This has to be bigger than all of us. I have always said my show isn’t for everyone, but it is for someone every day.  I see God use the silly things we do as much or more than the serious stuff to change lives. Ultimately that should be our goal and the less we get it twisted the more impact we will be able to have.

Wally Show, WAY-FM

Wally spent the first half of his 27-year career doing various different formats in mainstream radio. Wally’s antics created both local and national press with media outlets like MTV and NBC covering his stunts. Eventually Wally was hired by the Walt Disney Company to bring his talents and slant to the launch of their new product, Radio Disney, something that would ultimately prepare him for his later move to Christian radio.

After a few more years at 99X in Atlanta the aggressive and questionable content from the alternative rock show no longer matched his heart and was in direct conflict with what his faith. That led him to seek out a position in Christian radio and he was hired by WAYFM, where he currently does the morning show.  The Wally show gained popularity, for its humor and real approach to life and faith, making it one of the top performing shows in Christian radio. Every month 1.4 million minutes of Wally Show content is viewed on YouTube, as well as over 200k monthly podcast downloads.

Next to his World’s Greatest Dad Mug, Wally has a couple other awards on his mantel.  He was named Billboard’s Modern Rock Jock of the year, is an Echo Award winner for Large Market Air Personality of the Year, and was nominated for the Rob Gregory service award, but did not win because Wally is not really that great. (Wally’s words)

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