How To Become a Good Radio Presenter – The Dos and Don’ts

Radio On Air
Radio On-Air

Every year, over two million people, most of them young adults try to join radio as either presenter, show hosts or news staff. But how do you become a good radio presenter? With close to twenty years of radio experience, I discuss 10 tips you can employ to become a great Radio show host.

Situation Analysis

According to TuneinApp, there are over 44,000 radio stations in the world with close to a Million Radio presenters. Radio is still the most influential mainstream media in the world.

According to the Uganda Communication Commission, there over 292 licensed FM radio stations in Uganda (as of 2020).

IN this article, I will explore the key attributes, factors, does and don’ts of becoming a kickass Radio presenter who wows their listeners.

These 10 tips have randomly been given numbers in no particular order. Their importance will vary in weight depending on what show, the presenter and the intended audience.

1. Its 2020 Be Social Media Friendly

Be Facebook Friendly
Be Facebook Friendly

Whether you want it or not social media now drives the debate. The discussion has not started until social media is discussing it. Until social media goes up in flames you will not stand out in 2020.

Now over my almost 20 years in Radio I have met “Jokes of presenters” who say I am not a social media person. That’s more like saying you are not made for radio in 2020. You might try but you will not stand out. PERIOD!

I already stated that the big debate is actually on social media these days. If you are not where the debate takes place you are not worth sitting behind a microphone.

Your Listeners are hungry trying to get something on social media to share and PrintScreen. If you starve them someone will give it to them and the following day they will want to hear what they say and you will be losing listeners.

If you truly feel you are meant for radio, invest time and sometimes money into growing a social media personality worth listening to on the radio. Its what every good presenter is doing in 2020.

2. Always Do Thorough Preparations – Prep

A great radio show starts with good prep. The world might never know but behind the curtains, a good Radio presenter is engaged in research, rehearsals, consultations and reviews.

A great show for the following day starts the moment today’s show ends. While you hang out at the club, a radio presenter stays alert to what the rest are saying or doing to get social hooks that he can add to the research they already did to give their show a social touch and increase connectivity.

One common mistake lazy radio personalities do is to do a type of research I shall call scanning. This is where someone reads the headline of a story and may or may not read just one paragraph of the story they plan to use on air. The outcome is often a misrepresentation of facts on the microphone.

A good Radio presenter is an authority. He is going to be quoted so accuracy is as important as anything on this list. In an era of internet and social media, it will take you just a few incorrect submissions before the listeners blow you out of the water as an uninformed joke of a presenter. You will soon be the subject of memes and challenges and that will mark the end of your credibility.

Sometimes, presenters will research from just one source and hit the studio. You need to cross-check facts from other sources and discover pieces that may not have been included. Listeners need to feel that you have more information otherwise they will label you basic and look for someone they feel is more knowledgable and authoritative.

There is a great resource on the internet called Wikipedia. The community online encyclopedia is a great resource for knowledge. The problem, however, is that its a community resource meaning its contributed and edited by people like you and me. Some of them without thorough research. While using Wikipedia take some time and cross-check their facts.

3. Whatever Happens Be Calm.

You can do Prep, rehearse, research and do everything, still, the on-air experience sometimes just never goes according to plan. When presenting with a co-host you may never rehearse all the talk. On the microphone, something totally unrehearsed may be said and you have to smartly get a viewpoint if needed.

Sometimes a hardware or software my simply not respond the way you expected it to. If you do not keep your composure that will mark the end of what had been planned to be a great radio show!

Fortunately, the listener in most cases doesn’t know what you planned so if you keep calm and respond without panic, many times the listener will not even notice that anything was the matter.

4. Be Knowledgable about the entire Radio.

Basic as it sounds, many radio personalities just care about their radio show. The only thing they think is of use to them is presenting their show and they do not care what happens in other shows on the same radio they present.

Imagine you present a breakfast show, am a listener and am speaking to you about a slot on the afternoon show and you have no idea what am talking about, what do you think I would think about you? A plain IDIOT.

If you are unaware of what happens around you why should I trust you with more sophisticated details? Great presenters openly or silently take note and critique other presentations. They are aware of what others are doing so they know how to do their show and stand out. We might be working together but we are in a healthy competition to be the best presenter on this radio we both work for. I will not pull you down but I sure want to be the best in the building.

Besides presenting their shows, good presenters will often engage in airchecks, studio production and post-show self-evaluations as part of preparing and making their next show better.

5. Originality Is Key.

Understandably, most potential radio presenters grow up listening to radios. They have their favourite radio presenters who they call role models and that is where career suicide starts.

Many would-be presenters have listened to their role models too long that they have forgotten who they are and have become a copy of the role model. They strive to sound like them, present like them, crack jokes like them and fail to have a character of their own.

A great presenter must look for a way to sound unique and be remembered for their own character.

I have seen a couple of arrogant but very successful presenters. They are always very controversial but the listeners love them because that’s who they (I could add authentically) are.

Then I have also seen potentially very good presenters want to stand out by being abusive, arrogant and uncourteous all in the name of standing out and that is not who they are so they come crashing like a pack of cards.

Stay who you are. Talk to your trainer how best you can amplify your natural character and knowledge you possess to stand out. Your biggest weapon is the thing you know and do off work. If you watch soccer, gossip, smile, etc etc that is where you can polish and turn it into a serious standout point. While you think laughing is easy not everyone can do it on the microphone. You could stand out as a happy presenter!

6. Work on Speech and presentation skills.

Many people think that presentation is all about having a great voice. True having a good voice adds to the package but its more about how you use your voice and the general communication skills you possess.

In fact, many people without special voices can vocally be trained to sound good for radio. You will need to pay attention to the various kinds of verbal skills of communication to become a good radio presenter.

Varying your volume and voice projection will be of great help to know where you sound better. Once you Identify where you sound better practice often so that you master the projection that makes you tick.

Taking full control of the whole studio hardware will also give you a level of comfort and confidence so that you sound authoritative.

Have full knowledge of your studio hardware so that you build on your overall studio confidence.

7. Local is Good

Local is Good - Create community Connections
Local is Good – Create community Connections

I have seen presenters especially on “foreign language” speaking radio stations who think that the best way they can sound cool is to speak about things that happen in a foreign land.

They will discuss international politics with eloquence but do not care about their national Politics. They know all about international Music but don’t care about their local music.

Basically they are foreigners. Research has shown that when someone is talking about something you know, see, often hear etc you will concentrate more.

Community content is very critical in creating and sustaining engagement with your listener.  There are special connections created when someone is discussing an issue that happened in your home town that you can not get when they talk about a faraway town.

Now am not saying that there is anything bad with being knowledgable about global issues but they must be put in context for the locals to relate.

Names of people and places are a very powerful tool in communication. Get a way to incorporate Names of people and places into your presentation to create powerful social hooks with your listeners.

8. Be a Full Human Being.

Listeners want to know that you are a human being. They need to know a bit about you. You speak to them almost on a daily and you are in some kind of relationship. When you are in a relationship with someone you want to know if they ate, where they went for the weekend, what they love doing in their free time etc.

Your listeners need to hear a bit about your social side away from the radio job. How much you tell is absolutely upto you but get away to spin your points sometimes from your social reality.

For example a statement like, “Last week as I was walking on Kampala road I saw a begger wearing a facemask…” does not reveal so much but speaks to your social life. You remind the listener that you are one of them and live with them and therefore you know what affects them. NOTE how I use Kampala road a real name than saying “While I was walking in town?” Names paint mental images. Use them often.

The other piece of human aspect presenters underestimate is the power of laughter and smiling. When we are listening and the presenter smiles we notice. Now I don’t know if you have heard that laughter is infectious? Yes, it does so when my presenter is jolly and bubbling with smiles I will inevitably smile or feel lighter. Smile and laugh as often as you naturally feel like it.

9. Centre your Presentation around the Listener.

A great radio presentation begins with a clear and accurate definition of the target audience and intention of your show. These are at the core of planning, Prep, execution and evaluation of any radio show.

Every great show is measured by its listeners. A great presenter is stamped with approval by the listener. Good presenters keep the listener’s emotions at the heart of their presentation.

They form a relationship with the listener and get a way to make the listener feel special.

Radio is a game of the mind. Even if you do not feel it, make the listener believe that you truly value them. Obviously it’s better off if you believe in it but at its worst act it.

Make the listener start feeling like they would be “Cheating on you” if they did not catch your next show.

Make every effort to address the listener as an individual. Talk to them personally not as part of a bigger group of listeners. It’s that one feeling that makes them want to listen the next day.

One common mistake, however, is to let individual regular listeners normally frequent callers start directing the direction your radio content takes. While you try to respond to their needs, be smart enough to know that the listeners out there aren’t homogeneous with that caller even though they may share some things.

10. Interesting does not necessarily mean Funny

Every radio presenter ought to be interesting to listen to. Unless you are in Antarctica, there are many radio stations to select from. If you are not interesting we will look for something better.

One common mistake made by many radio presenters is to think that all of them can be funny. If you are not funny by nature, don’t piss us off by faking jokes that do not come out.

It’s possible to be extremely interesting without being funny. For example, If you are still reading this very lengthy article, you most likely find it an interesting piece to read but it’s not funny!

Sometimes what listeners find interesting is the knowledge you share, the opinion you hold and not the jokes you crack. A born again will most likely find the gospel interesting but it’s not funny.

A good presenter should strive to keep their listeners hooked through their content if they are naturally not the funny type.

BONUS 1. Do regular Air Checks

In Radio airchecks are recordings extracted from a radio program intended to demonstrate how someone sounds on air.

You can use these with your program manager or producer to identify where your presentation was really good or where it needed something to stand out.

Make it routine to have regular airchecks so that you are constantly aware of how you sound on air and what needs to be addressed to improve your show.

Airchecks can be don’t jointly with the show producer or you could individually have them for self-assessment. It is only when you are aware of how you sound that you will be able work on areas that need improvement.

BONUS 2: Acquire Some Computer Skills

Finally, If you are not very good with computer, consider taking some computer lessons. Radios these days are very computerized. You will need some fair computer knowledge for both research and on-air execution.

BONUS 3: Passion is not better than knowledge.

I always asked people who want to be radio presenters why they really think I should hire them. 70% of potential radio presenters will tell you radio is their passion. Its the one thing they have always wanted to do. They would do it even if they were not paid. That might impress some radio owner who wants to pay very little but it will never impress a serious Programs Manager. Passion is just an ice on the cookie. The real cake is knowledge. You cant win listeners as a passionate fool who doesn’t know stuff. I want to hear what you know that I can help you turn into an amazing radio show. Passion is good but without solid knowledge of something it will not get you anywhere.

Feel free to leave me feedback in the comment box bow.

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  2. Wooooow I think my tomorrows show break fast show on Hills FM kabale will he much better than it was today with this article. Thanks for sharing am powered

      1. Wow wonderful .
        Thank God I have read all this..very educative and inspirational article..Thank you

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