Chemistry is everything.
In a team show, one person not dedicated to making his or her partner better will ruin the show. In a solo show, a weak news person, traffic person, or weather person will be a giant flat tire in the mix. Don’t settle for that. One bad apple spoils the whole barrel.
Pursue EXCELLENCE. I’d rather train someone how to do it well than settle for an experienced, but mediocre person who isn’t giving it his or her best effort.
“I can’t break 100 anymore,” I confessed to a golf professional that sees dozens of my like very day. “That means,” he responded immediately, “that you’re not striking the ball solidly.” This guy hadn’t even seen me swing the club and he already diagnosed my problem.
That’s called experience. He’s seen it before. He knows what causes it. He knows how to fix it.
Being a truly great talent also means being (or at least, having) a truly great board op. Many (maybe I should say “most”) people on the air today don’t even realize it.
It’s somewhat of a lost art now, but my generation of air talents were groomed to run the board PERFECTLY. We prided ourselves on precise segues, excellent and consistent levels, and hitting the next song or sound bite within a Content break at exactly the right time, after a brief, concisely focused intro. At stations where I worked, it was mandatory. If you couldn’t run a tight, flawless board, you couldn’t work there.
They are some of the brightest broadcasters I work with. Each a hard worker and devoted to the station’s mission. Not a rotten egg among ’em.
“I’ve got an idea,” I said. Frankly, it was one of the best I’ve ever had. Big idea! Game changing idea. I tossed it out there.
The room was quiet. No one even risked looking up from their paperwork. Then one brave soul broke the awkward silence by saying, “We’re too busy to do anything that big.” Heads nodded in agreement.
They were too busy to be great.
I talk a lot about “crayons” – meaning, that just like in elementary school, learning how to use each crayon results in a different picture. In radio, “more crayons” is about finding more variations on a theme.
The two most typical endings are to say something funny, or to weigh in with a somber “summary” or “conclusion” to something. These are fine — essential, actually — but if they’re the only two crayons you color with, they’ll get pretty predictable.
My process is to strip everything away, until a talent begins again with the little “eight crayon” box that we got in first grade, then learns how each can be used. Eventually, you move to the 16-crayon box, then the 32, then the beautiful 64-crayon box with the sharpener in the side.
Hasn’t it been a fascinating thing to watch? The news coverage. The politicians, the celebrities, the average America Joe sharing what Billy Graham meant to them. In a media world of bickering and partisan politics, we’ve hit hit the pause button to reflect on a man whose life transcended those things.
His daughter, Ruth Bell Graham, said, “Everybody has a Billy Graham story.”
I know I do. It was at a Billy Graham crusade in Irving, Texas, that 14-year-old John Frost publicly dedicated his life to Christ. It was decades later than I would learn that was the very first event at Texas Stadium. I learned that from his grandson, Tullian Tchividjian, who had become my pastor.
His message was simple.
Recently, I had a session with a very good talent who struggles occasionally at the very beginning of a break. I played her a couple of breaks where the hemming and hawing was noticeable; she just couldn’t get any real traction in getting started.
Here’s a possible cause — the tendency to think that every second has to be filled with words. Nothing could be farther from the truth. JFK, Martin Luther King, and dozens of actors known for their timing realized that sometimes a pause to “gather” your next thought is THE most powerful moment.
Example: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” is not the same as “Ask not… what your country can do for you. (Another pause) Ask what you can do for your country.”
When the anxiety is taken away, and you come to trust that conversations need pauses, the tendency to just add more words, or over-explain, will dissipate.
When you listen to your station what do you hear?
Do you hear one song, then another, then another interspersed with talk? Or do you hear music and friendly conversation that can be life changing?
Do you hear the same songs over and over and over? Or do you hear stories that inspire and help tune out the negative noise?
A better question might be, “what do you choose to hear?”
Of all the things I get asked about, the search for Content comes up far more often than anything else. First of all, you have to look for it, but it’s really all around you. Prep sheets are great for lining bird cages, but real Content can easily be distilled into two lanes:
- What’s already on the listener’s mind – TOP of mind, not just something he/she “has a passing interest in” – filtered THROUGH your observations, experiences, and opinions.
- Things the listener may NEED to know, but might not have heard about yet.
Anything that you have to “reach” for, you should automatically reject. Let everyone ELSE do trivial, typical, or obscure stuff, while you make great contact every at-bat. (Obligatory baseball reference is for my partner John Frost. Go Yankees.)
With the natural flow of stuff that you have to promote (station stuff, events, web features, etc.) and Contests, that’s really all you need. The creative “difference” factors don’t lie in finding “off the beaten path” things to talk about; they’re in HOW you weigh in on and share the things the listener cares most about.
This makes your prep process SO easy.
The Far Side caption read, “What we say to dogs.” The cartoon showed a man pointing to his dog saying, “Okay, Ginger! I’ve had it! You stay out of the garbage! Understand, Ginger? Stay out of the garbage, or else!”
The caption on the second panel read, “What they hear”; “Blah blah Ginger blah blah blah blah blah blah…”
They say we are exposed to over 3,000 advertising messages every day. You likely only remember a handful of them, if that. Our brains are neurologically wired to filter out everything that doesn’t helps us “survive and thrive.”