Something happens when the mic goes on. Most people assume a delivery that’s either “giving information” or “making an announcement” or “presenting” something to the listener.
…as if the listener is some distant stranger who has this break arrive like an unwanted, slick, glossy ad for life insurance – for your pet goldfish.
But the great talents all know that no matter how important or significant a thought is, you still want to say it like you’d say it to your best friend, over a cup of coffee, like he or she is just 2 or 3 feet away (not 15).
By trying to sound more “important,” you become less important. By simply sharing a thought in a normal tone of voice (and normal volume level), you imply that “Hey, we’re buddies. Let me tell you something.”
It’s a question we don’t ask enough. Why do people tune in? What expectations do they have? What need are we meeting?
Or as my friend Mark Ramsey likes to ask, “What are people hiring you for?”
If you don’t know, ask them. If you think it’s not important enough to research at least put your ear to the ground and listen for the rumblings. It’s likely that you’ll hear some reoccurring themes.
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.