Recently, a station manager brought me aboard to work with a new air talent that had just come to the station. Even though the new guy done a couple of sessions with me a year or two ago, he’s still afraid of being coached. The boss told me the guy’s exact words were that “He doesn’t want someone coming along trying to make him sound like everyone else.”
Well, first of all, that’s not what I do. Yes, I have some basic principles that have been proven to work over the course of coaching over 350 stations in all formats. But a lot of times, a talent will harbor this fear of making changes simply because (1) he didn’t work with a good coach, (2) he thinks he knows all he needs to know, and/or (3) he associates the “bits” he does with BEING his identity.
So in case you’re approached with working with a talent coach (and there are only about three that deserve to be called that), I’m going to lay out my 3 Steps of Coaching over the course of the next few tips.
Step 1: Correcting bad habits, and “weeding the garden.”
A very good talent I work with did a contest the other day, and had a great winner, who was really surprised and happy about winning lunch for her office from a local deli.
He did a good job with her in the winner call he played on the air, but at the end, he added a whole bunch of “blah blah blah” about the specific hoops the winner had to jump through to get her prize and, along the way, he mentioned the name of a person in the office that no listener would know or care about.
This is what I sent him in his coaching session recap:
In the last tip, I talked about learning something about you each day, and how essential that “reveal” is to becoming a three-dimensional personality to the listener. Here’s a deeper look at it:
You should reveal something about yourself EVERY day, but not with an agenda.
Last week, on an automotive Talk show I coach in Houston, the female cohost said, “Ask Mike your question, ’cause if you ask me, I’ll just say ‘Pick the fast one, in black.'” That changed her from being just the “announcer” of the show to a Personality – in ONE LINE.
That’s the kind of reveal that works best, because it seemingly just slipped out as you were talking. And that’s the key: It has to sound accidental or incidental – NATURAL to share, not just you bringing up a subject so you can sound off on it.
When something revealing just plops out in the course of the conversation, that’s when people actually NOTICE what was just said.
Here’s part of a post-Halloween coaching session recap with a morning team I work with in Austin, Texas…
Steve and Amy.
Well, look at what we learned about you in Tuesday’s show…
You’re aware of what’s going on, and you have hearts (coverage of the New York City tragedy).
Amy has managed to rationalize not wanting to go out in the cold to ‘Trick or Treat’ with her kids as THEIR decision. (And Steve called her on it.)
In August of 1972, a group named The Main Ingredient released a hit single called “Everybody Plays the Fool.” (The lead singer, by the way, was Cuba Gooding, Sr. – yes, the actor’s father.)
None of that has anything to do with this week’s tip.
Last time, we talked about really starting to gain understanding and control of your inflection, so you lose the “disc jockey” sound and simply become the one voice in the room people just want to listen to.
Here’s another step.
What all great air talents and great voice actors have in common is that they’re INTERESTING.
There comes a time in every career when you have to stop being a polished reader of words or some sort of veneer, and just become yourself. That “self” may be a somewhat invented persona like Larry David’s on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” or it may as revealing of who you really are as possible, given the format.
But you need voice acting chops to accomplish this. Here’s a three-word exercise that’ll help you both on the air and in commercial voiceover work:
You hear this every day, if you listen long enough: The same stories, with almost, or nearly almost the exact same wording every newscast. This is a quick way to not stand out at all.
One of radio’s greatest pioneers, Gordon McLendon, even though he primarily did Top 40 (which he and Kansas City’s Todd Storz INVENTED), was known for hiring and training incredibly talented News staffs. I had the great pleasure of working with two of them, at KNUS in Dallas (which helped change the landscape of FM radio in the early seventies) and KILT, longtime Top 40 giant in Houston.
Both news staffs were incredible – chock full of amazing writers with riveting deliveries, every bit as much “personalities” as the disc jockeys were. And each of them learned on Day One the McLendon Rule: Rewrite every story for every newscast.
A morning show host I work with recently found cause to read a poem on the air. While he meant well, it really stalled out the momentum of the show, and basically just sounded less personal. Here’s the right technique to use:
Paraphrase it, using your own words to frame the subject, then only directly quote a very SHORT quote or passage from whatever it is you’re bringing to the table – whether it’s a poem, like in this case, or an article about something.
On Friday, October 13th 2017, Leta Hopwood passed away two months to the day after her 92nd birthday.
Hopwood was her maiden name. She was my mother. She taught me to read when I was three years old. (By the time I entered 1st grade, I was reading at 7th grade level.)
She taught me to sing harmony when I was nine, as we drove from Shreveport, Louisiana to Colorado Springs after my dad was drafted into the Army. (I later sang in a very popular band, and have sung on dozens of jingles that you might have heard.)
Millennial Overspeak is a new dialect. Not every single person in that age group uses it, of course, but it’s an easy (albeit cheap shot) reference for unnecessary glitz, so it’s become a hard-and-fast impression.
Phrases such as “I’m SO going to do that,” or describing something as “Unbelievably, spectacularly good” is overkill. And like everything served up too often, you actually LOSE impact. So the words you’re choosing to make something “bigger” or more “dramatic” usually just make whatever you’re talking about come across as pompous, overstated, or simply trying too hard. These are qualities that push the listener away, rather than bring him or her closer to you.
Let’s try to make our words count. “He was dead” doesn’t need an adverb or adjective. “He was SO dead” doesn’t make it more expressive; it just makes you sound like you have to expand everything in order to feel important. Eww.