Here’s a little something that happened in a recent session with a great morning team in Austin. I always try to do video sessions, and during this one, they were on location somewhere.
As we talked, I could see people behind them looking in the window. The people were just curious, wonder what they were doing, and what the two of them were like.
And that’s what happens every time someone tunes in, too.
It’s kind of like a remark that Garry Shandling made to Jerry Seinfeld in a “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” episode when they talked about seeing Robin Williams for the first time: “You don’t remember what he SAID so much as you remember what he WAS.”
So think about who YOU are, to the listener. Are you just another person “broad stroke” over-performing, larger than life – but not in a good way? Or are you someone I can identify with, who’s entertaining, but also surprisingly down to earth and someone I’d like to hang out with?
What you project is a choice. Choose wisely, because Shandling was right.
One of the prime ingredients in all truly great talents is that they connect with the listener on a daily basis.
And one of the keys in getting to that place is:
Stop TRYING to be noticed.
Instead of constantly trying for punch lines, or “talking points” that just get the same five people to call in with the same types of reactions we always hear, the ‘Real Deal’ is to just be part of the listener’s life each day. Talk about things that we all have in common, then put your individual spin on it.
Think about this… the more you try to be noticed, the more it’s just about YOU. But the more you just try to be part of something that we share together, the more it’s about US.
And that’s what gets ratings. If you build your show around having something going on that I can relate to each day, I’ll come back – over and over again.
Here’s a short, but really powerful tip.
Give a subject two segments (in Talk radio), MAX. If it doesn’t “catch fire” by then, give up and move along to something else.
The same principle is true in Music Radio – give a subject two tries, and if there’s no usable reaction, punt. If it hasn’t “happened” by then, you’re just firing bullets into a dead body. This is both boring and desperate-sounding.
This is why I always over-prepped each day. Just having “enough” to cover a show might not actually BE enough on a given day. And as you know, it’s impossible to predict when something might inexplicably fail to connect with the listener. (Although, now that I think about it, this could simply be because there’s not an Emotion at its core. Might want to think about that, too.)
To the listener, it’s all about Discovery.
As long as I’m discovering something (if it’s relevant to my life and interests), we’re good. When that stops, it’s “See ya.”
So you have to avoid repetition, and you have to always be moving forward.
This is why, as a coach, I can zero in on what a show needs quickly, because I’m always looking for the answers to two questions:
“What did we learn?”
And “What did we learn about you?”
Both of those things are essential.
No, this isn’t about “dumbing it down.” It’s about not making it more complicated than today’s attention span will accept.
Today’s listener doesn’t read much. (No patience.) And we’re a nation of channel flippers. Fads come and go at warp speed. A lot of “relationships” between supposed “soulmates” last only a few months.
So if you’re going to get in sync with today’s “short attention span theater,” you need to keep things simple. The old “stop by each one of their 6 locations to pick up your card” contest is D.O.A. in today’s world. People have lives. They’re busy.
The description “Producer” seems to be thrown around pretty loosely these days. So let me try to help you with what a Producer really should be:
A true show producer is a right-hand man (or woman), an extra set of hands and feet, and a resource in finding material, in addition to the right “framing” for something (music, sound bites, etc.).
A great Producer should have superior Production skills, too.
And you want a Producer to be a source of feedback, so a Talent has someone he or she can count on to weigh in on whether something is a good “fit” for the show, or in some instances, will even work at all.
It’s so easy for an air talent to think “I have to do something BIG to stand out against the competition,” and yes, radio is all about creating memorable moments that make people want to come back and listen to you again tomorrow.
However, as New England showed against the Rams in Super Bowl LIII, you don’t want to go outside your comfort zone or change your identity to accomplish that.
Once again this year, the Patriots demonstrated that you win by doing the right thing at the right time. That’s what puts you on top. So here’s what you can take away from the Super Bowl, in radio terms…
This past weekend, the fine actor Alan Alda accepted the Screen Actors Guild’s Life Achievement Award, saying:
“When we get a chance to act, it’s our job, at least in part, to get inside a character’s head, and to search for a way to see life from that person’s point of view. It may never be more urgent to see the world through another person’s eyes. And when the culture is divided so sharply, actors can help, at least a little, by doing what we do.”
I agree. So did C. S. Lewis, who wrote: “My own eyes are not enough for me. I will see through the eyes of others.”
Part of our job should be to see through the listener’s eyes – and not just the P-1 devoted listener, but also the person who just hit the “scan” button and it landed on you.
Great radio is performance art. And anyone who’s worked with me knows that’s the way I approach it.
As Alan Alda said at the end of his acceptance speech:
“The nice part is it’s fun to do it. So my wish for all of us is: Let’s stay playful, let’s have fun, and let’s keep searching. You can’t solve everything, but it wouldn’t hurt.”
Leading up to last Halloween, a show I work with did a wonderful break that leapt out of the radio about Trick-or-Treating in a Halloween mask. After talking about how restrictive one could be, one member of the team did a “trick or treat” delivery like his face was being smashed in by the mask. It was really funny and SO visual.
Then his partner followed up with how it could have been raining, and did a rain sound effect.
I hear so many people using a text or email as the ending of something. And a lot of stations have gone way overboard in soliciting them.
But this is one of those things that seems like a good idea, but it’s too broad a concept to play to radio’s strengths.
Here’s what I coach:
Texts (or emails) are only to be used as springboards for something YOU do that’s creative. They’re not a be-all or end-all in themselves. So rather than using a text or email as the “destination” for something, you should use those as the START of something.
I didn’t tune in to hear what the faceless “Jennifer” from Highland Park has to say, I tuned in to hear YOU – the trained, articulate, entertaining Personality – have to say. Because, let’s face it, “real” people are usually not very witty or clever or funny at all. Sure, they can be once in a while, but even then, I don’t want to hear you just read a response. How lazy can you get? Why don’t you just read the newspaper on the air if that’s all the work ethic you have?
Plus, I believe it’s a mistake to encourage people to text or email INSTEAD of calling, because radio is about airing AUDIO. Do you want to hear me interview an artist, or would you rather hear me read an interview with the artist out of a magazine? Print is a poor substitute for Sound. Let’s keep our eye on the ball.