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.
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.
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.
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.
The other day, I was having to teach someone how to talk over a song intro. This is a modern phenomenon, apparently, because most people on the radio today never heard the Drake Format or the “Q” Format that revolutionized radio in the late sixties and early seventies.
Before those, jocks just talked whenever and wherever they wanted to, so you heard a song end, the jock blather for a few seconds (or longer), and then start another song, talking up to the vocal.
Bill Drake changed that. Jocks fit the song intro, instead of starting early. Momentum increased exponentially. The Q stations (KCBQ in San Diego first, others later) took it another step further. But jocks tended to lose contact with the pace of the song, doing every break in a high-powered delivery.
Stations like KNUS in Dallas, Y95 in Miami and others took it beyond that, maintaining the momentum, but also introducing a sensitivity to the pace and “vibe” of the song and matching it with the delivery.
Enough with the history lesson. Jocks today grew up hearing a song end, the talent talking for much too long, then another song starting. Momentum ceased to exist under the guise of “respecting the music,” primarily an Album Rock approach.
Stop – Start – Stop – Start. The definition of NO true momentum.
So back to the recent session. Continue reading
Just last month, an associate sent me this email:
Do you have any suggestions for how to correct a “Ron Radio” delivery? A client of mine in a small market sent their night jock’s audio to me. He is kind of a puker. It’s been forever since I’ve dealt with someone who pukes on the air. I was going to have him put a picture of his wife (or similar) in front of him to maybe make him more conversational. I remember you having a better way of having someone visualize speaking to another person.
Despite all the zillions of VERY specific tips that I coach, the people I’ve worked with the longest know that I’m all about developing Personality on the air. The most important mentors in my career stressed that – particularly as “cookie cutter” formats became dominant – Personality was the sweet brown liquid inside the Coca-Cola can.
Just the other day, a guy I’ve worked with for several years took a foray into the world of creating a character voice to do his weather forecasts, and ran it several times during his show. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t ‘ready for prime time’ yet, either. Here’s part of what I wrote in our session recap:
In talking to Program Directors and GMs over the years, I’ve heard a lot of discussion about why a show does or doesn’t really get the audience the people in charge think it should.
For example, they’ll go down their bullet-point lists of all the ingredients that a morning show should have – the capsule descriptions of what words describe each Talent, which one is the “starter” and which is the “reactor,” and (hopefully) the reason people will listen to them.
But if you stop there, you’re missing the center of the bulls-eye: Values.
What are the talent’s values? What are the station’s values? What do you STAND for?
The buzz word today is “stories.” That’s a simplistic way of saying that personal experiences are more powerful and memorable than just “bits” or “items.”
And the best example I’ve ever seen of how stories should take shape is the TV show “Survivor.”
At the end of the Fall 2017 network television season, we saw something unprecedented. The reason you may not have noticed it is that it didn’t work – at all.
“The last episode before the gripping season finale…” was the “trailer” at the end of the NEXT TO LAST episode of at least two series that I regularly watch.
Think about this. “The last episode before the last episode.” Where does the madness end with these stupid network hype machines?