How to become a radio host – a really good one

Are you destined to become a radio host? Just before you say no or yes:

Does your heart speed up when you picture yourself sitting behind a broadcasting desk with the clock counting down to your live air shift?

Are you prone to creating these elaborate playlists or mock radio programs?

Do you have an affinity for microphones – the shiny chrome plated ones – in particular?

Did the TV station tell you off, postulating that your talents would be better suited for radio?

Well, radio hosts are the coolest cats in the world. Whether you have been doing it for a while– or you’re just getting started, you’ll learn a thing or two from this post.

Let’s see what it takes to become the next Bob Grant, Brad Crandall, Ryan Seacrest, Howard Stern or any of the radio personalities you admire:

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Where does the journey begin?

Some jobs listings may only require a High School Diploma; others a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism or broadcasting.

Media training schools also offer training for TV and radio positions. Sometimes your journey can be unconventional.

Howard Stern started by making make-believe shows in his parents' basement. Every other day, you get comedians, authors, and actors becoming radio hosts.

So bam!

Anyone can become a radio host.

Probably not everyone can become an astronaut, though.

Gaining experience

To get hired at a new station, you’ll need experience, three years at least. One of the easiest ways to acquire it is to volunteer at community or institutional radio stations. You can also intern at a commercial station.

Similarly, you can create an internet radio station, and tune up your presenting skills.

Also, don’t think of radio roles solely. The core function of a radio station host is to entertain people.

Sharpen your skills by also emceeing during parties or corporate events, doing some stand-up comedy, acting, public speaking, making YouTube videos, or participating in debates.

Coming up –-we look at the tips that will help you become a great radio host.

1. Get all the practice you can get

​Time + Practice + Focus = Mastery

Trust in the process. No one is born a radio host.

To become a master at radio presenting, you start as an outsider looking in. If you focus on performing like the top talent from the first day, you might develop feelings of anxiety and doubts. And never imagine yourself at the same level.

Well, that’s just a myth:

Before they became experts, before rocking shows came so naturally for them, they started out like you, as arrivals entering a strange, unknown world.

Through learning and practice, some for many years, they developed an intuitive feel for making great shows.

You go through the same process if you’re learning to paint, act, etc.

So don’t give up yet. Don’t compare yourself to the accomplished presenters, yet. They have put in more work than you. It’s all in the effort, and with the passage of time.

2. Become a knowledgeable person

Cultivate an intense desire to learn. Learning makes you grow as a radio host.

What’s more, the more you know, the more you can share. 

Find radio producers and radio hosts that challenge you to become better. Travel, take up a hobby, hit the books…

3. Know your listeners

Listeners graciously lend their ears to your station. In return, you should give them content that pleases and satisfies them. And content that they can’t find anywhere else.

Part of doing that is knowing what they like, what they don’t like, things that make them mad, their struggles & frustrations, their lingo, what they know, what they don’t know, etc.

With a clear picture of your audience, you can relate to their pain points, struggles, frustrations, and joys.

4. In time, on time but never late

Well, you always want to show up at the studio in time or on time—regardless if you had a gig that extended through the night, and you’re on for the morning drive.

When you’re punctual, you come across as professional. The listeners will feel your professionalism even if they never see you. Let not time be your master, but your servant.

5. Stay on top of industry trends

Part of becoming a good radio host is keeping pace with all that’s happening in the radio industry.

Is radio getting more popular? What are the new ways people are listening to your radio?

Are there any new technologies that your station should respond to? What about new equipment, software or marketing techniques. 

How to stay informed: Subscribe to radio blogs, news websites, or magazines. Establish relationships with people from competing stations.

Join online radio communities, and participate in industrial events. You can even connect with the experts, which is easy to do nowadays with social media and email, which are literally at your fingertips.

6. Learn how to drive - the station’s van & the desk

Get acquainted with all the knobs on your broadcasting desk. Know each feature of your radio broadcasting software – always RTFM – read the friendly manual.

Some presenters may skip this, leaving all the fun to the tech-ops. Even if the different equipment at your studio may overwhelm you, this knowledge will serve you.

Besides the broadcasting desk at the studio, hold a driving license that covers vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes. You might find yourself working at a station that needs you to drive the promotional van.

7. Your voice could always need a boost

You don’t need Annie Nightingale’s or Guz Raz’s voice to become an effective radio host. But you can make your current voice better sounding and more powerful.

You might be a skeptic and proclaim that improving a voice is like squeezing water from a stone.

Quite the opposite, you can develop your vocal capabilities.

For instance, if a loud voice is what you’re after, first understand how your body produces sound.

Three parts have to work together: The lungs, vocal folds in the larynx, and articulators. You breathe in air, and when the lungs pump it out, it vibrates your vocal cords. 

Having a stronger voice entails increasing the amount of air that passes through the vocal cords. 

So get yourself a voice teacher; or some online voice training courses, and start working towards a better voice.

8. Do the homework, Rehearse— then Do the work

Do the homework

Prepare well, and you’ll have an easy time during your shows. Preparation actually gives you better flexibility when you perform. And how do you prepare? 

You can write scripts. Come up with a show rundown. Outline talking points. Find out more about your guest.

And don’t just allocate several minutes either. Invest all the time it takes to make your radio show great. Once you have done your ultimate best, go the extra mile:

Rehearse

Whether it’s standing before the mirror and reciting your lines, you need to rehearse your socks off! If you can commit the script to memory, all the better. You won’t panic when you forget to save your script on your computer, or if the print-outs are misplaced.

Do the work

Give your listeners the best show in the world.

Then repeat.

9. Be honest and real

Being honest goes beyond not lying. It also entails conducting yourself in a virtuous way. Exhibiting loyalty, sincerity, and trustworthiness.

Are these really important to become a great radio host, you may ask? Well, I’ll point you to some of the biggest personalities like Oprah, Ellen, etc. Are they genuine people? 

Being real, on the other hand, doesn’t involve attacking, heavily critiquing others, or saying inconsiderate things.
You make your feelings or opinions known in a respectable manner.

You’re direct with your feelings, making it much easier for listeners to connect with you.

Humans are feeling beings – keep that in mind.

10. Muster your temper

Your temper is a bucking, raging bull that can easily go off the rails.

Yeah, shows can go out of hand. A caller may say some unpleasant things. Guest may challenge your cool by walking out on you.

Radio shows are risky.

So – rattled – annoyed – challenged – irritated – agitated or vexed, keep a tight rein on your rogue bull. 

Chillax.

Keep a blue head like the All Blacks.

And let the show go on.

11. Watch on other radio hosts, then appropriate like an artist

Originally this tip was titled" spy on other radio hosts, then steal like an artist." Without a flair for the controversial, I went with the milder, more palatable heading. 

okay so... 

Footballers watch other footballers. Baseball players watch other players, observing them, searching for their secret strategies, assimilating them.

Those spare hours should be spent crawling the numerous stations of the world, listening to how other hosts make things work.

No one should be off limits in your act of reconnaissance: Presenters from your station. Presenters from other stations. And the greats promoted to glory.

12. Love the act of presenting

Presenting is the best thing in the world. Entertaining listeners is a joy. Radio rocks!

Well, let me add on these statements—by also stating that presenting is mostly stressful, and delivering great shows is grueling.

But if you love the process and the work, most of your days will be happy days.

You’ll not just look forward to the end of your on-air shift, so you can rush home or to the country club to pursue more pleasurable activities like a round of golf.

13. Be the presenter everyone want’s to work with

Are you a big shot, big ego personality, who alienates people you should keep close to you?

No? Great 🙂

Make everyone feel great because they are. Respect the cleaners, messengers, producers, fellow hosts, listeners…

Let the station’s mission and vision become your driving force. Work for the success of the station, regardless if you’re just there for a short tenure.

14. Confidence, energy and being entertaining

How do you make listeners hang on to your every word? By being confident, full of energy and entertaining.

And don’t fret if you aren’t funny, yet.

News flash! You can work on your funny bone. For instance, by taking a comedy course, studying how people deliver jokes, figuring out why some jokes spur laughs and why others draw crickets.

On confidence and energy; take on things that scare you. Get psyched up before shows. Pump your chest, and even do your shows on your feet!

15. Words are your tools

A fisherman’s tool is the fishing rod. The radio presenter’s implement is words. You can buy a new fishing rod as new models roll out.

Similarly, the host must polish his tool, his language skills. Doing so, you can speak the listener’s language; paint live pictures in their mind; stir in them feelings, from excitement to dread.

Exercise: Listen to sports commentators, particularly, to Peter Drury. And if you build up an intricate vocabulary, don’t use it to confound ordinary mortals like Russel Brand.

At the end of the day, you want to be clear, and get the message across as simply as you can.

16. Address the individual not the entire audience

“I hope you’re having a great morning. I hope traffic is taking it easy on you.”

Not…

“I hope all of our listeners are having a great morning.”
Favor the one-to-one conversation. Tailor your message to that one person.

Make them feel special – even if a thousand people listen to you.

17. Listen to your own shows

Some presenters may cringe at the thought of listening to their voices. Well, writers feel the same way when they go over material they wrote just a few hours ago.

They’ll see silly grammatical mistakes like confusing the word ‘There’ with ‘they.’

So apply this wisdom to your shows. Listen to your air-checks. Then ask:

How can I improve?

What should I have said to better bring out the message?

Were there better ways to say this or that?

18. Go big, or go home. Actually, don’t give up

Rejection – that’s something you’ll need to get used to in your quest to become a radio host.

“No” – that’s only a word, though it can feel like getting stabbed in the belly twice like Arya Stark.

Surmount the challenges, push on and stay on course.

Parting shot:

Books to read:

1. Essential Radio Skills: How to Present a Radio Show – teaches you the essentials like taking calls, etc.

2. Creating Powerful Radio: Getting, Keeping and Growing

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