The Broadcast Education Association (BEA) meets every year in Las Vegas concurrently with the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) annual convention. In forty-plus years of being a professional broadcaster I never attended an NAB convention. In six years of being a university professor, I’ve attended six conventions. I know, like that’s insane, right?
This year I was asked to serve on the panel about mentoring talent. This panel was not only selected by peer-review but I’ve been told was ranked number 4 out of all the panel proposals that were accepted for this year’s meeting.
My section on panel will deal with mentoring college students to be air personalities. Here’s what I’m going to say.
People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
Whether you’re mentoring air talent or sales talent, the person needs to first know that you really care about them and their success. What people value most is “being valued.” The tricky part is you need to know how the student (employee can be substituted every time you see the word student) wishes to be valued and do that. It’s not about you and what you think is important.
The perception of being valued is completely in the eye of the student.
Understanding this distinction creates a big opportunity for you, the teacher, to influence the student to continually strive for better and better performance.
A person who feels valued will focus their energy to the task at hand and be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is contagious and spreads quickly to others.
Air talent likes to know they’re being heard. If you’re the teacher (or their boss) they want to know you’re listening. When you give them positive feedback it makes a big difference in their growth.
Everything is won or lost in the preparation stage.
Before I started teaching the Advanced Radio Performance class at my university, I noticed the students in our college radio station appeared to be bored when they were on-the-air. Those that weren’t bored were spending all their time on their smartphones. Needless to say, listening to the radio station was pretty uneventful too.
What I tell my radio performance students is the same thing I tell my broadcast sales students, if you go on the air without being prepared, you won’t attract listeners, just as if you go on a sales call without being prepared you won’t make sales.
Have Clear Goals
Establish clear goals for your class and then everyone will be on the same page. Be consistent in dealing with students both individually and as a group. Help your students to have a clear picture in their mind of what success sounds like.
Plan, Prepare, Perform
I give each of my performance students a HOT CLOCK to plan out their shows on. Each of their clocks must contain a station ID at the top of the hour, weather breaks twice an hour, a break about something happening on our campus, a break about something happening in our city, a break about something interesting that’s happening in their life, a break that tells us something new about the local musical artist we are featuring that hour that we didn’t know about.
They need to personalize their show.
If they are interested in sports, then I ask them to put a sports commentary into their show or a sports report. If they are interested in movies, then I ask them to give us a movie review or preview what new movies will be playing in our area.
Be present. Be now. Be personal.
Then practice, practice, practice off-the-air before you enter the studio to perform your show.
Students need to learn the discipline of planning and preparing before each of their shows. I tell my students about my recent guest appearance on 650AM-WSM in Nashville. I prepared for three days to do a four hour air shift.
My performance students that had previously volunteered at our college radio station tell me that now they are planning and preparing their radio shows now find radio exciting and fun. They say the hours they are on the air just fly by. One student said her mother called her and said she sounded so much better and she told her mom that it was due to her professor’s mentoring.
Remember, when your students deliver, be sure to praise them.
Catch People Doing Things Right
Ken Blanchard has written many great management books. I was delighted when one day Twitter notified me that I had a new follower and it was Ken Blanchard. Ken preaches the way to have people do more of the right things, all the time is to catch people doing things right and praise them.
Since making the move from managing radio stations for most of my life, to now teaching at a university, I’ve learned that most of the same things one needs to do in the business world with professional talent, works the same way with student talent.
Everyone loves to hear they’re doing a good job.
When I’m listening to one of my students shine on the air, I call them up and tell them how great they sound – or I send them a text message – or post it on our Facebook page for the entire world to see.
Praise in public and critique in private.
I won’t ever call up a student if they are doing a bad job while they’re on the air and tell them that. That’s the worst thing you can ever do to air talent.
I might call them up if there’s a technical issue that needs to be corrected – like, I think you’re saying some really great things, but your mic level is so low I can’t really hear you. Make sure you’re properly modulating those VU meters when you’re talking and don’t just think you’re OK because it sounds OK in your headphones.
Air Check Sessions
One of the things I found to be different in college radio with my students than I found in commercial radio is doing air check sessions. Professional radio talent would rather have a root canal at their dentist than go through an air check session of their last show.
Students love it.
I schedule private one-on-one air check sessions with my students and we go over a telescoped air check of their last show. Now to get that telescoped air check, my students need to scope them from a full-length air check. This means by the time we sit down to listen to it together, they’ve heard it themselves a lot.
What’s amazing is they come to these sessions with a list of things they need to improve. All I need to do is amplify on what they’re hearing and offer suggestions for their next show.
What you want students to hear when you listen to their air check together is their delivery style. You want it to be natural, like they are speaking to one listener in a conversational manner.
Whether the student is doing a show live or voice tracking, it is important that they always act as they are live and understand they need to maintain listener ear-contact.
Radio is an intimate and personal communications medium.
The whole key is to get students to critically listen. Critically listen to their own air checks, to other students and to professional broadcasters.
Learning to be a great radio personality is like learning to be great at anything. It takes practice, practice, practice. Malcolm Gladwell wrote it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to master something. Just remember, practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.
In other words, you need to coach your students to not develop bad habits that will be hard to break but keep moving them in a direction that will make them a superstar.