Help:Live Radio Tips
Below are helpful suggestions from an old training coordinator at CJAM-FM, he recently sent them out on the NCRA mailing list for everyone to enjoy!
- As a volunteer in radio your first few shows "live" are likely to be rough. You're got to keep track of all the technical stuff and doing a show. Don't worry, they will
get better with practice and time.
- Mic usage. Pay attention to how you use the mic. You don't need to be right on top of it, but you don't want to be too far away either. 3 to 6 inches from the mic is
usually a good rule of thumb. Find a spot where your levels on the VU meter are peaking at 0.
- Talk, don't shout. Talk, don't whisper. Pretend you are talking to a friend who is sitting in front of you at the local Tim's.
- Watch your levels, try and have the VU meters peak at 0. When you are talking if the levels are too low then it'll set off the silence detector and result in the engineer
getting a phone call or text plus no one will be able to hear you. If your levels are pounding into the red then your voice will sound clipped and distorted. When playing music if your levels are too low it'll have the same result as if your voice is too low. If your levels are pounding in the red with music then it'll not only sound distorted, but the limiter will cut out a lot of the audio before it gets to air and it'll lose a lot of dynamic range. Those meters are there for a reason. Make them Peak at 0!
- Smile when you talk and be upbeat. You can hear the difference - it just sounds better on the air.
- Avoid lots of "ums, ahs, like, ands". It sounds bad and causes listeners to tune out. It presents an idea that you don't know what you are talking about.
- Try not to talk too slowly, this causes listeners to think you don't know what you're saying and they'll tune out. Aim for either your normal conversation talking speed or just a
little faster. Studies have shown that you can actually talk a little bit faster on the air then you normally talk in conversation and people will still be able to hear it and understand.
- If you are talking over top of music, either an intro / extro or a music bed, make sure your voice is louder then the music. If the music bed is too loud the listener won't
be able to hear what you are saying.
- That piece of foam that many stations put on top of the mic is a wind screen, not a pop filter. Unless your studio is windy the only thing it'll do is collect germs. For most
indoor studios you don't need it.
- Try to avoid sounding like you are reading a script. I can't tell you how many times I've hard a host on the air or someone reading a spot where it
sounds-like-they-have-been-asked-to-read-out-loud by their grade 4 teacher.
- If something minor goes wrong, just continue on and pretend it didn't happen. Don't make a big deal of it. Chances are most listeners won't notice. I've heard hosts on the air
talk about background noise that they didn't like, only to find myself that when listening to the air feed the background noise was barely audible. This type of thing makes people think that you are just complaining for the sake of complaining.
- If there are technical difficulties, don't talk about it on the air. Listeners don't want to hear that your headphones are not working or that a CD player broke. Make note of
these types of things on the trouble log / with management, but complaining about it on the air just makes us sound bad.
- Don't talk about other stations in the market! I've lost count of the number of times when I've tuned into a campus or community station and heard a broadcaster talk about what
they like or dislike about other broadcasters in the market. This is unprofessional and sounds bad. Instead talk about what your station does as if it is the norm for your station. Trust listeners to figure out if they like your station or another - they're going to do that anyway. As an example: "Coming up I'm excited to bring you a song from this great local band that just dropped their recording off at the station today", or "We're happy that we can bring you live the audio feed from tonight's city council meeting, in it entirety and commercial free!" Listeners will figure out that if this is the type of content they want to hear, that your station is the one they'll want to tune to.
- Try to avoid having a "Radio voice" when on the air and a "non-radio voice" the rest of the time. Just use the same voice you'd talk to someone with at a coffee shop, on the phone, etc. For just about all the volunteer programmers that I've heard trying to do a "radio voice" it usually comes off sounding very manufactured, fake, and often times egotistical. You're better off to just sound real.
- Try to make things fun. You're more likely to get more listeners if you do so.
- Try not to bore your listeners, focus on what your listeners are likely to enjoy. If you are doing primarily a music show then listeners are tuning in to hear the music and don't necessarily want to hear you talk for 10 minutes at a time about a particular band (note that interviews are a little different from just talking about a band). On the other hand if you're doing a 30 minute spoken word show then
listeners don't necessarily want to hear 20 minutes of music from the currents.
- Review your own show regularly. It is a good practice to pull the audio from your own show and listen to it, evaluate it for yourself, see what you like and don't. Pretend you
are a listener tuning in for the first time. Criticise yourself, be brutal with your own criticism, be your show's biggest critic!
- Listen to what other people are doing. You might hear techniques you like, you might hear things you don't like. No matter what you'll learn.
- If you're having trouble with any aspect (equipment, ideas for your show, or anything like that) don't be afraid to ask for help. We're all volunteers doing this for the love of
radio after all!
- Fill out your logs, meet any music / Can-Con quotas