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Novice Presenters worst pitfalls - Top 10? And solutions!

By Glyn Roylance
Posted 26 January 2015, 2.37pm est
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Reading James's article about Keep it Simple Stupid I said to myself - "yep - I hear that sort of thing all the time on community stations", let alone national stations.

So I thought it might be useful to have a Top 10 of the most common, most annoying mistakes that novice presenters make. To be useful and to help banish these mistakes, I advise we need to describe the "what" it is that's annoying and the "why" it is annoying to listeners and "improve" suggestions examples. Some may be controversial, but I think many will be universal!

eg:

What
Giving information (eg: programme schedule, what's-on events etc) as a relentless list

Why
Listeners don't sit there with a pen and paper. After 2 or 3 the average listener looses attention. After 3 or 5 they probably tune away or tune-out mentally.

Improve
Weave one event plug into a link, maybe related to the preceding or following song (if music radio) or conversation (if talk radio), and try and "sell" it with a reason for attending. If there are many events, refer to your events page on your website instead!

Comments

PRO2 years, 10 months ago

While "one thought per link" is a little too simplistic, I think it is a good rule of thumb to go by.

2 years, 9 months ago

There's one big ptoblem with only doing a single what's on at a time. You only have one chance to find something that will appeal to your listener, and if you miss, then in your listener's mind, the previous link will have been useless because it hasn't spoken to them.

By doing 3 what's ons in a link, and three is hardly a relentless list, seven or more is probably a relentless list, you have three chances to find one thing that your listener would be interested in, and you are less likely to have a listener feel that you haven't spoken to them, and as a result maybe turn off the radio or worse, turn over to another station.

2 years, 9 months ago

When I started on 107.7 The Wolf, the "What's Ons" were a sponsored feature, so they couldn't be mixed into a link. So I was taught to do them as 1 long, 2 short, ie read one out in full (always remebering to use the script as a base, not read it verbatim), then add on the headline detail of two others. Not only did it keep the link shorter and more interesting, it helped stop the reads from sounding the same all the time. Very important in an hourly feature.

2 years, 9 months ago

Hi I'm just commenting so I can keep across this good advice! I'm helping out a community radio station so I will be sure to pass it on..trust me it's needed! :)

2 years, 9 months ago

What
Speaking to 'You guys out there' and using 'Radio Speak'

Why
Radio is an intimate medium

Improve
Speak directly to the listener (Singular), in language you'd use in normal conversation.

2 years, 9 months ago

Glenn beat me to the most important one - talk to one person - using headphones on a mobile you could be whispering into their ear. Also, you don't have to introduce each track. Listen to how stilted it sounds when a TV presenter tries to do radio. In TV one says what is happening next - on radio you can just let the next song creep up on what you've been talking about

2 years, 9 months ago

If you strip out all the furniture, the time checks, travel, weather, bloody what's on's, musical facts, trivia, DJ crutch words, then what's left? What do you bring to a show? What's interesting about you?

It doesn't matter whether you're doing crunch and rolls or 40mins of speech - what is it that you bring to the show, to the listener. Why should I spent my time with you? What have you got to say?

Also - word economy. Again whether you speak for 40mins an hour or 4 mins an hour, remove unnecessary words, phrases, paragraphs. Where are you trying to get to? What's the shortest way to communicate that point?

2 years, 9 months ago

Some good ones guys - keep 'em coming!

Another danger area is "ad-lib" conversations between more than one presenter. All to often these become stilted, rambling and utterly, utterly uninteresting as they talk about what they think, mostly over the top of each other. 15 minutes later you've lost the will to live, if you're still tuned in!

What
Boring ad-hoc studio conversations

Why
They are irrelevant to the listener if they contain just in-jokes and personal opinion

Improve
Spend some time planning your ad-hoc conversation. Make them relevant. Agree who opens, what point is being discussed, broadly the shape of the conversation. Agree the prompt to exit the conversation. Keep is to less than x seconds (x=60-120?)

PRO2 years, 9 months ago

Clichés that nobody says in real life. "Weatherwise". "The top of the hour". The time in mainland Europe. Everyone saying they love your show when they get in touch. Hang on a second, I'm beginning to criticise Steve Wright. Let's start again.

What
Things people never say in real life

Why
Because the whole strength of radio is its human connection

Improve

  • "Weatherwise... a rainy outlook for the area" = "Tomorrow it might rain"
  • "It's three twenty-seven in the UK, four twenty-seven in Europe" = "It's nearly half past three"
  • "Now, the news of the queues, and turning to the A12" = "If you're trying to get home, the A12 is running a bit slow."
  • "Still problems on the A12..." = "There are problems on the A12". Nobody remembered what you said half an hour ago. Sorry.
  • "The A14 is closed because of an incident" = "The A14 is closed."
  • "That song got to number 4 in 1975" = "Elton once sung that song on Morecambe and Wise, and they fooled about behind him and took his hat off"

2 years, 9 months ago

What (1):
The "dead end" link: painting oneself in to a verbal cul-de-sac.

Why (1):
At best, it sounds a bit clumsy; at worst, it can result in some truly cringeworthy gear shifts, especially if there's a significant difference in tone between two items.

Improve (1):
Think before you speak; make sure you have at least a rough roadmap of where you're going: beginning, middle, end. Write down some bullet points if you need to.

What (2):
Over-scripting

Why (2):
As mentioned above: radio needs to be human and intimate. Whilst reading from a script has its place (news/sport bulletins, legally sensitive items etc), inexperienced presenters often sound like they're reading: the result is often neither human nor intimate.

Improve (2):

  • Script less where appropriate: bullet points are much better.
  • When scripting is necessary, write better! Writing for radio is a skill in itself, and very different from writing for print media. Don't be afraid to use contractions, colloquialisms where appropriate and punctuate for breaths. Take care over numbers: if you're reading out loud, does it make more sense to write "1,000,000,000,000" or "one billion"? "Louis XIV" or "Louis the Fourteenth"? (and yes, I've seen that last one in real life...)
  • Hone your delivery: listen back to yourself regularly. Aim to transition seamlessly between ad-lib links and scripted reads; there should be no change in 'voice' between the two.

2 years, 9 months ago

Simon - I'm totally with you on 2. Do you have an example of 1?

2 years, 9 months ago

I always tell people to think of a link like a tweet - when you go over 140 characters (or in the case of your link, whatever you decide is the optimum length), you need to go back and decide which bits to take out so it still makes sense.

2 years, 9 months ago

It really irritates me ..... but I have often heard it on community radio and occasionally on some English BBC local stations.

What:
Presenter: " And coming up now on Radio Local, it's time for latest news, sport and weather with the Radio Local News."
This is followed by a 10 second jingle "The Latest News. Sport and Weather. This Is Radio Local News."
Newsreader. "Radio Local News I'm ......."

Why.
I'm just a listener. I'm not stupid. I already know what the station is called because I selected it in the first place and it probably says so on the display of the device I'm playing it through.

Improve.
Why say something that a pre-recorded jingle says for you. Stop it right now.

I've even heard a presenter on a community radio station tucked away in the Pennines, reading the news, doing exactly that leading up to the news, then finishing by saying, "This has been the latest local news, sport and weather brought to you by Radio Local News." He then played the exact same news jingle that was played leading up to it, which, of course was followed by one of those hideous one minute long music sweeps that play bytes of sings interspersed with station idents. That minute and a bit could have been half a 60's song, you know.

Whilst over-repetitiveness on the radio makes some radio forumites cream their cakes, it does my head in.

2 years, 9 months ago

"Happy hump day" - NO.

And I'm totally with David Lloyd on "earlier accidents".

2 years, 9 months ago

Gosh I agree with Art. Never, ever repeat the production.

2 years, 9 months ago

Fader Wanking.

The curse of many radio stations and their presenters. Somebody has made up a rule, somewhere (though I've never seen it written), that presenters absolutely MUST attempt to talk up to the vocals of the song, whether they're capable of it or not.

Some professional presenters are able to continue a conversation and round it off just in time for the singer to song their hearts out.

Sadly, way too many other presenters just spouf out words, any words, just to get up to the vocals, giving rise to station ID-ing for the sheer heck of it (even though they already ID'd the station two or three times during the link), naming the song, naming the artist, naming the album, naming the singer, naming the drummer, naming the friends of the drummer and so on. To make matters worse, the pull the fader down to say a few words, bring the fader back up to let a few notes pas by, pull the fader down again to say a few more words, bring the fader back up again to let more notes pass by, pull the fader down again to say yet more rubbish then bring the fader back up to find that they missed the start of the vocals and the first coupe of words of the song have already been sung.

What.
Persistently dipping the fader of a really good song that the listener wants to hear, just so as you can talk rubbish.

Why.
It sounds awful and is really irritating.

Improve
Leave the talking up-to-vocals to people that are really skilled at it and can do so seemlessly with having to masturbate the fader (the only bring the fader up when they've finished talking about something interesting).

When I ran an online community station, I forbid the presenters from talking over songs. Instead I separated the songs from their links by having a station ident at either end of the link, for which they spoke over a bed. They could do as much fader dipping as they wanted over the bed during their link but the songs remained intact and free from presenter pollution.

2 years, 9 months ago

Watch your levels.

Following on from my post above, here's another irritant. The presenter decides to talk over the final minute of a song because they think they have something important to say. Well, they probably have BUT they seem to want to play with that fader again when doing so. Tay FM presenters are some of the worst offenders.

What.
Bringing that fader down so much that the song almost totally disappears from the airwaves, whilst you say something half interesting. Then you stop for breath and bring the fader up from almost zero, to let a few notes pass by which we can actually hear (amazingly). Then you do it again and a great song is lost to the wilderness for a few moments whilst you keep plugging a premium rate competition that no-one in your service area stands a chance of winning but you charge for the phone calls anyway. Then you have to breathe again and that song suddenly re-appears from the other world that it went to for a few moments then, - oh, it's gone again.

Why.
I might have been enjoying that song. If I wasn't interested in what you were saying, I could attempt to ignore you and at least try to listen to it playing in the background.

Improve.
It's not hard to get a perfect balance between the song in the background and your voice. Take the fader down to that level and LEAVE IT FECKING ALONE until you're done with all that talking.

2 years, 9 months ago

Totally with you on both Art! Also when crossfading to another song, many presenters over-use the faders - often you don't need to touch them at all if you wack the new song in at full fader as the old one naturally fades.

It reminds me of another similar, if almost opposite problem...

What
Letting a song fade out until the very last squeak before background noise obscures it

Why
It just really kills and pace or continuity in the presentation - almost sounds like the presenter's late back into the studio from a call of nature!

Improve
Unless it's a classic with a dead end (Stairway to heaven, Don't like Mondays etc etc), then many songs just come to a natural point where they repeat to fade. These are almost designed to be talked over or crossfaded to the next song/advert whatever. Use it - whilst paying attention to Art's, ahem, fader advice.

2 years, 9 months ago

This may have already been covered but everything should be explained on air as if you're explaining it to a mate. No matter whether you're doing a live read, a promo for someone's show or the weather ask yourself if you would explain it in that way if you weren't on the radio. If the answer is no then you need to think about how you're delivering the information to the listeners. If it's the weather then ask yourself how you'd answer a friend if they asked you what the weather will be like. Also think about what time, what day it is and what the listeners might actually be interested in finding out. You may be on a mid morning show and normally do the rest of the day, overnight and a quick look ahead to the next day. If it's a Friday listeners will also want to know what's happening over the weekend.

The same goes for travel updates, make them relevant with information that is actually useful to a driver. Recently I heard a travel update on a community station that was the presenter telling me that the roads were fine 2 hours ago when he got the bus into the studio. As the update was unsponsored and it was a Saturday I wondered why bother with it in the first place.

If you're talking about motorways use junction numbers as well as junction names and also think about your TSA and which way drivers are likely to be heading. I'll give you an example if the problem is on the north edge of your TSA and will only be a problem to southbound drivers it's a waste of time talking about it because people who can act on the information won't be listening. If however a problem is out of your TSA but will cause a problem for drivers in your area who are heading that way, it should be mentioned.

Remember that every time you open the mic you have a new listener so whatever you're doing on air needs to make sense to someone who's never heard your show before. If it's a competition then a quick re-set of the question makes it relevant to any new listeners and if it's a topic and you're reading replies you need to re-set the topic. If new listeners don't know what's going on they may feel excluded and may find another station.

If you're making a promo for your show it needs to make sense to someone who's never heard your show. I once heard a breakfast promo that was mainly 2 presenters falling about laughing. It's possible that if I'd been listening I may have found that one of the most entertaining pieces of radio I'd ever heard, but listening to that 20 second clip 8 hours later out of context didn't make me want to tune into the show. If a show promo doesn't make someone want to listen to the show then it's 20 seconds of wasted airtime.

These are a few that come to mind but the most important lesson is to be yourself and live a life. By stopping being obsessed by radio and getting a normal life I became a far better broadcaster.

2 years, 8 months ago

HOT TOPIC for today.

If you're in a radio studio, DO NOT SWEAR!!!!!! Ever! Even if you think you're off-air.

More especially if your name is Robin Galloway and you have had DECADES of radio experience, are a highly paid professional on a radio station owned by a very large group - and you're so gutter-mouthed that you use the word "motherf****r" as part of your everyday language. That word, which is probably one of the most offensive swear words in the English langauge, puts Robin Galloway in the same league as DJ Rankin, who uses it all the time when he's "mixing" tunes whilst playing them at high speed so as the singers sound like chipmunks and whose fanbase is entirely made up of Glasgow neds (aka chavs).

Somehow this extrememly basic rule, that is understood and respected by most hospital, student and community radio presenters, was totally forgotten by Robin and Adelle (regardless of whether they were live on air or not), despite being supposed professionals. If was a programmer or manager of Heart FM in Scotland, I would have suspended them immediately.

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