In the 20 or so years I’ve been teaching radio, I’ve realised there are a few universal truths about the subject that cut across the sector.
The rule of one – Where radio works best is when it talks to one person. Work out who your listener is and talk to them and only them.
The listener is an idiot – Actually, they’re not. They are listening with half an ear, so remember that sometimes you need to explain things to them. They are an intelligent idiot, so don’t talk down to them but tell them what you’re doing.
I know you – Find out who your listener is (or who you want them to be). There’s rarely a ‘general’ audience for anything. There will be something that focuses them down, this might be age, location, gender, interest or attitude. Find the common thread and tailor your content to that.
Engage – Whatever you do, engage your listener. That might be emotionally, intellectually or through appealing to their curiosity or self-interest. This is where knowing your listener is key.
Listeners notice what’s not there – If your radio drama is supposed to sound like it’s happening on a train, it needs to sound like: both in terms of sound effects but also sound design. Your listener will never notice and that’s what you want.
Edit… and then edit again – A tighter script or a tighter package can often be a better script or piece of work. This means making sure every word has a use and the interview you’re editing doesn’t ramble or repeat. It’s hard work but it is worth it.
Write for the ear – This can be one of the hardest things about learning radio. We spend our lives being told how to write and we bring those same rules to radio, where those same rules and word choices sound wrong. At best they can sound overly formal, at worst you fail to sound human. Write as you talk and use words you (or your listener) would use everyday.
Have a plan – When presenting it’s really easy to blunder into the next link and hope for the best. You might be lucky. The planets might align and you deliver something wonderful, but more than likely you won’t. Before you open the mic work out how the link is going to start and end, taking note of the thing you’ve got lined up next. You could script it, but even a mental plan is better than hoping for the best.
Who are you again? Listeners tune in and out all time, so remind them of who you are. This is especially important in multi-voice shows as it can soon be confusing as to who everyone is.
Don’t write questions – When planning for an interview it’s tempting to write out a list of questions. Don’t. They can act life a life-belt that you cling to no matter what, rather than listening. My suggestion is to have a ‘shopping list’ of things you need to talk about, that way you get everything you need and maybe a few special offers that you didn’t know were there.
…more to follow soon.