One of the main differences between real radio talent and people who just talk on the radio can be summarised in one word: preparation. In the current shift within the industry towards a return to more personality-driven radio, this has become even more critical. So here’s a warning: if your PD doesn’t currently insist to see your prep on demand, they soon will do; because they will carry the responsibility of ensuring that when you go on air, what you say provides added value to the station’s offering.
Think about it this way: what is the highlight of your show? The music? If that’s the case, unless you’re the host of a specialised music show I might as well listen to my iPod, which means you are immediately replaceable! If you say that YOU are the highlight of your show (which you should be) then obviously you continually do stuff that is amazing or remarkable. Unless you can suck brilliance out of thin air for every single link you’re going to do, you obviously plan what you’re going to do. In which case, you prep for every show. So here’s my next question, and you may not like it: if your PD were to ask to see your prep for your next show, what will you show him or her?
Let me be blunt: if you don’t prep for every show, you shouldn’t be on radio. And, judging by the number of requests I get from radio professionals about prep, this is becoming increasingly realised.
So here’s a suggestion as to how you should go about doing the preparation for your show and what it should look like. The first thing you need to do is design a template for your show using either a table in MS Word (Mac OS Pages) or a spreadsheet in MS Excel (or Mac OS Numbers). If you use an iPad or tablet it should be a in a suitable format:
- Firstly, allocate a place for the show’s title and the date. It’s also a good idea to ensure that next to it is a place wherein you can add any information pertaining to the date e.g. ‘anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison’ or ‘National Dress Up Your Dog Like a Squirrel Day’;
- You should have 4 columns; one each for the following: time, feature, contacts, and notes;
- Next, allocate the correct number of rows for, say, every 15 minute interval (i.e. a three-hour show should have 12 rows);
- Split the rows where necessary adding in set station features such as news, weather, sport and traffic. If possible, block these and colour them because they are immovable. They will also provide, at a glance, reference points for the show;
- Further split the rows and add in the set show features such as competitions, music features etc. Some of these might be regular features in which case they can be identified as such by using, for example, bold type;
- Add in the set spot (ad) breaks; and,
- Don’t forget to include space for any show-end features such as the final thought for the day.
This is your show’s template and is only part of your show prep. For every show you should add to this template information specific to each individual show and save the template as the prep template for that specific day (e.g. ‘Show Temp 12/04/16’). Information to be added will include special mentions that need to be made (e.g. promos), and information pertaining to features on the show such as questions for the competitions, contact people, phone numbers etc.
Then, when it is printed you should have a graphic representation of your show that is your guideline for the show’s execution. If you prefer to have it in electronic form in front of you (on a tablet or laptop/computer screen), make sure you can read it at a glance. The advantage of a printed copy will come to the fore shortly.
The blank spaces can be filled in whilst you’re on air with information that then comes to light, such as names and contact numbers of winners, brilliant links that you did etc. Immediately after you have finished your show, you should revisit the template for that day and add in any notes that you took whilst on air. This way you will develop a history of all your shows that you should keep on file. It is essential that you keep a history of each show.
The second part of the show prep is the research that you do. This should be done for every show and will be determined by factors such as your interests, the profile of your audience and what the station’s research has determined are the audience’s interests. Examples include:
- Celebrity gossip;
- Sport happenings that might not be covered in a sports report or that are current enough to be discussed with the sports presenter;
- Quirky stories from around the world;
- Important anniversaries or events that happened on the day in question in the past;
- ‘Top 10’ lists (such as the Top 10 reasons why massaging a moose is not good for you);
- One liners;
Never go into a show with reams of paper covering the vast array of research prep. Apart from cluttering the studio and your workspace, it destroys trees and that’s not very nice. You should select the information you’re going to use and incorporate it, i.e. cut and paste it, it into a single document; then name it (e.g. ‘Show Prep 12/04/16’)
You should therefore go into the studio with two documents: The show template and the show prep. Apart from being the very foundation of your show, they serve another, more surreptitious, function. They should be e-mailed to your PD before every show.
This will make the PD sit up and realise that you have prepared for the show; and that’s essential when they are considering promotions within the team; when they’re looking for someone who has ‘the edge’.
[All the work here is original. Nothing has come from any other resource. So, if you’re going to use or repost any of The Edge then please give due credit. If not….fine – be an asshole.]