By Paul Kaye
Tuesday November the 1st, 2016
More Things Talent Should Know
I feel fortunate that I get to listen to lots of radio. I feel lucky that I am able to spend time with talent talking about their dreams, challenges and opportunities. As old fashioned as it is, I still carry a notebook with me. As I converse and brainstorm with talent I find myself scribbling down reminders and thoughts both during and after these conversations. On a rare evening where the apartment is quiet, I’ll make a pot of coffee and flick back through the pages, trying to decipher the scrawl that I claim is handwriting.
These are some of the most recent scribbles that I think are worth sharing…
- Talk for impact not time. I have lost count of the number of times a jock has said to me “I’d like to do mornings so I can talk more”. Most talent think being successful is about how long they are allowed to talk for. That is not the case. Being a personality is about authentically sharing your opinions, perspectives, thoughts and emotions with your audience. It is sharing those thoughts in a way that has impact. Impact is about communicating with conviction. Starting with a strong, provocative, position and carefully choosing words that will help others visualise your point of view. Impact is achieved with clarity of thought and the right words and is often weakened by duration. If you want to be heard then opt for the fewest possible words. Just make sure each of those words really count. Impact matters. Duration doesn’t.
- Share thoughts not subjects. Average talent talk about a subject. Great talent share a thought. The difference is subtle but understanding this is a fundamental key to successful communication. A subject may be “a shooting in a neighbouring town.” When you choose to talk about that subject there are no mental boundaries created; you can offer up any thought, idea, feeling or information about the “shooting in a neighbouring town.” If your words loosely relate to the subject you can share them. By not narrowing your focus you have created a wide scope to explore and discuss. Choosing to share a thought about the subject may see a talent say something like “There must be nothing more terrifying than starring down the barrel of a gun”. The talent then spends the rest of the break sharing thoughts and examples to support or emphasis their point (the initial thought). It focuses the talk, making it more visual, compelling and easier to consume.
- Don’t be an island. Too many shows sound like an island from the station they broadcast on. They feel like separate entities. When a show sounds vastly different to the rest of the station it makes for a disjointed brand experience. It’s important for talent to weave themselves into the fabric of the station they broadcast on, not distance themselves from it. They should embrace what the station is all about. Talk about the music. Enthuse about the promotions. Highlight the other personalities. You should showcase what makes the station great. Shows and talent that prioritize their own agenda over the stations often don’t last long and are damaging to the station.
- The lost art of ‘crafting’. Before computers and automation, on air talent had a lot to think about. They were responsible for how every element of the station sounded; they cued up the music, loaded the commercials, and expertly wove the imaging into the output. Nowadays, because computers have made things easier we have become lazier. Talent seem to only care about what happens when their mic is on. That’s a shame and probably explains why there are unnecessary gaps on air, imaging crashing into vocals or incorrect copy playing. It is still the talent’s responsibility to ensure that everything going to air is done so free of error and in the best way to maximise flow. You are the last line of defense. You are responsible for the quality control of the station. You are the conductors of the overall listening experience. Crafting the show is part of what you do.
- Start with the end. You need to reverse engineer your breaks. Start with the end line and work backwards. Think about the final emotion you want people to experience. Then work out how you can get to that ending in the most efficient way. Too often breaks fail to entertain because there is no direction; talent simply believe they will make it work in the moment. That’s foolish and often evident on the air. You need to know where you’re heading or you won’t get there. Stand-up comedians often write the punchline first, your break should be constructed in the same way.
- Hook upfront. Winston Churchill was a master of storytelling. He believed you needed to “Begin strongly and start with emotion”. He is quoted as saying “Move the audience. I don’t care how, just move them”. Ask yourself ‘what is my strongest reaction (thought/feeling) to this topic?” and “Why do I want to share this with the audience?” The answer will lead you to the hook. That is the part you should get into the first sentence of your break. Your audience will make a decision to listen or not based on how quickly you grab their attention and pique their interest. Do it quickly!
- Concentration. Exceptional performance requires concentration. It requires all your mental capacity. Too often we allow ourselves to perform at a lower level than we are capable of because we allow ourselves to be distracted. How many times do you check your phone, personal email or even engage in conversation with someone that has nothing to do with the show? Every time your concentration is broken it takes about 10 minutes to properly re-engage with the task you were doing before the interruption. That’s a long time! I hear lots of radio that isn’t as good as it could be because it’s obvious the talent is distracted. Actors can’t stop to respond to a text midway through a live theatre performance – why should it be any different for talent? If you want to be a great entertainer you need to have the same discipline as they do.
I suspect none of this is new to you. It wasn’t intended to be. What I am most often dumbfounded by is the fact that my notebook is full of reminders about the basics of radio and entertainment. My notes serve to remind me that a lot of what I spend my time doing is teaching the basics or reinforcing the basics. That’s not a bad thing, it just highlights their importance. Success is the result of doing the basics exceptionally well time after time. The great performers understand and respect the basics – that is probably why they are labelled great.
Oh, and here is one more that is fast becoming one of my pet peeves…
- The word ‘details’ is boring. It hurts you every time you use it. I challenge you to pay attention to how often you hear the word ‘details’ on the radio. Now I have said it, you won’t be able to escape it! Whenever I hear it I ask myself, who wants the details? No-one. “For more details” is an over-used phrase that signifies that there is a layer of fine print somewhere designed to trip us up. Maybe just opt for the friendlier and less formal “for more…” who doesn’t want more of something they are interested in or excited by? No-one.
About Paul Kaye
Originally from England, Paul spent nearly a decade programming radio stations in the UK before moving to Canada in 2012. While working for Newcap Radio, Paul programmed Classic Hits, Hot-AC and CHR formats in Vancouver & Calgary. Paul was also Newcap’s National Talent Development Director, tasked with improving performance across all content teams, overseeing syndication and leading talent acquisition. In 2016, he joined Rogers Media, as National Talent Coach and National Format Director (CHR). Paul was somehow named International PD of the year in 2016 (vote re-count pending) and is a certified coach. Paul lives in Toronto and can be reached at [email protected]
Other Puget Sound Radio articles by Paul Kaye HERE