I've been training beginner radio presenters for eighteen years now. I get asked this question a lot. Should I type out my words when I present a radio show?
All Radio DJs Are Different
Every radio presenter has their unique way of presenting a radio show. However, for beginners, I always make them script their links. In other words, I make them type out exactly what they're going to say. At first, they all moan and groan :)
"Hello & welcome to Whitechapel AM, your award winning radio station! Here with you for the next hour ….My name's Bobby, and you’re listening to Music to Make you Smile."
(Click here for an excellent example of how to start your show.)
The Circle of Doooooom
I make radio DJs type out their shows for a couple of reasons. When a radio presenter has to type out their entire show, it forces them to think about their content. It helps them see if their show is strong or weak. Beginner radio broadcasters are impatient. All they want to do is open the microphone and start speaking. However, it never works like this. In the real world of broadcasting, this method makes for an awful show.
Community Stations Need to Monitor Their Output
A lot of community stations don't bother to track their DJs content. They give the DJ an on-air slot and then just leave them alone. No one follows up on the content. The trouble with this method is that the DJ continually puts out weak shows. If no one is analysing their show, they're not going to improve. A radio show which is unprepared and unmonitored doesn't sound great. It also doesn't have many listeners. When no one is listening to you, your motivation for presenting begins to drop. When your motivation drops, then you can't be bothered prepping. When you're not prepping, then your show sounds poor, and around and around we go.
The Community Station Excuse
"We're voluntary run, so we don't have the manpower."
Do you want your station to broadcast poor shows or great shows?
When you set up the station, was your goal to broadcast weak shows? If you don't listen to the shows, how do you know if they're any good?
If the programme controller/station manager can't offer show feedback, then delegate that task to an experienced volunteer.
Scripting Makes You Prep
When I force beginner radio presenters to script their links, I'm forcing them to prep at the same time. My hope is that scripting their links makes their shows strong from the start. Presenters with prior experience hate doing this. Beginners who start off by scripting tend to end up better than the experienced presenters. I've found that the more experienced presenters that don't script tend to waffle a lot more. There's less focus to their links; there's less journey for their show, there's less purpose to their content.
Scripting Takes a Lot of Effort and Time
Scripting takes a long time, and it takes effort. Many beginners spend two days prepping their one hour show. They often come to me and say: "I can't believe how much work I've put into this." My reply is always the same: "Good. Now you'll have a strong show." And they always do.
Scripting Gives You Confidence
Many beginner DJs are very nervous. There are many things they have to master. For the first two weeks, we focus on technical operations. From week three to week eight, we focus on show content. Making the beginner DJ script gives them confidence. When they're confident, they relax.
At Whitechapel AM, (a hospital radio station in East London) I created an eight-week radio presenter course. From week three to week eight, myself and the DJ listen back to the shows. In other words, we analyse their content. It's at this moment when the penny drops. They suddenly realise their shows are pretty bad. I love seeing the light bulbs going off in their heads! They're like, "Yeah, I DO have to prep!"
The Bullet System
After a few shows, I give them the option of bullet pointing their links. They don't have to type out every single word. They can structure their show in chunks and ad lib a bit more.
Straight into music followed by story on Donald Trump
Move into The Beatles Taxman song
Give out station ident
Straight into song
Discuss topic about open mics
Then I ask them, which system do they prefer? Surprisingly, most of the presenters I've trained stick with typing out their links. There is no right or wrong way here. It's what works best for you. I like to script; others don't. Try both methods and ask yourself, which method produces the best show?
Make Sure It Sounds Natural
Of course, when you script a show, it has to read naturally. It's important to read out your links and practice them thoroughly. Actors do this with their lines; radio DJs need to do the same. If it doesn't sound like you, then retype it.
At the end of the day, whether you script or bullet point your show, you have to prep well. Crap in = crap out.
If you're a total beginner, my advice is: type out your links word for word. Later on, you can switch over to the bullet system if that's easier for you.
And now for coffee!
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Ashley Cowan runs the Online Radio School where he tutors in radio presenting and media interviewing techniques. He was a BBC World Service, Radio studio manager for nine years. He was also the station manager for Radio Kings, the hospital radio station for Kings College Hospital. Other crimes include being the training manager for K2K Radio & Whitechapel AM.
As a radio presenter, he once hosted radio shows on three FM radio stations. That was back in the day when FM radio was a big deal. The poor radio stations that had to put up with his brand of terrible comedy were: Radio DÅB, FLR 107.3 FM, and City FM.
When he's not writing about himself in the third person, then he was also a community radio DJ at Radio Kings, TGR Sound, Sydenham Radio, and Croydon Radio. He once did production work for Total Rock.com. That was a fun station with a cool owner and a great broadcast team! Brown fizzy water often accompanied the broadcasts!
He's London Irish (so he likes a beer) and he also teaches guitar. He's recently created an online Fingerpicking for Guitar course. There he teaches the art of fingerpicking for erm...guitar. Students can learn twenty different fingerpicking styles for their chords.
is an ex BBC, radio studio manager, and the ex manager of Radio Kings, the hospital radio station for King's College Hospital. He's presented on three FM stations and waaay too many community stations.