presenter on air guide 3
BAY-VIBES PRESENTER’S ‘ON AIR’- GUIDE SECTION 3/2018
Introduction to Radio Presentation
Radio is the most universal form of mass communication. With receivers priced as low as a couple of pounds, radio gives listeners instant access to unlimited hours of entertainment, news, information, and views from an ever-increasing number of radio stations. As a medium of communication, radio has many advantages — it’s relative cheapness and simplicity, it’s ability, to distribute information quickly, and its warmth. The continued advances in communications technology have greatly benefitted radio broadcasters. The equipment is becoming easier to use, cheaper to buy, and more effective. Television’s technology is far more complex and expensive. Newspapers still need the processes of typesetting, layout, and printing. Radio, however, can almost instantly be covering events around the world, or the neighbourhood, by the use of a microphone or telephone. Newspapers and television are visual media. You see, what you read or view. Radio is the medium of imagination. The words and sounds the program-maker selects, stimulate the minds of listeners, who create the ‘images’ themselves. Thus the range and intensity of emotions, events, moods, and situations, radio can create, is limited only by the imagination of each listener. Together with the strengths of radio come its weaknesses.
Radio is limited by time. A person reading a newspaper, can take as much time as necessary, to absorb an article, and can also be selective about which articles to read. A person watching television, is likely to be enticed by the visual ‘cues’. It is also more difficult to convey complex or large amounts of information over radio. The term ‘mass communication’ is misleading. It suggests, that an announcer is addressing a huge, massed audience. In reality, radio is highly personal. It is usually just one person talking with another. The program-maker is ‘right there’, with the distance between announcer and listener usually not more than a couple of metres. Never, ever refer to your audience as “listeners”, or “all you people out there” – to the person in the kitchen, doing the dishes, you are talking to them as an individual. By referring to listeners collectively, you can alienate the individual. Radio can be a warm, intimate medium. You, as the presenter, (whilst ‘on air’) – You are ‘BAY-VIBES’.
Announcing is a skill, that only develops through well directed effort, and lots of practice. Having a great voice, or the ‘Gift of the Gab’, won’t necessarily make you a great radio announcer. To be a good announcer, you must have the will to practice at all the skills involved, and to do the best job, that you can. Smile, when ‘On Air’. If you are not enjoying, what you are doing, the listener will know by your voice and presentation.
Announcing General Considerations
The first time in front of a microphone is terrifying for most people. Don’t feel, as if you’re any different. Just remember that you are communicating to one person and it becomes less frightening for you, and more comfortable for the listener. Microphones are sensitive pieces of equipment. They will pick up and amplify what you say, and how you say it. So – try to relax. Give yourself plenty of time to settle into the studio; to have your notes or script, music, or tapes organised. Take a few moments to breathe deeply, and let your body relax. A tense, grim face will be reflected in how you sound. A smile, while you are talking has a wonderful effect; you’ll sound friendly and at ease. The human voice is a marvelous instrument — use it’s warmth, modulation, tone and power. You are Not ‘On Stage’. The effective distance between the announcer and the listener isn’t very great. There is no need to use a loud tone, exaggerate diction or to get too close to the microphone. It will only sound artificial and confusing. Let the natural acoustics of the studio work for you — keep back a bit from the microphone and aim for your natural conversational voice. Keep a steady, resonant tone, with subtle use of emphasis, loudness and pace. There are very few broadcasters able to ‘ad-lib’ effectively for long periods. Use notes, or even scripts, to keep track of what you’re saying, if you find you keep getting lost. It is very easy to lose your train of thought, especially, if you’re also concentrating on which button to press next. Try to avoid the old “this next track is…is..hang on – I’ll have a look for the cover which is here somewhere… (rustle rustle… silence…)”. If you lose your way, it’s often easier to just get the next item on and work out exactly what’s happening without the microphone on.
A good trick is to rehearse — even if it’s an ‘ad-lib’. Running through things a few times aloud will help you keep focused, when you actually turn the microphone on. To sound sincere and convincing you must understand quite clearly what you are talking about. Remember that a script should be written to be heard, not to be read. ‘Dead Air’ is that period of time, when nothing is being transmitted. It might only be a few seconds, but to the listener it might seem like hours. The best way to avoid dead air, is to plan ahead, always have a backup plan. Dead Air is usually the result of the presenter’s failure to properly ‘cue’ the music. Dead Air will cause a bit of confusion and panic for the budding presenter. Smile when ‘On Air’, even, if you are not enjoying what you are doing, the listener will know by your voice and presentation. If you are new to presenting, relax, the training won’t hurt and the trainer is there to help you. If you make a mistake, don’t panic, move on! Being relaxed, helps make a good show. If you are not relaxed, it will be very evident to the listeners, and will detract from your show. During the first session, your trainer will give you a quick overview of what the training will involve, introduce you to the studio equipment, and set up some guidelines that you and the trainer will need to follow, whilst ‘On Air’.
‘BAY-VIBES’ has a strict policy, forbidding foul/obscene language ‘On Air’, especially the F*** and C*** words, and strongly recommends, that no foul or obscene language be used, at any time, while in the studio.
If your trainer asks you to read an artical ‘Off-Air’, don’t get embarrassed or insulted, it is done for a number of reasons.
1. It helps you to relax.
2. It tests your ability to read while ‘On Air’.
3. It prepares you mentally, before going ‘On Air’.
The importance of being on time for your show, can not be stressed enough. It is a good idea that you arrive at the studio 5 – 15 minutes before the news, this gives you time to preview the weather report, sort out and arrange your music and paperwork for a smooth flow, and helps with a smooth changeover.
Radio is a very simple form of communication and listeners need not be constantly reminded of the advances in technology that separate them from the ‘radio-makers’. Where the television viewer is constantly reminded that the picture is coming from a box in the corner, radio listeners are usually only aware of the sound. Therefore they don’t need to be made aware of the mechanics of broadcasting. Try not to say things like “the CD player is stuffing up” or “oops the microphone wasn’t switched on”. These technical details are part of your environment — not part of your audience’s. Try not to refer to equipment of computer ‘On Air’. The listener hears a program, or an announcement. As a general rule, never apologise for a slight mishap, on the whole, most people won’t have noticed that, what you have done, was not intentional anyway, and if you have put a track on the wrong speed, for example, the listener will realise and won’t need to be told. Just remedy the situation as quickly and as smoothly as possible. AVOID the phrase “due to technical difficulties…” – it makes the station sound as if it is falling apart.
The only exception might be if there is an obvious major technical problem, affecting the overall quality of our broadcasts, such as losing signal. Then just a short acknowledgement of the problem, and if possible, an indication of when it may be rectified, are all that is necessary. If you make a mistake with actual words while reading a script, you’ll need to make a quick judgment as to whether an apology is called for, or not. In general, it won’t be necessary, but if you think that the listener may misconstrue the meaning of the words, you must make a correction. “I’m sorry, I’ll read that again” has become somewhat of a cliché, but something similar like “I’m sorry – that should be…” might be in order. Whatever you do, try not to get flustered — it is not the end of the world, even though it may seem awfully close. Even, if the listener has noticed the stumble (and often it won’t be noticed at all), a simple correction is all that’s called for. Often, you just need to stop and re-read the item correctly… No apology necessary. Be careful with pronunciations. If you are not 100% sure how a word is pronounced, make every effort to find out. Listeners are extremely sensitive to mispronunciations of local names and the station that broadcasts these mistakes will lose credibility — the presenter will be regarded as either ignorant or rude. As a ‘BAY-VIBES’ presenter, you could be involved in a number of diverse program types. Be aware of the style of the program you are presenting; what sort of material it contains, and what sorts of music-breaks are suitable. Familiarise yourself with the ‘Program Schedule’; these will tell you, which sponsorship announcements must be played during your shift, and what presenter comes on after you. Remember that your program doesn’t happen in isolation. Your show, along with all the other ‘BAY-VIBES’ shows.
‘BAY-VIBES’ (community radio) is 24 hours of continuous broadcasting, seven days a week.
Give some thought to your greetings as well – “It’s good to be with you” or “It’s good to have your company”, puts you on a more even footing with the listener. Remember that you are endeavouring to reach out and communicate with the listener, not expecting the listener to fall at your feet. Some programs or program items are pre-recorded, so your task will be to provide the links between them. It is up to you to make sure that the transition to the next program or segment is as smooth as possible. The points at which programs end or begin are of vital importance. They are very tempting ‘switch-off’ points for listeners who may be uncertain whether or not the program to follow is worth waiting for. A good presenter will give listeners a very good reason to keep listening. If you want to speak over the start of a song, the music should be at least -15db and make sure that you time the instrumental beginning before you ‘cue’ up the item. Never speak over lyrics — it’s confusing to listen to.
- Sugar thickens the saliva — don’t eat chocolate before going ‘On Air’.
- Always keep a pen or pencil with you, for last minute alterations.
- Make sure, you have your glasses, if you need them.
- Avoid wearing bracelets, chunky watches, or anything else that might rattle or knock on the studio console.
- Check where the clock is and how it reads before you go ‘On Air’ — you’ll need to be able to glance at it, and tell the time almost instantaneously.
- Check that you are comfortable with your headphone-level before you go ‘on air’, but remember, the volume of your headphones should exceed all other sounds in the studio.
- Stay alert at all times, but relax.
Your voice is a highly sensitive musical instrument, capable of great things, but it requires tender loving care and regular exercise, to function at anywhere near its capabilities. Vocalisation is an active physical process, the more that you understand how the voice works; the better able you will be to use it, to its best advantage. People are not born with ‘great radio voices’. In fact, what actually constitutes a ‘great radio voice’, is a matter for some conjecture. Some training programs will put an emphasis on a particular vocal sound — the sort of sound that appeals to stations that strive for absolute seamlessness in their overall sound. In other words, all the announcers sound the same. In community radio, the emphasis tends to be on vocal techniques that get the best out of YOUR VOICE, while maintaining YOUR PERSONALITY and allowing you the scope for individual expression. The emphasis is, on being a friend to your listener, and communicating meaning. A good radio voice is relaxed, friendly, and authentic, not ‘phony’, or as though the owner is ‘putting it on’.
Your voice is very much a part of your individual self, and is capable of ‘giving away’ your most intimate thoughts and feelings. This can be both a limitation and a great asset. It is up to you, to learn to control the balance. We all have different voices for different occasions — some reserved for people we hardly know, for people we dislike, for people we love dearly. We have different voices for addressing large numbers of people and for intimate conversation. You must choose one of these ‘voices’, to suit the context of radio.
There are two aspects to vocal delivery. There is the sound and colour of the voice; the actual frequencies. And then there is the way, those sounds form various patterns; the way the voice goes up and down, the speed of delivery, the extent of the pauses between words and phrases. The voice is capable of communicating an enormous amount. Far more, than the actual words would, if they were written on paper. If you are stressed, if you are nervous, if you don’t agree with the statement you are making, if you don’t like the person you are interviewing, your voice will give these things away. Take positive control of your voice, use it to communicate, what mere words cannot, and learn to control, what you might not want your voice to communicate.
You can always hear, if someone is smiling, even if you can’t see their face. Always smile. It is one of the few aspects of actual body language that can be conveyed through your voice. Your voice will readily convey, what you are feeling on the inside, but has a little more difficulty expressing your outward body movements. Be aware that the listener cannot see you shrug your shoulders for example — you will have to find a way to communicate that through your vocal inflections or actual words.
You should experiment with and develop a wide range of different variations in your vocal delivery – and then consciously choose the most appropriate ones – to communicate your particular message. It almost goes without saying that, if you are to put this much effort into how you will deliver the words, you must be utterly at home with the words themselves. Be aware of your vocal inflections, the way your voice goes up and down. It is very easy to get into a pattern where every sentence sounds the same. A common sentence shape is a bit like an upside down bowl; starting low, gradually rising and arriving at the bottom again by the end. Sentences like this, placed end on end, will gradually mesmerise the listener and the ends of sentences will merge with the beginnings of others. Your words will have no meaning. Communication of meaning tends to decrease in proportion to the lack of variation in the shape of the sentences. Think about where the important words are, make every stress and rise mean something. Record yourself and listen critically to every vocal inflection, is your voice rising and falling just for the sake of it, or are you really being sensitive to the meaning of every word? Is the pitch high or low? Is it higher or lower than in normal conversation? Is the tone hard and grating, or is it mellow and warm? Analyse the pace — is it too fast or too slow? Do you trip over words regularly? Are there any idiosyncrasies that you wouldn’t normally hear like clicks, pops, and whistles? You may notice, that the mouth makes an involuntary popping sound when you open your mouth to speak, which you should try to eliminate.
Listen to the volume, and practice until you are able to maintain a constant level. There is a natural tendency to drop in volume at the end of a line of text. Try to think beyond that point and the tendency to drop will disappear. The pace of your delivery will greatly affect the clarity of your message. Most people speak much too fast, when confronted with any sort of public speaking for the first time. You will find that you can afford to speak far more slowly, than you might at first think. This simple exercise will help you control your reading speed. Select a short piece of text and read it through aloud, at your natural pace. Now go back to the start, and read each word and syllable deliberately and slowly, leaving a pause of at least half a second between each syllable. Pay special attention to the consonants on the ends of words, and words with several syllables. Now go back and read at a more natural pace — you will find, that you are much more aware of each word, less likely to stumble, and you will have slowed down slightly, increasing the clarity. Record all the voice exercises you do, if possible, so that you can really hear the difference. All this may sound contrived, and might sound highly exaggerated, when you first try it. But without the aid of body language, and with the thinning out effect of the transmission process, you can afford to use more colour and inflection, than you would use in normal conversations. This doesn’t mean, you should radically change the way you speak, but should exaggerate the vocal patterns, that are already there, in order to counteract the opposing forces. The key is, to find the balance, and that will only happen with heaps of practice, and lots of critical listening. Diction practice will help your clarity enormously, and also helps to exercise the throat muscles. It is something, you should always do, before you go ‘On Air’, not just now, while you are learning.
Here a few exercises to help you along (and amuse your kids/partner/friends); Prefix the vowel sounds with all the consonants from B to Z including diphthongs like br, cl, pl, st, etc. Use the vowel sounds ah, ay, ee, ay, ah, aw, ooh. For example; bah, bay, bee, bay, bah, baw, boo, baw. Try getting faster and faster.
Tongue twisters are fabulous for getting the mouth, tongue and brain moving. Try these — they’ll help you with “s” and “th”.
- Six thick thistle sticks
- The shrewd shrew sold Sarah seven silver fish slices
- Theophilus Thistler, the thistle sifter, in sifting a sieve of unsifted thistles, thrust three thousand thistles, through the thick of his thumb.
These will help with other consonants
- Betty bought a bit of butter, but she found the butter bitter, so Betty bought a bit of better butter, to make the bitter butter better.
- Five flippant Frenchmen flew from France for fashions.
- Quickly, quickly, quickly, quickly, quickly, quickly, quickly.
These will strengthen the tongue. Say them over and over, getting faster and faster:
- Red leather, yellow leather; red lorry, yellow lorry. This old favourite gets the lips moving:
- Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where’s the peck of pickled peppers, Peter Piper picked?
Humming will help you feel where the resonant spaces, that are inside your head. Try to imagine the sound resonating in those spaces one at a time — in your forehead, creeks, nose and ears. Try to fill the holes with sound.
Never underestimate the difference exercises like this can make to your performance. Your voice, your mouth, your breathing and your brain will all be engaged and ready for the microphone to be opened.
Breathing control and relaxation are as important to the radio announcer, as they are to singers and actors.
Good control of your breathing will help you to relax, and will also enable you, to breathe only at natural pauses in the text. Taking breaths in the middle of sentences tends to muddle the sense of the message. (Try to write a copy, that allows for breathing only at the full stops and commas.) You will also need to be able to control your breathing, to eliminate ‘breathy’ noises being picked up by the microphone. The first thing to go, when you are nervous, will be your ability not to run out of breath, so you need to take steps to relax. Settle yourself in the studio chair, and take a series of long, slow, deep breaths. Place your hands on either side of your stomach. Breath in slowly through your nose, allowing the stomach to expand first (your hands will rise), then the diaphragm, and finally the chest. It is breathing with the chest only, that will cause you to be short of breath.
Roll your head from left to right, so your chin forms an arc. This will help relax the throat and neck and therefore the voice. Tense your muscles in turn, starting with the toes, and relax them. Your posture is a vitally important aspect of voice production. Make sure, your feet are flat on the floor, and your script is placed, so that you don’t need to drop your head, to read it. You should be able to draw an imaginary straight line from the top of your head, through to the base of your spine. By sitting up straight, you will have created an unobstructed path for your breath and voice, and opened up spaces, in which the voice can resonate. It is the resonance, that gives your voice it’s warmth.
There are many other exercises for breath control and voice production. If you would like some more exercises, consult another presenter, who should be able to point you in the right direction. Experiment with different microphone positions until you find one that allows you to communicate intimately with your listener. If you are too far away from the microphone, you will need to increase the volume of your voice, and you will then sound more forced and distant; too close and you risk distortion, popping and sibilance. No matter how you have trained your voice, the microphone is the ultimate mediator between you and the listener, and must be used to it’s best advantage. You need to find a balance between the distance you are from the microphone, and the volume of your voice. And one more thing, move the microphone to you, don’t move to it — you’ll ruin that beautiful posture.
So now we have you sitting comfortably – take a deep breath, relax, and above all, enjoy your show!