Voicetracking Turned Into a Bloody Mess ...
May 10, 2016
I'm always asked how I became a radio talent coach. The answer is actually one of my favorite personal stories. I was in college at the University of Missouri and fortunate enough to be working part-time at one of only three commercial stations in town. KFRU, a News Talk/Sports/MOR (father of AC) was privately owned at the time. On Saturday nights, my shift was midnight to 8a on Sunday morning. One of my duties was ripping and reading a five-minute newscast at the top of every hour until 6a.
I was struggling to learn how to read copy and sound as good as the seasoned veterans on staff. It didn't help matters that one personality on staff could read anything on-air without previewing a single word; and could do it even if he had too much to drink. In my quest, I spent countless hours practicing in the production room; then I came up with the idea of pre-taping my cast and airing it. The intent was to air a flawless presentation and get to the point where I could read it live without a hitch. I always consulted some of the veteran jocks for advice and rarely received feedback of any kind ... good or bad. A couple of them were even aware I was pre-taping and never offered any guidance. This was before the term, "voicetracking," existed or was practiced. We simply called it "record and playback" and the method was not the preferred first choice.
My idea worked like a charm for a few weeks until one summer night I was filling in on an earlier shift while the full-timers were playing in their weekly softball league. I was in the middle of airing one of my taped newscasts, heard glass breaking and I looked up to see the GM -- who was also the owner's son -- with his arms covered in blood and wearing his softball uniform. Unfortunately for him this was the one time I followed company rules and had locked the back door; he had attempted to shove the door open and his arms went right through the glass. He was screaming at me because he had come back to pick something up and could see from the back door I was not on the air live reading the news. While still screaming, he told me to be in his office at 9a on Monday morning; he left with bloody arms and I still had two more hours before my shift was over.
It was a long, anxiety-filled weekend and on Monday I headed in as instructed. When I got to the station I found the owner, the GM's father, sitting in his son's office with the GM nowhere in sight; apparently junior was too embarrassed on how he handled the situation. I explained myself and his dad acknowledged he understood, but explained I should have asked permission to pre-record newscasts.
This experience influenced my career and how I dealt with co-workers. I try to always take the time to help others learn the ropes.
Common Traits of Successful Air Personalities:
- They come to work on time
- Adapt easily to new direction
- Have egos but are not egotistical
- Open to learning
- Word efficient in their on-air presentation
- Have the verbal ability to tie the content of a talk set together and make it one
- They are observational 24/7
- Know how to do show prep
- Can display personality and work within a format
- Are aware of personal limitations
- Are creative
- Participate in community events aside from the ones their stations are involved with
- Attempt to mentor others
- Always leave their supervisor and company in a defendable position
- Might disagree with management off the air, but not on the air
- Get along with others in the work place
- Stay relevant with pop culture and trends
Ways To Improve:
- Listen to your OM/PD and follow directions
- Avoid wordy and long talk sets
- Steer clear of phone bits that are too long. Do not extend out the time of recorded winners or requests because you are not happy with their excitement level
- Back-sell the music played just prior to commercial breaks
- Do not talk excessively on the phone during your shift
- Stay focused during your shift
- Do not confuse vulgarity with being hip or relevant
- Work on not sounding mechanical or forced with your delivery
- Develop a rhythm and flow to your presentation so as to avoid sounding too fast or choppy
- Remember personality does not mean talking endlessly
- Strive for consistent energy levels within a talk set
- When you open the mic do not verbally rush through the station's call letters or frequency
- Learn some basic editing and production skills
- You will need a sense of timing; it comes with practice either in the production room or on your home computer with editing software
Things To Avoid
- Do not gossip about colleagues
- Stay away from cliques at work
- Realize you are nurturing your special gift, but do not become egotistical and self-absorbed
- Keep to yourself and avoid involvement with things that are not your concern
- Take responsibility for your actions. If you make a mistake, be the first to say so
- Do not allow others to use you to spread unsubstantiated rumors
- Learn the importance of each department within the station or cluster
- Have a life away from radio; it will keep you balanced
- Complete assignments on time
- Depending on your time slot, come in before your shift or stay after and let folks see your face
- Never complain unless you have a suggestion for improvement; only suggest if asked
Radio is simple. It is okay to have an ego, but don't become egotistical. One last thing, radio is not important to the gods of the universe, only to those exposed to it (PPM) and the audience who actually listens.