Not In The Studio ... But On-Stage
May 24, 2016
This can be a frustrating business with a lot of twists and turns. I firmly believe that having a successful career in radio is based on five factors -- talent, luck, patience, adaptably and time. Before you excited and think you are going to get the keys to eternal success, you are not. Today I am only addressing one factor and it concerns the skill set of emceeing.
Emcees Are Not Born ... It Takes Time
Air personalities get to do all sorts of things related to their jobs -- emcee events, do celebrity auctioning, judge talent shows and beauty contests, attend various business functions, and go on stage at concerts to introduce artists.
The latter is my favorite and I love questions on the subject. Learning the job behind the mic is one thing and being live in front of a crowd is another. Most times unless a helpful veteran at the station offers some advice, most jocks don't get any help on how to handle the stage with a mic in their hand.
The activity can be humbling until you get some experience under your belt while doing and by watching others do it. I really enjoyed my communications with this air personality on the subject of what to do on stage.
Jock: I feel awkward on stage and never know if I am doing it right when I bring an act on stage.
Coach: Have you asked others for advice?
Jock: Yes, and my PD said be brief and get the name of the act right. Some of the other jocks just told me to relax and keep things basic because the audience really does not care what I say as long as they get to see the act they paid to see. I want to know what you think.
Coach: Everything you have been told is all true, but I think you are trying to figure out how to make an impression with the crowd. Is that what you are trying to ask me?
Jock: Well, I would like for the audience to know who I am. I mean, a nobody bringing on a somebody is important as far as I'm concerned. And I figure if folks get to know me, it will help my ratings.
Coach: It's about maximizing the time you are in front of people without ticking anyone off and possibly being viewed as part of the event and not just some talking head with a mic. I learned from watching other jocks and through tricks of my own, to try and get a crowd to react to something and get the act on stage.
Jock: Okay, you have my attention, but I need some examples.
Coach: First let me tell you a couple of things never to do: Never ask questions like "Do you love our station?" or "Do you know about our new contest?" You might get negative responses or comments. Now, it is okay to make brief statements, "I am Joe Lake from WXXX where we are giving away one million dollars! Are you ready to party? Let me hear you! Come on, you can get louder than that, are you ready to party?" And as they are screaming, say the name of the act and what music label they are on and that's it.
Occasionally, you may have to make some stage announcements for the venue before going into your spiel to bring on the act, or the manager of the act might have a set thing for you to say. Always try and read the mood of the audience and adjust accordingly; for example, if you are at a State Fair, a lot of folks may have never heard of your station.
Now let me tell you what I did occasionally to personalize the experience. It would depend on the size of the venue and if it was large, I would give the stage announcements, mention briefly the big station promotion and then with a serious tone in my voice, ask for everyone to rise for the Star Spangled Banner. Once everyone was on their feet I would laughingly thank them for helping me win a bet with the stagehands for getting them to all to stand. Then I would launch them into frenzy with, "It's Party Time, let's get loud for _______" and bring the act on stage.
Jock: Has anything funny ever happened to you while on stage?
Coach: My favorite small venue story happened at Vacaville State Prison in Northern California while I was working in the Bay Area. The PD had tricked me into emceeing the prison's annual show for the inmates. There were four or five acts. Like all shows, the stage lights were too bright and I could not really see the crowd very well. Every time I was on stage, I would say something concise and keep things moving, but would always make it a point to tell the ladies in the audience how gorgeous they looked. The inmates at the show were not the hardened criminals or at least that was what I was told. The restrooms were covered by only a couple of guards standing at the entrance and were for the prisoners and us. Everyone kept me telling nothing really happens at a minimum security prison, but nevertheless my mind flashed to all the prison movies I had seen. I tried, but could not hold out any longer and had to go. I asked about an escort, but was told there was no need. So I cautiously went in and did what I had to do without making eye contact with anyone. I returned to the backstage area and it dawned on me how progressive this place was; it was coed in the bathroom. In fact, in passing I mentioned it to one of our prison escorts. He smiled and said "There are no women here." Sometimes I am a little slow, then a few minutes later it hit me what he meant, kind of like one of those thought bubbles above the character's heads in cartoons; Oh my God, those ladies in the audience I had been complimenting, were not woman! Like I said, sometimes I am a little slow.
Jock: That's funny.
Coach: Yeah, it's funny now. Every time I watch the movie 'Shawshank Redemption,' I think about the screams of appreciation from front row prison femme fatale at Vacaville State Prison.
Acquiring Onstage Mic Skills
My finale words to my stage frightened friend were to observe the styles of others and gravitate to the things which are the most comfortable. With more experience, bringing acts onstage to perform will get better. The important thing is to always know what you are going to do before going out on stage and be brief about it.