Find Your Radio Voice
September 6, 2016
Air personalities at all levels are constantly evolving. In radio, there are ways to do things and even better ways to master them. Self-discovery through the experience of others is the best way I know to learn. But you have to want the knowledge and listen to those who have gone before you. Your OM or PD is responsible for your growth and the station's; some instruction might not make sense or feel awkward, but give it time to work.
Radio is theater-of-the-mind and air personalities (announcer, jock, DJ or disc jockey) are its actors. To become successful requires passion, practice, a willingness to learn, ability to read, ego, ability to write, patience, desire and sacrifice. The institution of radio has a responsibility to entertain and inform. Air personalities anchor the broadcast industry. A microphone is power and can lead to a life filled with new horizons.
Why Do Listeners Relate To Some Personalities
No matter what the occupation, re-evaluation is a must for growth. Early on during my radio career, it dawned on me that I actually was doing an imitation of what I thought I should sound like. It was me, but not really me. My mechanics were sound but I was not using the full range of my voice or the humanity of me. In other words, I was not using the same vocal qualities I used every day off the air. I started to pay attention to the speech patterns of my fellow air staffers and noticed the ones who sounded the same on and off the air seemed to have a higher recognition level with the listeners. This especially was evident whenever we were out at station events and how the listeners interacted with those who had conquered the skill of being themselves.
I Found My Voice
In fairness to my PD, what I did on the air sounded fine to him; how was he to know it was not really me? It was a subtle distinction that took a lot of production room recording, practice and listening. Eventually I was able to finally start being me on the air. It was how I breathed, phrased, laughed, and projected myself with everything I had to say over the airwaves. My PD at the time did notice the new old me, but was not aware of what the difference was; he just knew I was sounding better. The experience taught me to pay closer attention to everything around me, including myself. I started reading biographies, self-help books, coaching techniques in various areas, countless magazine articles on self-awareness, and talked to voice actors; it's a practice I have transferred to other parts of my life and continue to do to this day. And it was all because I noticed it wasn't me on the air at an early stage of my radio beginnings.
Why I Wrote This
A personality asked me what she should sound like when she switches from middays to afternoons. Her question triggered reflection and questions to some of my industry friends who have faced this during their career. The consensus was unanimous: She should be who she is; the time of day has nothing to do with it.
The Ongoing Process
Collectively we agreed, it's about finding your voice and exploring the depths of what it can do. It is a matter of developing confidence in yourself to get out of your way. No one ever completely gels; it's a constant process. Or as one colleague put it, "You have to invest in the practice of improvement and learn to transfer techniques from other sources. For example, a great book is Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner. It's for musicians, but a lot of it is relatable for air personalities. Another thing: Focus on the listener experience; whatever you say -- a liner card, contest solicit or the weather -- channel those thoughts to your words. It takes a lot to execute so little."
Becoming an air personality takes practice and experience. The same skills required for traditional radio personalities can also be applied to other forms of vocal media; satellite radio, Internet streaming, HD radio, YouTube, Facebook Live, podcasting, and Internet radio. Various ways to invest in yourself include; vocal lessons, acting classes, and comedy improv. And most important, listen to yourself, get used to listening to everything you record. A personality should listen after every show. Voicetrackers, go back and collectively listen to your body of work for a show. If you don't have regular aircheck/demo critique sessions with anyone, find someone to give you feedback.