Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Coaching Podcasting and Radio Personalities

Radio and Podcasting is theater of the mind and the radio announcer/podcaster is the actor. To become successful it requires passion, practice, a willingness to learn, ability to read, ego, ability to write, patience, desire, and sacrifice. Air personalities and podcasters anchor the broadcast and podcast Industries. A microphone is power. The opportunities for radio and podcast personalities could lead to other avenues.

The announcer alumni list includes David Letterman of Late Nite; President/Publisher, Joel Denver; CBS Radio President, Dan Mason; Radio One President, Barry Mayo; Carson Daly of Last Call; Urban Editor, Jerry Boulding; television icon Dick Clark; actor Donald Sutherland; Quincy McCoy, the Vice President of Radio for MTVN Digital Music; Service Broadcasting C.O.O Ken Dowe; Willard Scott of the Today Show; and Bob Pittman, a principal in the Pilot Group, a private investment firm specializing in new media and Internet companies.

As a broadcast talent coach with a career spanning more than 30 years, I would offer the following for those interested in becoming a radio or podcast personality:

1. Anyone who can read and write has the capabilities of becoming a radio or podcast personality. It is important to vocalize written copy aloud. The sound of someone's voice has little to do with being successful. Communicating succinctly in a warm and friendly manner is the ultimate goal.

In the beginning, one of the best ways to practice is to read front-page paragraph blurbs from the USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, or the home page of any online information web portal such as AOL. Buy an inexpensive tape recorder and carry it around. These recorders have built-in microphones.

Another alternative is downloading an audio software program and purchasing a microphone. One of the better programs is Audacity. The software is free and used by many in the radio industry. It would be best to use the tape recorder and advance to audio software at a later date. Audacity also offers podcasting software.

2. Choose five paragraphs to record. Hit the record button read a sentence, stop the recorder or software program, rewind, and listen. This is how recording levels are checked. Depending on the loudness, either increase or decrease the volume. Make the necessary adjustments, sit up straight, and begin reading.

When finished, rewind again and listen. People breathe when they talk. There should be natural pauses, however, it’s common for beginners to attempt to say too much without breathing and become short of breath. For an undetermined length of time, there is a “brain to mouth disconnect” as newbies become accustomed to hearing their voice recorded.

3. After an objective self-evaluation, it will become evident that professional help is needed. A mentor/coach can provide assistance in talent development. There are several ways to find help. Sign up for college radio classes, online broadcast courses, enroll in broadcast school, call a local air personality for advice, or podcasters contact the host of one of your favorite podcast show. Another option is to call the program director of any station and ask for guidance. Whomever the contact, information will be provided and a mentoring relationship might develop.

4. There are many routes to becoming a radio/podcasting personality. A mentor/coach could be beneficial when seeking a radio internship or community volunteer work. Currently, most internships are tied to college courses and do not begin until the junior or senior year. Inquire about volunteering and avoid the problem. This could be done as a high schooler or as a college or non-college student. At the college level, unless the plan is to teach broadcasting, select it as minor and major in another field. Serious podcasters should take the same approach as the traditional radio personalities. The same skills are required to be successful in both vocations.

5. Becoming a radio or podcast personality takes practice. Many college and community radio stations have non-paid positions available. Numerous high schools now have closed circuit broadcast or Internet radio facilities. Podcasters can actually record a show with the correct software.

Consider the financial aspect before entering a career in radio. Few make millions, many make a great living, and most earn just enough to pay the bills. It is a tough business to break into, but remember, it only takes one person to say “Yes". Podcasters have the opportunity to become independent contractors and sell their efforts to traditional or Internet advertisers.

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