20 Ways to Become a Great Radio Presenter

Become a great radio presenter. Bring your shows to life with 20 essential tips to inspire your listeners for awe-inspiring shows.

Mike Cunsolo
Great Radio Presenter

Who wants to listen to a boring person? The last thing anyone wants to hear on the radio is a dull personality. Instead, you should paint pictures with words to captivate your audience. Discover here, in no particular order, our top 20 ways to become a great radio presenter.

20. Keep Cool

The world of live broadcasting is unpredictable, anything can happen that could derail one of your shows; an angry caller, technical issues, guests being uncooperative or not showing up. In these situations it’s important to think of your station as a professional environment and behave appropriately. Don’t freak out. Don’t abandon all hope. Put your thinking cap on; it’s problem solving time. You’re not the only one affected in these situations, everyone else at the station may start to panic, so it’s your job to keep calm and reassure everyone. If you can all stay composed you’ll be better equipped to solve any problems.

19. Do Your Research

In the internet age that we live in, people live to call others out. Avoid becoming next week’s big meme by always being as accurate as possible with any topic, otherwise there’ll be a horde of people waiting to immediately dismiss you for what could have been an honest mistake. And that’s the best case scenario.

As such; always do your research. It’s your job to inform and not spread misinformation, whether intentional or not, so if you’re making obvious mistakes and getting facts wrong whenever you’re on air, it’s going to destroy your audience’s trust in your ability as a presenter. You’ll also just look lazy.

Research goes beyond skimming Wikipedia, too! It’s a great resource but, because anyone can edit articles, some of them are… less than reliable. If people can recognise you’ve done the bare minimum they may look elsewhere for someone more knowledgeable or engaging. Dedication to your work can be very endearing to audiences, so if you’re on Wikipedia, check out the sources at the bottom of the page, which often link to more in-depth articles to use for your research.

18. Engage With Your Radio Station

Back in the day, radio presenters used to stroll in, broadcast their show, then stroll out - nowadays this isn't good enough, it looks like you don't care about the station. You need to engage with your station; guest and contribute for other’s shows, mention them in your own broadcasts and maintain good working relationships with your coworkers. Solidarity within your station makes it more of a community for you, your coworkers and your audience. Listeners will engage for longer if they feel like part of a greater whole.

17. Always Pre-Read Scripts

Unprofessional is not a good look. While the occasional mistake can be brushed aside, constantly messing up makes you look bad and sometimes land you in hot water. For recent examples of this, an MSNBC presenter recently caused controversy when mispronouncing the name of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Whoops.

If you want to avoid mistakes like these, read your scripts beforehand and rehearse them, otherwise you may make a fool of yourself.

16. Don’t Be Prejudiced

Many people have made careers out of being controversial, offensive and edgy, and maybe you can too, but it’s best to know where to draw the line. Your behaviour as a presenter doesn’t just affect you; you’re representing the entire station every time you’re on air. Presenting yourself as being prejudiced or bigoted, even in the name of a joke, makes you more trouble than you’re worth to the station.

As well as that, a reputation of intolerance is going to follow you to any other station you join. Audiences are going to remember you as ‘that guy’, and they’re not going to forget any time soon. So just be polite and help all of your listeners feel welcome to your shows.

15. Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail

Unlike what many think, we know your job doesn’t start and end in the studio. Being a great radio presenter means there’s always something to do; paperwork, arranging guests, working with producers, it’s endless. Trying to juggle too many things at once can be disastrous, so it’s good to prioritise your tasks and prepare for shows well in advance. Come up with a schedule you can follow;

Prioritise important work first, such as writing scripts, going over shows and meeting with producers, rehearsing, etc. and any extra paperwork or contacting guests for future broadcasts can be done after the show is complete.

Breaking your day up and planning ahead allows you to concentrate on each activity so you can make the most of them.

14. Never Forget Your Roots

Authenticity is very appealing to audiences. Part of being an authentic presenter is staying true to your roots, even if you’re on a worldwide level. How many times have you seen someone let fame get to their head and change them entirely as a person? Staying grounded, maintaining a humble attitude and level perspective will get you more listeners than acting like a jerk. No matter where you are now, you started as a nobody, just like everyone else does.

13. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously, or No One Will

Pretentious, full of yourself, pompous. Do these describe you? They shouldn’t. If you want to be a great radio presenter, you have to be likable, and nothing screams unlikable like taking yourself way too seriously. Having confidence and dignity is fine, but if you’re unable to take a joke and act snobby at the slightest disagreement, you’re going to push audiences away, become a pain to work with, and probably come across as more than a little ridiculous. Learn to laugh along with people and don’t always take criticism personally.

12. Professional and Punctual

The beauty of radio is that you are heard, but never seen. However, this doesn't mean you should come to the office in your pyjamas and slippers.

Dressing nicely, relaxing before a show, always being on time or earlier and acting professionally puts faith in others that you know what you’re doing and sets an example they can follow. Run your station like clockwork.

11. Promote Fellow Presenters

When Radio 1's Nick Grimshaw did his first show, nearly every other presenter came by to show their support. Not only was it a lovely warm welcome, it showed that they care.

Building working relationships is vital to working in the radio industry. The other presenters, producers and assistants are your support network, the people you can turn to for advice and honest feedback, so appreciate everything they contribute to your shows.

Show support and encouragement to them and they’ll do the same for you. Cross-promotion on this level can be great for bringing new listeners to your shows who may have heard of you but not taken a shot yet. A shout out from a presenter they trust can be just what they needed to take a chance on your content.

10. Community Focused

To be a great radio presenter, you need to keep your ear to the ground and stay in touch with your community. Add that personal touch by demonstrating genuine care and interest for your audience. Get to know them on an individual level by holding events where you can interact with them personally, speak to them when you’re out at the pub, anything to build your investment in your audience. Building this kind of relationship with your listeners helps you to tailor your content to their interests and improves your ability to engage directly with their needs.

9. Know Your Station Like the Back of Your Hand

It's important to be friendly with everyone at your station, so you're kept in the loop and cultivate a pleasant work environment for everyone. No matter if it's commercial, sales, or producers, try to put in face time with all the people involved in making shows on the station and show your appreciation for their hard work, without them your show wouldn’t be possible!

8. Learn Useful New Skills

As brilliant a presenter as you may be, you’re never going to know everything about radio. Take every day at your station as an opportunity to learn new skills and forge bonds with your coworkers. It doesn’t matter what your role is, try to find some time to sit in with other departments in the station and learn about what they do and how they do it. Who knows? In a pinch, the skills you learn could come in handy.

7. Share Nuggets of Your Life On-Air

Howard Stern, famous radio and tv personality, shares every aspect of his life with his audience. That's not to say you have to, but sprinkling your own personal stories in your shows gives them flavour and makes them feel real and engaging for your listeners.

6. Paint Pictures with Words

Radio is unique, it's the only medium where you paint pictures with words, presenting boundless possibilities that are only limited to the listener's imagination. Bring your shows to life with powerful storytelling to engage and inspire your listeners. Develop this skill in your everyday life by absorbing a variety of content, not just radio; watch TV, read books, play video games, observe the dynamic and varied ways that each medium captures an audience. Take the writing techniques from these and use them to enhance your ability to tell stories that captivate listeners.

5. Stay Updated

It’s easy for listeners to become disconnected if they don’t feel they can relate to the voice on the other side of the radio. Countering this ties into your ability to interact with listeners as a community; sometimes it’s not enough to focus entirely on your own life. It means understanding and appealing to your audience’s interests and frustrations. If your audience is into the latest TV show, watch it, if they're complaining about traffic in the city centre, find out more about it. The point is to understand and relate to who you're talking to, even if that means doing things you wouldn't normally do. Develop a connection that will last.

4. Social Media Savvy

The world is more connected than ever before. Social media allows people from entirely different sides of the globe to communicate so easily that it was unthinkable 20-30 years ago. Most importantly, it lets people communicate with creators in ways they never could before. Twitter, in particular, is where the majority of your audience will come to get updates, share their opinions and interact with you directly. You need to be prepared for anything, as this is also where your detractors will find you and offer… criticism? Insults? Threats? Probably all three.

You need to be able to handle all kinds of interactions on social media, positive and negative, while keeping up a professional demeanor and not embarrassing yourself or your peers. Trust us, plenty of people have tanked their careers (and possibly others) through unprofessional behaviour on social media.

For a more in depth guide on how to properly utilise social media, specifically Twitter, take a look at Radio.co founder James Mulvany’s guide on growing your audience.

3. Make Listeners Feel Special

Despite a lot of talk about building communities, making people part of a greater whole, etc. what listeners really want is to feel special when they’re listening to your broadcasts. Listen to your favourite presenter and note how they address the audience. Most of the time, they don’t. They address You. Chances are, without realising it, that’s one of the reasons you listen to them. Personal address towards the listeners helps to single them out and give them a feeling of companionship, so be sure to always address the audience as a single person rather than a whole.

2. Air Check Your Shows

No matter how well you think a show went, there’s always room for improvement. If you slipped up and want to figure out how to avoid it in the future, or perhaps something went really well and you want to replicate it for future shows, it’s worth listening back to the recordings of your broadcast. This is a simple but effective way of addressing issues before they become major problems.

1. NEVER Be Boring

Who wants to listen to a boring person? The number 1 secret to becoming a great radio presenter is to have a unique voice and perspective that sets you apart from the crowd. There’s enough mediocrity in the world and you shouldn’t be happy settling for being just another radio presenter. The best radio presenters can make even the most boring topics interesting through just their enthusiasm and ability to offer a new perspective. Wear your passions on your sleeve and have fun with what you’re doing and your audience should have fun too.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a great radio presenter doesn’t happen overnight. Take these points on board and you’ll be on your way to improving your shows and engaging with your audience on a whole new level. How have you been honing your radio presenting skills? Share what works (and what doesn't) in the comments below.

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