Advice from Adam Avrashi

Broadcasting is very technical and, popular belief aside, it’s not about shoving a microphone in someone’s face and hoping for the best. It requires a lot of preparation: know what questions you want to ask, know what sound you will need for your report and be prepared for difficulties.

Questions should be specific ( because a microphone just incites most people to just blather on) and you need to be very attentive. Also, as an interviewer, speak as little as possible. You should be listening to what your interviewee is saying and be prepared to ask a follow-up question based on that.

1) Your story is too long

You should know what clips you want to use for a report before you get into the editing booth. Know your material, and the piece edits itself.

In my experience, the best editors aren’t the ones who know how to create cool effects. They are the ones who insist you cut down your story. And trust me: your story is too long. It always is.

It took me a while to realize this, but the audience has a short attention span, and no matter how much you like a particular clip or sequence, if it doesn’t add to the story you are trying to tell, take it out.

Broadcasting is not about quantity but about quality. If you’re story is two and a half minutes long, try cutting it down to one minute 45. Chances are you are saying something superfluous or belabouring a point, and your audience will definitely appreciate a more concise piece.

2) You don’t have to have a “voice for radio”

I don’t have a God-given voice for radio. And yes, some people just do have that booming presence. I’ve worked with and gone to school with a handful of them. But having a booming voice isn’t really that important, but sounding authoritative and interesting is.

If you are like me, and just have a normal speaking voice, there are a couple of things you can do to try and improve your on-air delivery.

First off, record yourself having a regular conversation, just on the phone with someone or speaking with a friend in person. Then listen to it. Chances are, you will be very surprised with what you hear. We are used to hearing our voice in our own head, so having our actual voice played back is a strange phenomenon.

Once that’s done, try recording yourself reading some news copy (don’t just read an article online—go ahead and actually write yourself some news copy. Remember, the shorter the sentences, the easier they are  to say). Now record yourself, with headphones in your ears to hear the resonance, reading the copy. Try to make your voice sound powerful, use pauses and try to alter the speaking tone and insert emotional flourish when appropriate—no newscast should be read with a monotone drone. Practice and repeat.

You know you have found your broadcasting voice when you can listen to yourself without feeling embarrassed or self-conscious. You should be able to listen to the piece and hear your story instead of your performance. Then you’ve got it.

3) Tips on hosting a radio show

I have hosted my own current affairs radio show for nearly two years on campus radio. If you are interested in broadcasting, this is some of the best practice you can get. Booking guests, preparing interviews, producing discussion topics and segments all take practice and it’s something you won’t learn in class.

I’ve interned in two different radio newsrooms and the equipment and the preparation process aren’t so different than working on campus radio.

My tip would be to over-prepare — know your topics and discussion points so well that when you go on air, you barely need any text in front of you. All you should have are facts or story details—you shouldn’t have everything you want to say written out or the show won’t feel organic and result in boring radio. And remember, radio is the theatre of the mind, so make sure you are descriptive and illustrative when recounting a story. Make your audience sees what you are talking about.

4) Where to get story ideas

Story ideas can come from anywhere: a newspaper article, a press release, something I overheard on the bus or a story my grandmother told me. But remember that not every story will be a good fit for every audience, so make sure you know who is listening to your show or report. Read newspapers and listen to radio, that is how you develop a good sense of an interesting story. But if you get a tip that excites you and you think would be of interest to others, it is worth exploring.

5) How to address controversial subjects

When talking about something that could be construed as controversial—religion, politics, sex, etc—don’t panic but bring your A-game. This is the type of show or report where you need to triple check your facts. Also, if you are concerned about saying something that may offend others, try picturing those people sitting in the radio booth beside you. Would they be offended? Do they have reason to be offended? Are you treating their point of view fairly?

As a show host, you have the right to say something controversial—it is stipulated under media law as fair comment—but it is important that the comment actually is fair and based on truth. A Muslim woman in Quebec refused to give a presentation in front of her class because she claimed it was against her religion. We covered this topic on my show, and it was important for me to express my point of view, but I imagined that the woman and her family were sitting next to me. It is easy to say something into an empty room with a microphone, and much more difficult to say the same things in person.

Final thoughts

Practice, practice, practice. If you can’t get your own show on community radio, make a podcast and put it online or play it for your friends and family. The more practice you get, the better you will become. And have fun.

About Adam

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