Self-confidence is necessary for a compelling air personality. Everyone should bring an attitude of being indestructible into every show. The problem is when swagger turns into arrogance. A self-absorbed performance is one of the most common things that repel listeners and that’s deadly.
The audience has the power in the personality/listener relationship. A button punch (or two) can be the difference between cashing bonus checks and worrying about losing a gig. The only sustainable path to success is finding a way to fit into the listener’s world in a bold, meaningful way, which is at the heart of the concept of It’s Not About You….Yet It’s All About You. On the one hand, talent must attract attention. On the other hand, listeners only care about their experience.
Navigating the two concepts is a delicate balance.
There is a difference between connecting on a personal level and being vain. Vanity is one of the 7 Deadly Sins of Radio Performance. So how does a radio personality stand out and at still focus on the audience? Start by learning to avoid sounding self-absorbed.
5 Signs You May Be Self-Absorbed…and Not Know It
A listener-focused show can tell endless personal stories without sounding arrogant, internal, or inside. Others talk about external content and come off as being “all about us, not about them”. Here are common causes:
The Entry Point: Start with the hook, or entry point. The opening line should almost always start with an external focus, not with the personality’s perspective. Get listeners to relate to the topic by recognizing a personal experience quickly and the personal story will have a much greater chance to land. Segments that start with an internal story can work but are at much greater risk of tuning out. A simple adjustment to the opening line can be the difference between relatable and self-indulgent. For a great example, listen to this segment.
Listen and Respond: Many personalities are so focused on their next line, they ignore what is being said. That happens on team shows as well as phone topics on solo shows. The result is a disconnected conversation that doesn’t sound natural. Comments may not be intended as self-absorbed, but they appear to be steamrolling the conversation like an audio bully. Learn the improvisational art of Listening and Responding to fix this common problem.
Redirecting Conversations: Self-Absorbed personalities often redirect conversations to themselves. Listen closely in aircheck sessions and take steps to avoid hijacking the conversation. Instead, work on adding to the conversation with perspective and character-defining banter.
IMEWEUS: Imeweus is a big problem in radio. Overusing personal pronouns like I, me, we, and us is easy to slip into. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using those words, but too many can tilt the show’s feel and it’s a bad habit to fall into.
Inside Jokes: Some shows think it’s charming to create an internal club where the insiders get the jokes but that’s like being a stranger at a cocktail party. Standing around with people having a closed conversation that doesn’t include the outsider is awkward and rude. Being left out of a conversation is one of the fastest ways to earn an immediate button push.
It’s easy to become bored with executing the basics. Personalities naturally gravitate to entertaining themselves. There’s no doubt that the show sounds better when talent is having fun, but when that happens at the expense of the listener experience, the connection is disrupted.
The audience doesn’t perceive being inside or internal play as charming. Inside, self-absorbed content kills relatability. Here’s more detail on how to avoid being self-absorbed in a two-minute drill: