by Tracy Johnson
In the past few weeks, most multi-personality radio shows have been disrupted. Broadcasting from remote locations and relying on video connections for eye contact has presented challenges. But it’s also produced improvements that hopefully will continue when shows are reunited in the same studio. In fact, there are four ways radio shows are better now than before the crisis.
I’m particularly excited about the return of using hand signals and name tagging.
Both tactics have become more prominent by necessity. Lacking the familiarity and intimacy of being in the same studio, shows have to find new methods of communicating off-air to avoid stepping all over one another.
New shows typically learn how to interact with hand signals to cue one another. Typical hand signals include:
Sadly, hand signals tend to disappear as shows become more familiar with one another. And it produces moments that make sense in the studio (where cast members see one another), but listeners hear a chaotic jumble of noise.
Shows are now relearning how to perform from separate locations, usually connected with a video link. Without being able to read body language in person, hand signals have come back. And it has helped many shows avoid talking over one another.
This practice should continue when life returns to normal.
If someone has something to add, raise a hand. The show host should then call on that personality by name. When two or more have their hands up, the host chooses how to distribute the “ball” next.
This sounds great on the air, and it produces more familiarity through name-tagging.
Name tagging is the art of identifying personalities by using names in conversation. Some personalities feel awkward staring at someone and using their name. We don’t often do that in real life. But radio performance is different.
Listeners are eavesdropping on a conversation. The show’s goal should be to cause the audience to feel included. But if they don’t know the players, it’s hard to feel connected. That’s one reason it’s so important to regularly refer to cast members by name. This has improved recently as personalities re-learn skills to manage conversation traffic on-air.
It’s easy to become lazy in this area. Shows spend more time with radio partners than real-life partners. That familiarity, combined with being face-to-face in the studio leads to shows overlooking the importance of using names in conversation.
Now, name-tagging is a cue to cast members that it’s their turn to talk. Hopefully, this becomes a habit!
One of the most important ingredients in great performances is the energy of an active audience. At concerts, comedy clubs, and live TV shows, performers feed off it. It’s one of the most important aspects of Stephen Colbert’s talk show.
Radio shows usually don’t have a live studio audience. I think that’s one of the reasons air personalities love to see phone lines light up. It’s a surrogate for instant feedback.
But radio shows can still build momentum from enthusiastic participation. Each cast member should commit to being attentive, active listeners. When partners are engaged, making eye contact, and at least acting interested, the show gains energy.
Since most shows are out of their comfort zone, personalities are paying more attention. This produces a subtle positive effect on performers. When life gets back to normal, each personality should commit to being invested in each moment of the show, on-air and off.
Every show has thought about getting into video, but many haven’t figured out how to do it. Zoom may be all you need.
To maintain eye contact from remote locations, shows are turning to Zoom video conferencing. It’s reliable and easy to manage. And it’s a terrific tool that could make a video strategy better now and after the crisis ends.
Each Zoom session can be recorded directly to your hard drive. It’s a high-quality video that captures everyone logged into the Zoom meeting. It’s perfect for creating video content. Just edit the original video into segments and publish them on YouTube. Then embed the videos on the website or social media.
It probably won’t be encoded audio to get ratings credit for on-demand listening, but it’s a quick, easy, and cheap way to get started with a video content strategy. It’s also a great way to capture behind-the-scenes moments during stop sets and when the mics are off.
We’re all ready for things to get back to normal. But since necessity is the mother of invention, smart broadcasters are paying attention to ways to improve and grow during the pandemic.
What have you learned in the past few weeks that are better now, and how will it change your post-COVID world?
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