How To: Hosting a Radio Show
Natasha Ramoutar, Writer, Radio FWD
(Photo: Jonathan Velasquez/Unsplash)
Katherine Lee hosted Express YourSELF, a radio show from the Students of English Literature and Film (SELF), for years during her undergraduate degree. With a mix of announcements, curated music, topics ranging from comics to movies to fantasy novels and more, special creative writing guests, and a rotating cast of co-hosts, no two shows were the same.
While she had done some public speaking in high school, radio was a completely new medium for Katherine, both from technical and content aspects. What SELF and Radio FWD (formerly Fusion Radio) offered was a space to experiment, learn, and play.
Radio FWD caught up with Katherine to ask about her experience starting a radio show from scratch. Below, you’ll see her tips for anyone looking to start a new show.
Decide on your team
“First and foremost, it would be a good idea to decide what kind of platform you want to have - Do you want to be the sole host? Do you want to have people whom you're hosting with?
If you choose to have people that you're hosting with, whether you're planning on having co-hosts or co-producers, find people that you work well with. I was blessed to have really, really great co-hosts and co-producers on the show who I got along with, and who I found [to be] very intelligent and witty, and who came with completely different perspectives from me. You're constantly feeding off of each other and pushing back on each other's ideas, and adding to it when you have that rapport with your co-host. It doesn't necessarily have to be your best friend, just somebody that you mesh well with, somebody that you can bounce things off of.
If you're not thinking about [following] the co-host route, can you have a conversation with yourself? Sit down and talk to yourself, because that's what you're going to be doing for 60 minutes. If you're not comfortable with that, you have to get comfortable with that because it's what you're going to be doing.”
Learn how to use the equipment properly
“Talk with as many people who are already working at the radio station as possible. Get their insight. Get their advice. Book time to come in and learn how to use the equipment.
That was a bit of our downfall; sound quality and inability to use the mixer. I think right down to the very last day that I was hosting Express YourSELF, I did not know how to answer phone calls and get that person on the air. So I think learning the equipment before your first day is fantastic. And by learning, I don't mean to go in and do a 30-minute crash course like we did. It was not enough. Get familiar with it.
Get acquainted with every knob on that dial because you will likely mess up once in a while and you want to know what you're doing. You want to know how to get your show back on air after you've accidentally erased everything from your switchboard.”
Formulate your idea for the show and leave room to grow
“[Come in] with a solid idea. Come in with an idea that you feel is something you want to talk about and that you're passionate about, and that you think can evolve, because your show is not going to stay the same. It's going to evolve with you.”
Decide on the layout of the show
“Figure out how you want to structure your show in terms of a layout. Express YourSELF wasn't ever fully structured, we kind of ran with it a lot of the time. And sometimes it caused issues in terms of dead air.
I would say doing a ‘dry run’ is always great. I did not do them and it was not good. And I do think [that] even though dry runs are fantastic, improv is also fantastic. Don't feel the need to stick to a script. Stick to an outline, rather than a script.”
Practice, practice, practice!!
“Practice. Practice on your computer. We're all fortunate enough to have recording equipment at our fingertips, on our phones or computers. There's a multitude of ways you can practice.
After you've practiced, don't listen to yourself. Don't. Just practice it for the reading aspect of it, the idea of doing a formal recording, seeing that red light, and knowing that it's go-time.
I went into radio thinking I talk really fast. That's something that I really had to work on. I went into it thinking no one's going to understand me, I talk a mile a minute. A really big piece of advice is don't take yourself too seriously. All those anxieties that you're feeling probably won't come across on air because nobody can see you sweating, and because you always sound better than you think you do. Hence why [I believe] you shouldn't listen to your own voice.
Wait until you've recorded your first episode and you've gotten a taste for how fun it is to be on the radio, then you can listen to yourself because you've already got the bug [laughs].”