Prep! It’s Everything!

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ Consultant Tips series, written by Charese Fruge on February 13, 2020

It doesn’t matter if you are morning show talent, on air talent, a producer, host, anchor or in a role of any other hosting capacity. Prep is EVERYTHING. I just recently logged on to a webinar hosted by a seasoned professional which I thought was going to be very beneficial, but it became clear right away that the host was not prepared. This person even admitted to the fact that the technology was new and it hadn’t been tested before the presentation. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing more frustrating than when you are responsible for distributing information and you think you are prepared, but the tools you need to disperse the information disagree. The incident derailed the entire presentation and the experience was completely lost for me.

It also doesn’t matter how seasoned you are. Prep is EVERYTHING. If you’ve convinced yourself that you prep all day the day before and “your life is prep” is enough, you are doing yourself a disservice. If you’ve convinced yourself that it’s okay to roll in to your show or shift five minutes before you hit the airwaves, you’re just being lazy. Even voice tracked shifts require a certain amount of homework and mental preparation.

I’ve recently been doing some voice tracking myself and each time, I take the music log the day before, highlight all the talk breaks, research, and fill in what I can. If I have open breaks, I find lifestyle or local topics and I leave a few open opportunities for station promotions and anything big that may have happened overnight. That being said, about 30 minutes before I record the shift, I research breaking news and take a few minutes to prepare myself mentally so what I am saying comes out naturally.

If you’re doing a live show, or hosting a morning show, you should be making double the effort to prepare for it. Just recently, I heard a few hosts bring up events, or stories for reference, but they had no actual details and admitted on air they knew nothing about it. It’s like making or hearing a “Megxit” joke about Harry and Meghan (one of the biggest stories in the news), and not having a clue that it’s a “Brexit” reference. If you don’t know what you are talking about, then why bring it up? And if you don’t know what you’re talking about, you didn’t do your job. There’s nothing worse than having the person you are supposed to trust the most bring something up that you are in to, and then having them let you down because they didn’t have any actual information. You as the host or talent are supposed to be “the expert” on everything. And if you can’t be, and you have the luxury of multiple characters on the show, make sure someone else is. You can have the best producers in the world, but if you as an individual do not put in the work, you will not build loyalty and trust for your brand.

The webinar incident mentioned above also brought me back to the days of having to tell my on air talent that they must make sure the remote technicians check signals BEFORE a live broadcast or acoustic performance begins. Don’t just take their word for it. Check it yourself if you have to. I used to set up my own remotes so I know it’s possible. Be as helpful as you can because no matter what, it is YOUR name on the line. I have flashbacks to the days when I had talent checking the signal, not before the broadcast, but on the first live break, and oops…it didn’t work. What a train wreck! Now you have to come back and try the break again live at the end of a stop set, when the client was promised first in. That’s a problem!

There’s also nothing worse than going live for the first time with your favorite band performing their hit song acoustically on the air, or in a recording session, and you miss half the performance because the audio or signal wasn’t working properly. It’s common sense. Test it before you do anything. It all reflects on you.

As I mentioned, you can have the best producers in the world, or the best audio or video engineers in the world, but when it’s your brand on the line, you should be prepared to do everything to protect it from start to finish. That means getting there early before a performance or broadcast begins. It should be a minimum of 30 minutes before and that’s being generous for morning show hosts. Show up with knowledge of the prep you did yesterday, and knowledge of anything that came up overnight or is “breaking news.” Introduce yourself to any guests or performers on the show. Review the rundown of the show or performance, check in on the technical side, and if you have one, check in on your team. And no matter how much homework you’ve done, you’re going to need a few minutes of mental prep, whether it’s by yourself or with your team. This will go a long way as you visualize the way you want things to play out. It’s not enough to take on the attitude that you only have one role. If your brand has any depth to it and any potential for growth and success, you have to be prepared to put in the work every day for the life of that brand. It’s much easier to distract an audience than it is to gain their loyalty. You have to do everything to engage them at all times. And the only way to do that successfully is to be prepared enough to be able to FOCUS on doing just that.