This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Consultant Tips” series, written by Charese Fruge on January 7, 2020

Let’s face it, it takes a lot to be successful and to earn the loyalty of your audience in the radio business. With all the distractions and competition, it doesn’t matter how passionate you are or how driven you are. It doesn’t even matter how funny you are. Because if you aren’t taking the number one step to hook a listener and maintain their time spent listening, they’ll never even hear the funny part or the pay off because they have long tuned out. The step I am referring to is “air checking yourself.” Listening to un-scoped recordings of your show. Not podcasts or best of’s – your full show. Take the time out of your busy schedule to do it. You are your own biggest critic and you will learn something new from yourself every time you do it.

The business has changed a lot and Program Directors are wearing many different hats right now. They don’t necessarily have the time to air check talent the way they’d like to and the way it’s needed. Consultants can usually only listen to what you put together and send to them for your bi-weekly call (if you get that many). My guess is you’re going to produce your best bits down and send those. You’re probably not going to send something you know didn’t work. But those are the best ones to listen to because you can go through the steps to save a bad bit, and ask yourself what you could have done better, or you can make a commitment to make better choices about your bits moving forward. This is why it’s so important to make air checking yourself your number one responsibility, no matter how seasoned you are.

When you sit down to listen to your show, there are several questions on the check list you need to ask yourself to make sure the bit is paying off. If it isn’t, while you listen, think about the ways you could have made it work. It’s the fastest, quickest way to learn how to become a great talent. Here’s what the list of questions looks like:

  • Did I set up the bit in a timely manner and in a way that set the receiver (show member, listener, or listening audience) up for success? Did I self-edit, get right to the point and throw the perfect pass to the receiver? More importantly, did I know beforehand where the bit was going and did I have a good strategy to get it there.
  • Did I LISTEN to the receiver and not talk over them? Did I know when to respond and did I stay focused? Did I, or the receiver set the bit up for success with an open ended question or a thought provoking statement that would cause the audience to react passionately and get engaged in the bit.
  • Did I know when the topic was done, or the point made? Did I know when it was time to end the bit no matter who got the one liner or payoff?
  • Did I leave the bit on a high, or if needed, did I leave the bit with a great tease that gives the audience incentive to stick around or come back?
  • Was I okay with the receiver’s participation or did “I” have to have the out? Or did I finish the receiver’s thought’s for them? (That’s a problem if you did)
  • Did I use any crutches or crutch words? There is nothing worse than a liner card jock or a jock that just back sells songs. It’s a waste of air time and an instant tune out. Also crutch words, or setting things up the same way every time can often become annoying to loyal listeners. Be creative with everything. Update your produced imaging and feature intros often and approach everything in a different manner if you can.
  • Overall, did the bit successfully cover a good set up, response and worthy payoff?

This definitely takes some patience and the ability to critique yourself for the benefit of your show. The good news is with a typically slow to start month of January, you should have plenty of time to dive deep into some of your air checks and learn to “self-edit.” It’s one of the best things you can do for yourself and it costs you nothing. Invest in your own career and be a student of radio. That not only involves listening and learning from your favorites mentors, but also listening and learning from yourself.