The Student Radio Association (SRA) organised training days all over the UK to connect radio professionals with university students interested in working in the world of radio, either by producing or presenting a show. Cardiff guest speakers included Dan Potts (BBC Wales) and Vicki Blight (Absolute Radio), who were previous members of Xpress Radio that climbed the industry ladder with their hard work and creativity.
Here are some of their best tips:
1. Know your audience – don’t just work for yourself
“You are not speaking for yourself!” insists Vicki Blight. What you consider interesting might be boring to others, especially if they’re not pulled in by what you’re saying. If you’re doing a podcast on a certain topic get something fresh – get news from “today”! – to convince people to stop and listen to you.
Similarly, if you’re doing an underground music show, do not start with the most unknown song: try something a bit more mainstream to warm up your audience.
2. Use social media!
A good way to engage with the audience is to use social media to convince people to share their opinion. Both Dan and Vicki agree that the era of the #hashtagEverything has arrived and we can use it to learn more about what our audience likes and dislikes.
3. To be a star at the BBC, first get a job at the BBC
“How can we work in radio at the BBC?” was a popular question throughout the day. According to Dan Potts, getting a job at the BBC because you “know someone” is an urban myth.
Nowadays, it is impossible to teleport right to the top of the food chain. You have to start at the bottom and as Dan says it, “To get a job at a BBC Radio show, the first part is getting actually getting a job at the BBC.” Dan got his first job at the station answering phones and running errands, but he worked his way up by proving he was willing and motivated: “Getting that @bbc email account is very important to apply for jobs internally as you get priority”
4. Be consistent!
It might be cliché, but getting to work on time and being reliable will be fruitful in the long run. Dan and Vicky were very clear on the fact that people do not give chances to those who think they are too good to show up.
5. “Fake it until you make it”
“Getting a perfect first job doesn’t happen,” explains Dan. “You will not like every programme or topic you’re asked to work on”. In other words, people might ask you to prepare something about topics you know nothing about. It is important to say yes and prove that you are versatile and willing to make it work.
6. The pie chart trick for extra time
Pie is great! As a late night snack, maths chart or, you guessed it, radio planning. Pie charts are a great way to visualise how fast an hour of radio can go and how you should divide time between your programme, music breaks, publicity and guests.
Plus, it can draw attention to some issues with your show. Vicki pointed out never to place news and spoof news together as it can generate a lot of problems. It would sound terrible if your comedy piece about a famous politician was heard before the news programme announcing he had just been in an accident.
7. Do not reveal all your cards!
If you like doing podcasts, or you are thinking of creating your own show for Xpress, do not tell your listeners everything that will happen in the programme straight away. Not only does it force people to hear a lot of talking without a break, but by the time you finish your long list everyone will have forgotten the first point.
“Now” and “Up next” are good enough for informing listeners and will keep your engaged.
The bottom line? Working in radio takes more than passion and a “golden voice”, especially as not every position is as a presenter. Yet, hard work seems to pay off and it was great to hear the work stories of two professionals that started with our student radio.
Although we focus on Dan and Vicki, the SRA training day brought many more speakers to Cardiff.
Xpress Radio Station Manager, Kieran Lewis, notes that the training days are useful and hopes Cardiff’s Student Radio can help organise other similar events. In his words: “Training days give a real taste of what the radio industry is like and also show how student radio is a great way to get involved and gain relevant skills.”
More about the “advice-voices” behind this guide:
Dan Potts is former Cardiff Student and member of Xpress back in his days. Currently he works as a Broadcast Assistant for BBC Radio Wales. Vicki Blight, current host of Absolute Radio, also started out in Student Radio Cardiff and has already worked for Heart and BBC Radio 1.