Radio Head

People have asked me throughout my pretend career what the secret is of being a good radio presenter and how they can get a job. Quite why they would think I might know anything about being a good radio host escapes me

, but I happily pass on any tips I’ve learned over the years for whatever they’re worth.

For me it was about growing up and learning from the guys I most admired while listening furtively to Radio One at school or during homework. The man who seemed to have it all for me was Noel Edmonds, a likeable, affable, professional presenter who seemed to have fun doing his job and, more importantly,  wanted us to have fun too.

When I started working in broadcasting myself I was hired as the local radio station DJ to do a shop opening with Noel in Glasgow and, I’m relieved to say, he was as amenable and helpful as I could have hoped. I then met him again professionally a few times, most notably when I was a guest on his House Party shows and being threatened with goo and gunk, and even then to see him rehearse was a joy, an admiration filled afternoon for me as I watched a level of professionalism and natural talent I would kill to have. (Please God, even just 10%?)

I have been following a guy on Facebook who desperately wants to work in radio but all he does is keep getting certificates from College, diplomas in how radio works. Anyone can get that knowledge free, and quicker, by pestering their local station to do an apprenticeship or just help out on Saturdays. The little secret the lecturers never divulge is that certificates don’t get you a job. I can truthfully say that I have only ever worked with a couple of people who gained their HNC or HND in radio, plus maybe a handful of radio graduates who actually gained a full blown degree. Pester power trumps matriculation every time.

So, once you have the job, what makes you stand out as a presenter? The Facebook friend I mentioned above has been asking this and he’s had well intentioned advice, from local club DJs and Community Radio helpers through to folk who actually make a living at it. Generally the advice falls in to two camps – enjoy yourself, and be natural.

 Now if you asked Noel Edmonds about this I doubt he would put down his success to simply having fun and being natural. What about the years of hard work he has put in? The listening to other presenters to see how they do it, keeping the good bits and being warned off the bad? The hours of preparation? The encouraging of the team around you to help, rather than alienating them through arrogance? And whatever happened to dumping the ego and just listening?

Last weekend I interviewed the Bishop of Reading about gay priests. I asked where they stand following the Bishops’ edict that they can stay in the Church Of England so long as their relationships are celibate. His reply was that while over centuries there have been small acts of defiance in every walk of life he was confident that the vicars were toeing the line.

There was something in how he said this that prompted my next question. “Are you saying that there may be priests currently who are in gay relationships and are ignoring celibacy?” His answer was that he would be surprised if a small minority weren’t doing that. Ten minutes later that became the lead story on our News bulletins and continued throughout the day. The Bishop Of Reading has told us he accepts some gay priests may be flouting the celibacy rules in the Church Of England.  

Now that would never have happened without my listening to, not only his words but his tone. It’s not trying to catch someone out, but it is about getting the story and the truth on behalf of listeners, putting yourself in their place and just being open to what you are hearing.

So by all means be natural (but be aware that being yourself may not be enough if you have a personality like halitosis) and of course enjoy yourself (so long as your listeners do too.) But if you want to stand out then, as with all walks of life, just listen.

Even radio presenters have two ears and just one mouth for a reason.