[JPL] Take to heart this article in FMBQ (for Under 40 and ingeneral)

Mark Ruffin mruffin at jazzusa.com
Thu Mar 8 22:45:49 EST 2007

What a great article!! Every one should read it.  
Mark Ruffin

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Subject: [JPL] Take to heart this article in FMBQ (for Under 40 and

This Week's JPL Sponsor: SUMMIT RECORDS

Air Quality Control, 2007
by John Silliman Dodge

It's Ground Hog Day all over again. Most recently in Washington DC and LA,
long-term commercial classical stations flipped overnight to something else
entirely. Suddenly (all over again), I realize that radio can no longer
compete on the basis of a music playlist. 

I've spent decades in performance-in my twenties playing concerts and making
records, in my thirties as a radio production director, in my forties and
fifties coaching talent as a program director and consulting with radio
stations around the country. I'm convinced that the real competitive
advantage between stations always comes down to talent. The unique value
that talent adds to our presentation is the only real differentiator we
have. Since enduring relationships with listeners (our customers) are what
build long term success in any business, announcers today take on a much
more important role than ever before. Are they trained and prepared for
their new customer service challenge? Some are. Many aren't.

Turns out that great announcing is not really about radio at all. It's about
clear, concise, compelling, creative, memorable message making. It's about
merging the basics of interpersonal communication with the fundamentals of
theater. It ties together creative thinking and writing, public speaking and
presentation techniques, even the mechanics of speech. When we begin to
think and perform this way, then we can overlay the particular requirements
of the radio medium. But first we have to break it down to the basics. I use
a system I call PREP which stands for Preparation, Rehearsal, Editing, and
Performance. It's a sequence which I think can help make you and/or your
on-air talent better performers. Let's take a closer look.

Preparation. Awareness and empathy with your audience is the ultimate goal
of preparation. You want to know exactly who you are talking to at all
times. Go beyond age/sex/zip demographics and get to know the values and
motivations of your listeners, what the sales force calls the psychographic
profile. Empathy involves taking on another's perspective. Put yourself in
your listeners' shoes, see through their eyes, listen with their ears and
imagine how they perceive you. The more you understand who they are and what
makes them tick, the easier it is to visualize them as unique individuals.
And that vision puts you closer to the natural, one on one, across-the-table
conversational sound common to all great communicators. Operate from their
"outside-in" point of view and not from your "inside-out" perspective.

Rehearsal. Spontaneity is vastly overrated. Not every thought that pops into
your head should pop out of your mouth like your brain was some kind of
gumball machine. Chances are the first time you say something is not the
very best way you could say it. Rehearsal involves polishing the basics
brilliance. Three times is the charm. Before the red light goes on, speak
your next break out loud. All the bugs become evident, the places where your
thoughts or words aren't quite buttoned down. Speak it a second time and the
rough edges smooth out because now you know where you're headed. The third
time, go live; you're still delivering your own words, only now they sing.
It's called planned spontaneity and every successful actor and comedian uses
the technique. You don't have to run your entire break through this drill
but you should always rehearse the two most important components: your
entrance and exit.

Editing. Anybody here who doesn't think that our world is on communication
overload? We're supersaturated. So do your listeners a huge favor and think
before you speak. Choose fewer, more powerful words and your ideas will have
bigger impact. Less truly is more. Your audience will appreciate your
respect for their time and reward you with loyalty. 

Performance. In nearly every voice-over session I've ever done with an ad
agency, the director says, "We don't want you to sound like a DJ." By this
he really means, "Be a real person, someone that the audience will relate
to. Real people are believable. DJ's aren't." 

Too often an announcer opens the mic and out pops a caricature, a bad
impression of a DJ. You hear tones and phrases nobody uses in real life. The
disconnect stems from the illusion that the DJ is all alone in a studio
talking to a big anonymous audience. They can't see him, he can't see them.
So communication breaks down. Intimacy, eye contact, directness, relevancy,
real-speak and humanity all go by the wayside. But there's a way around it. 

For years professional athletes have used a technique called visualization
to prepare for a successful performance. When you visualize, you fix one
listener in your mind and talk directly to him or her. You remove the
artificial tones and cadences, the "DJ-isms" from your speech. You talk
exactly like you talk to your close friend in a one-to-one conversation. You
show and share emotions, opinions, all the things that real people do
together. This real attitude helps listeners adopt you into their family and
circle of friends, which is right where you want to be.

Is the performance totally real? Not quite. There is a technique I call
Reality PlusTen Percent. As a producer I observed that if you lay in a
natural sound effect, a door slam let's say, it won't always pop out of the
mix. So I learned to enhance and accentuate reality just enough so these
effects sounded "natural." You can apply the same technique to your
delivery. Your speech can take on just a touch of extra emphasis, can become
crisper and more defined, can benefit from extra animation. Women understand
the "no makeup" makeup look. It doesn't take much.

Finally, remember that you are an actor and get up for your performance.
Breathe deeply, use your whole body including your hands, make sure the
blood is flowing and the brain is fully engaged before both the mic and the
mouth go open. Know your direction and your purpose for the break. Focus all
your energy and content on one person at a time and use the intimate tone
and language with him or her that you use with your best friend. And never
break eye contact. Ever. 

Every smart business invests some of its profits in marketing and some in
research and development. The ones that don't soon enough wash away. In our
business, the talent pool is in jeopardy when we fail to budget for talent
development. Great coaches like Randy Lane, Lorna Ozmon, Vallerie Geller,
Marilyn Pittman, even me, John Dodge have been evangelizing this message for
years. We know that success doesn't happen by chance or accident. Savvy
broadcasters know that talent development is product planning and they
nurture and develop new talent upward through the chain of markets. The
smartest broadcasters know that talent is their magic bullet, the secret
sauce that makes all the difference.   

John Silliman Dodge has a 25-year career that spans and integrates music,
media, and management. He has been a Program Director for stations and
networks from coast to coast. Today, John is a talent coach, consulting and
conducting performance workshops on the art and science of creative radio
communications. He is also the Program Director for KBPS-FM in Portland.
Contact John at 425-681-9935, by mail at john at sillimandodge.com, or visit
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