R&R ‘The Industry’s Newspaper’
Urban Contemporary: Developing Young Air Talent
By Walt Love

Two PDs discuss the basics of training young personalities
Working with and developing air personalities require patience and expertise that are, unfortunately, at a premium. This week, two PDs talk about why and how you should teach and motivate and maximize talents.

In his 21 years in radio, KPRS-FM/Kansas City PD Sam Weaver has programmed WDIA/Memphis, WAMO/Pittsburgh, and WQMG/Greensboro. He also taught radio for four years at Chicago’s Columbia College of Broadcasting. He says, “I like to get talent in the early stage-in college or just getting into the business.”

No Ego + Voice = Promise
“These are the things I look for. One: no ego problems. You have to have a little ego, but too much can interfere with a desire to learn. Also, can they read? Can they write? Do they want to learn? And can they follow directions? If the answer to those questions is ‘yes’, I can work with them.

“Two: voice. In today’s industry it’s how well you communicate, not necessarily how big your voice is. The things is, can you learn how to be yourself on the radio and communicate with people? We want to show air talents how to be the people they are on the street everyday while they’re entertaining on the radio.” To begin with, says Weaver, “I tell them radio is not based on their memory, it’s based on how good they sound. The biggest thing in developing and nurturing talent is building confidence and keeping it high at all times. Based on my own experiences, it can be devastating for a young announcer to lose confidence. You should never expose people to situations they aren’t prepared for, like doing afternoon drive when they’re not really ready for it yet. I’ll work with people on the all-night show to prepare them both technically and professionally.”

Explain The Basics
“Then we’ll work on some basic things,” Weaver continues. “Not only do I tell them how and when to identify the station, but why. It’s always important to understand why you’re doing something. I tell them several ways to make something happen a particular way to get the desired result. I always tell the people I’’ working with that I may give them ideas, but I’m not God. The bottom line is whether something works for you. Overall, things work better when people have a good understanding of why they’re doing something.

“For example, you should explain the concept and methods of identifying the station, whether by call letters or frequency or slogan. I tell people it’s done differently at various places, but it’s always done consistently within a station. The most important thing to teach a person is how and when to identify a station. You can’t get rated if nobody knows who you are.

“Here another thing I always teach: Every time you turn on that microphone, you are potentially meeting a new person. So try to make sure people know who you are. Another basic thing you want to teach: It’s not the quantity of the words you use, but the quality. That requires a good vocabulary and knowing how to use your words effectively.

“Another thing I work on is reading liners. How do you change someone from a liner-card-reading jock into a personality-oriented entertainer? The first thing is they have to learn how to act on the radio and get comfortable with their voice on the air. And then they have to understand that what they’re’ actually doing is acting.”

“Weaver concludes, “Early in our careers, we wonder how big-name talents know about all the different things they talk about. Well, they work at it until it becomes natural. Before any of us gets to that point, we have to practice reading and acting out what we think we should be doing on the air. Radio is about making your lines fresh, exciting, and entertaining.”

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