Training messes with
the talent

The young people you get on your station as moderators and producers are (hopefully) interesting and interested in the world around them. They have their points of view and unique perspectives.

When the training starts, we start teaching them the basics of radio. From the structure of the break to the planning of the show, we fill their heads with what we think are best practices, but what they often understand as the rules.

All this, at least in the start then messes up with what they have to say. They become boring and like any other young moderator on any other radio station.


How people are listening helps with understanding what they need to do

The simplicity of this exercise is why it is so brilliant.

All you have to do is to ask two questions, and then just nudge them into the right answers.


Question number one

Imagine and describe the
perfect listener

when and how do they listen, what are his or her listening habits?

This works great with the whiteboard and if the moderators are writing the description. When describing the perfect listener, go over the top. The listener we are describing doesn’t exist.

For me, it would be someone who:

  1. Listens all the time
  2. Just to me and my radio
  3. Has focussed attention on what the moderator is saying
  4. There is built trust so that they will be patient with long intros to breaks with no apparent point (some like the start of this blog)
  5. When they listen it is on noise-cancelling headphones (perfect listening conditions) – they hear a pin drop in the studio
  6. They are just listening and not doing anything else
  7. Nobody can interrupt them when they are listening
  8. Everything we say they find extremely either entertaining or informative (or even both!)
  9. They are open-minded to the new experiences and love when you do something completely unexpected
  10. No matter what we do, we are always the first choice
  11. They care for us
  12. They are totally immersed in listening
  13. They have no worries, are completely stress-free and have all the time in the world


The truth is – it doesn’t exist. The closest we get to that is on the air-check where we try to hear everything (but there we are listening critically, and affection of the perfect listener is missing).

You will be successful when somebody in the group says – “That doesn’t exist.” Then you can move to the next question.


Question number two

Imagine and describe the real listener

when and how do they listen, what are his or her listening habits?

What is the real listener like?
In most cases, it is the opposite of the perfect listener:

  1. Listening to us is a background activity
  2. The attention focused on the work and people around (and the phone)
  3. The listening conditions are poor – they can barely hear the moderator, and the bad phone call is a plain unrecognizable jumble
  4. They are impatient. If they don´t hear the benefit (why should they care about what you are saying!?) they stop active listening or even change the station (how dare they)
  5. Even when they are trying to listen, something is always interrupting – coworker, mail, notifications on the phone
  6. They don´t care about what you are talking about
  7. Life is hard and most days are just crazy – and they don´t have any time to lose
  8. They are opinionated and if they don´t like what you are saying they change the station
  9. If you say something stupid (because you have a bad day and it can happen to everyone), they assume you are an idiot


When we understand how people listen to the radio – the “rules” become the guidelines.

Let them aircheck them

After doing this exercise, it often feels like people finally get it. After this exercise, I get back to listening to some files and let them get their own conclusions.

What I get then normally is a variation of:

  • The three element break is not something that the consultant says they have to have, but the way to give people time to focus on the voice when the music stops.
  • At the start of the break, they need something that the listener cares about. Otherwise, they stop listening (earcatcher!)
  • If we don’t give them the reason to listen further – they will stop listening.
  • Mentioning the songs we just played helps with the recall of the music we play (is as important as selling the music forward)
  • The soundbites need to be of good quality. Otherwise, people will not understand what is being said
  • Too long breaks with no particular benefit for the listener are just ignored


You still need to work on getting those things right (moderation is partly a craft), but now they get more of the WHY it is important to have all those “rules.”

The best thing – the moderators get to these conclusions on their own. You just lead their thinking. And this makes this so powerful.


Powertip: after the session, asks them to send you the summary in the writing form. Just recalling everything you said makes it stick better.





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