How you can be an engaging radio presenter

radio, presenting, personality, media, Kate Cocker, Kettle Mag
Written by academy

The “art” of radio is communicating content in a way that is so engaging for your audience they don’t want to turn off – personal, creative, authentic.

The “business” of radio is to engage and grow your audience so your sales team can sell advertising (and it doesn’t take a genius to understand that your wages will come out of that). More people listening for longer, is the aim.

The role of a presenter then, is to quickly engage a (sometimes new) listener to the station, and keep them listening for the next 15 minutes, and the next 15 minutes, and the next 15 minutes. 

It’s even better if you get them to come back again and again.

Here are 4 of the simple steps you can take to authentically grab your listener by the ears.

Know what you are going to say

I’ve been working with a really experienced broadcaster recently. He’s brilliant at coming up with great treatment on content. A real life one of those presenters you listen to and think: ‘gah I wish I had had that idea!’  Recently he’s been getting stuck. The ideas aren’t working as well as they could be and they are getting lost.

The solution: work on the words.

Keep it simple. Prep. Know where you want to go. Know how you want to get out of the topic. What’s the order of what you want to say? And what can come next? Even broadcasters at the top of their game have to remind themselves that the words are their paints. Best to work on them and keep ‘em fresh.

Bring YOU

When people listen to you they aren’t listening to your story for you. They are listening to your story for themselves. They are trying to work out where they can match their story to yours. The human drive for connection is instinctive: it drives our species’ evolution, so you have to find a way to make sure that your stories connect.

The most guaranteed connection you have with your audience is that you are a human! Meaning the more personal you are with your stories, the more likely you are to connect. This is why it’s so important to be authentic.

So start with you. For example: what did you do today? What do you think about the information you want to tell your listener? What do you notice about the song you just played? What did the other half do today? What is it that you stand for?

Rather than think about what it is that you don’t want to bring to the table, think about the things you do.


Use your voice

When you’re on the phone to your partner/sibling/parent, they make “that” noise and you know they’re annoyed? It’s instant. I say to my husband: “what do you mean ‘hi?’!” (The “hi” repeated in his irritated tone).

The tone of your voice can change the way your words are received. Are you excited? Are you in charge? Are you like the person your listener would want to sit next to in the pub?

Most of all your authenticity is most likely heard in your vocal tone. When you aren’t sure of what you’re doing, you tend to tighten your throat, and your voice comes out at a bit of a higher pitch. Your listener can tell. When you talk in a voice that you think sounds like a radio presenter and not your own, your listener won’t believe you.  

The truth is, one of the most effective ways to achieve an authentic vocal tone is to be on the radio a lot. Visualisation and physical exercises also help. I reveal some in the free webinar I produce.

Focus on your listener

There are 2 people in this relationship – you and your listener. Note you are talking to ONE person, not a gang, so refer to that listener as one person.

If you don’t know them, get to know them.

Find the person in your life fitting the description of your listener, and use them as your filter: “would Jane care about what I am about to say?” Read the websites they read, listen to the songs they listen to, listen to their language, understand their issues, and watch the films and TV they love. If you’re not trying to understand your audience, then you’re not trying to connect with them.

The focus of my time in radio has been about effective communication with your listener. I’ve always been passionate about coaching presenters to be the best communicators they can be.  Whether that has been in nurturing talent, or producing radio shows, one to one coaching has become vital for efficient personal progress. I came to see that where the industry has been consolidating, there are fewer opportunities for presenters to develop organically. When you get to the airwaves these days, you have to be ready. 

I set up The Presenter Coach specifically to work with radio presenters aiming to get to the next level. Now I get to do the thing I love, all of the time.

There’s no truer gratification in radio than knowing you’ve connected with a listener; sometimes you discover you’ve changed, or even saved, someone’s life. My role is to enable presenters to do this every day.

Kate Cocker is a Manchester based trainer and coach for radio presenters, through The Presenter Coach. Additionally, Cocker has served as Content Controller for Manchester's Key 103 and as a producer for programmes on XFM and BBC Radio 6 Music.