How do you prepare for a radio show?

It is a very relevant question to ask, “how do you prepare for a radio show?” that is. The general train of thought among radio consumers (listeners) is that the radio DJ simply goes on air and says what he or she wants to say – though there is some truth to that. However, I hope to share with you the full story behind the time and effort that goes in to preparing a 3 hour radio show.

Listener is no. 1 priority

The most important aspect about radio is you, the listener. That is the number one priority of any radio station – to keep the listener on their frequency. The first step in doing so, is by playing the best music (assuming it is not talk radio). Even though this article is not about music, it must be mentioned that it starts with the music. Therefore, having said that, I’d like to put the music aside and specifically talk about the content (the ‘stuff’ presenters say on air).

It’s a lifestyle

What ends up being spoken about and mentioned on air is very much a team effort with regards to prior agreements and preparations. Usually a radio show will have a producer. Their main responsibility is to eat, breathe and sleep on the latest news. They should be wary, at all times, of what is happening in the greater community, especially on matters that may be relevant to their audience. Having said that, radio presenters dwell in a lifestyle similar to that of the producer – having their eyes and ears open at all times. The  reason for this is because we are living in a day and age where news is fed to us as it happens; thanks to social media and the internet. Besides, no one wants someone talking to them if they are ill-prepared. Staying up to date with matters allows a more conversational tone, as opposed to a parrot-fashioned announcer. Once certain pieces of content has been found it is added to a folder known as a ‘Showclock’ – it’s like a timetable that tells you what’s on the show and at what time.

Typical layout of a showclock. The format may change from DJ to DJ. You can see that at 12:26 there will be an advertisiement and then one minute later you should play music.20160511_203911.jpg


The news side of things is mostly about informing the listener on what happened from the time they went to bed until they got into their car the next day. But, you also get the segment of the show that is content-specific. This can best be explained by the use of an analogy:

For instance, a part of my job is to talk about sport. At every 30 minute mark (7:30am; 8:30am; 9:30am) we have sports coverage. This is a feature because it is set in stone – everyday at that time we know that that is what we will be talking about.

Alternatively, you may set aside a part of the show each hour to talk about something funny. This would require some preparations before hand in the following ways: (a) decide on a funny or awkward incident; (b) what angle you will take on the subject; (c) pose the question on social media to let your listeners engage.

Different radio shows will add different topics that aligns with their target audience. So at a university radio – you would want to talk about what is happening on campus, the surrounding community and the latest music. Whereas another station may want to talk solely on money, investments and banking… At the end of the day though, there is a resonating similarity between any radio show; mastering the arts of storytelling. Once you have storytelling under your belt, the truth is you can talk about anything and the audience will keep listening because they want to be entertained. And that is the concluding point I would like to bring to your attention. Earlier I said that music is very important, but when the music stops and the microphone goes on, you have to be able to talk about something in a way that entertains the listener. In order for that to happen, research (prior preparation) is absolutely vital.

So to answer your question from earlier on – yes a radio presenter can talk about whatever they want, but they have to do so in a way that is entertaining and relatable – and that’s not easy.

(This article does not touch on the rules and regulations of what can and can’t be said on air with regards to Freedom of Expression).

IMG-20160408-WA0016From time to time, we like to go for lunch and talk about what is and isn’t working on the show.


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