What makes a great radio presenter? 

18 March 2024

How much time did you spend with radio presenters last week?

The latest UK radio audience figures show that 89% of the country listens to the radio at least once a week and they spend over 20 hours each week doing so. That means most of us spend a lot of time in the company of radio presenters.

We love stats like this, as a radio production company, radio is literally in our DNA, so to see it continue to thrive is music to our ears.

Our talented presenters produce thousands of hours of live output each year. They’re the key members of our broadcast teams. For us, and all radio stations, a presenter is a position of responsibility.

In 2023, our presenters aren’t only being heard throughout the retail radio waves, they are just as likely to be heard in someone’s home office (kitchen table) or on a mobile app. Making a positive impact on diverse audiences like those takes a special kind of person.

A radio presenter’s role is to create a show that resonates, entertains, and sticks with you long after it’s over, and one at the top of their craft can lift a show from good to unmissable, establishing a unique bond with their listeners and turning them into loyal fans.

So how do they do it, and what is it that makes a great radio presenter?

The voice of a radio presenter

A presenter’s voice is their most important tool. It needs to be clear, yes, but also packed with personality. At their core, a great presenter is a great communicator. They know how to play with their tone, speeding up to ramp up excitement or slowing down to draw you in.

The best broadcast presenters are those who are able to succeed in the radio industry simply by being their authentic selves. The most memorable voices in radio have a knack for making you feel at ease and engaged, almost like you’re just having a chat with a friend.

Building connections with the audience

The best presenters are the ones who understand their audience, knowing what makes them tick, and using that knowledge to communicate in a way that resonates. A great presenter uses empathy to build connections with their audience and makes each and every listener feel seen and heard.

We spoke to the team in our AVC office and asked them the question, “What do you think makes a great radio presenter?” Helen, our client and content manager said, “A great broadcaster has me saying out loud ‘yes! that’s exactly what I think!’, I want to feel they are talking directly to me and I want them to make me laugh, smile and think. I also want them to sound genuine and honest”.

Content creation and curation

Content is the bread and butter of any radio show, and a top presenter knows how to serve it up to their audience in a way that’s compelling. But it’s not just about choosing the right tracks and introducing them. Broadcasters must take their listeners on a carefully constructed audio journey, staying on the pulse of what’s hot and what’s not. They’re in the know, and they make sure you are too.

AVC’s Finance Director, John picked up on this as being one of radio’s big strengths – it’s live and flexible to events. He said, “Great presenters are quick to react and bring in new and unique topics out of the blue when they’re needed”.

Having the ability to react and run with the latest news as it comes in, providing thoughtful commentary on the latest issues, and having the communication skills to turn a headline into a 20-minute segment is an immense talent that takes time and experience to develop.

Adaptability and multitasking skills

Radio presenters need to adapt and be great improvisers. Though broadcasters work from scripts sometimes unexpected technical issues arise and a great radio presenter needs to be on the ball, ready to react and pivot if necessary to keep the conversation flowing even when things aren’t running so smoothly in the studio.

Ross, CEO at AVC, having worked with presenters for a long time, commented, “A great presenter makes it sound easy when I know it’s not. They have to balance sounding calm and in control with showing a passion.”

Personality and on-air presence

At a minimum, a top radio presenter needs talent and skill, but to truly connect with the audience they need something more, a quality that makes them exceptional.

Being confident, extraverted, charismatic, and a strong communicator are all qualities associated with being a good presenter, but ultimately a level of openness and warmth is what makes presenters truly relatable, engaging, and likable.

One of our presenters, Michaela suggested, “Great presenters have friendliness, authenticity, and warmth. If I hear those qualities, the presenter is more likely to draw me in”.

Our CEO, Ross added, “I agree. I look forward to hearing my favourite presenters, they brighten up my day and I miss them when they’re not there”.

Engaging with the community

When it comes to radio presenting, it’s not just about what happens inside the studio. A truly great presenter knows the power of reaching out and becoming a vibrant part of the community and using their platform to shine a spotlight on local events, charities, and causes. Presenters have the power to create a positive ripple effect that extends into the lives of their listeners bringing them closer to their audience.

Continuous learning

In the fast-paced world of radio, resting on your laurels just isn’t an option. The best broadcasters out there are the ones who have their finger firmly on the pulse of the media and music industry and stay up to date with popular culture, and the latest news stories through social media, podcasts, and television.

If you are thinking of getting into a career as a radio broadcaster thinking that it’s an easy job because they’re only on air a couple hours a day, then think again. Continually learning and being on the lookout for content and stories that can enhance shows are essential to succeeding in the radio industry. In that sense, the work never really ends. Broadcasters must always be moving with the times, ready to embrace new trends, and always keeping content fresh and relevant.

This kind of proactive and engaged attitude is something that would set you apart in the eyes of potential employers. The passion you display will shine through in your broadcasting and elevate a station. Make sure you highlight these qualities if you are applying for radio presenter jobs.

How to become a radio presenter

Training to be a broadcast presenter is an exciting adventure, filled with opportunities to connect, create, and share your unique voice with the world. It’s a role that requires passion, dedication, and a genuine love for communication. So, where do you start?

First and foremost, it’s crucial to understand what being a radio presenter truly entails. You need to be a master communicator, a quick thinker, and a reliable source of information and entertainment.

Find your voice and gain experience

A clear and engaging voice is your primary tool, but it’s not the only skill you need. Work on your communication and technical skills, learn how to modulate your voice to suit different content, and practice speaking clearly and confidently. Get some experience under your belt at a student radio station or as a hospital radio presenter before applying for local radio. Listen to seasoned presenters, pay attention to their style, and don’t be afraid to find your unique voice.

Experience is key in the world of radio presenting. Start small, perhaps with community radio stations, apply for broadcast assistant positions at larger organisations, or take the entrepreneurial route and start your own podcast. Don’t shy away from internships or volunteer opportunities; they are invaluable for gaining hands-on experience and making connections in the industry.

Staying informed and relevant

A great radio presenter is always in the know. Stay updated on the latest news, trends, and music. Be curious, ask questions, and never stop learning. The radio industry is ever evolving, and staying relevant is key to maintaining a successful career.

Becoming a radio presenter is a challenging, fast-paced, and fun career path filled with learning opportunities, and a chance to connect with audiences in a unique and meaningful way. With passion, dedication, and a willingness to learn, you can turn your dream of working in radio production into a reality.

Mastering the art of broadcasting

Being a great radio presenter is about so much more than just talking into a microphone. It’s about personality, adaptability, and a whole lot of heart.

It’s about understanding their audience, creating content that resonates, and using their platform to make a positive impact in the community. Staying calm under pressure, handling the unexpected with grace, and always being ready to learn and grow are skills that can transform community radio broadcasters into famous radio celebrities like Zoe Ball or James O’Brien.

So, whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, remember that every show is an opportunity, every piece of feedback is a gift, and every listener is a chance to make a connection.

In closing, the defining attributes of a great presenter were summed up perfectly by AVC’s Managing Director AVC Music, Euan McMorrow, who said: “A great broadcaster is someone you actively choose to spend time with, they’ll give you something in return, and they won’t let you down. In a nutshell, a great radio presenter always feels like a great friend.”

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