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3 Goofs in On-Air Hosting

What are the most common mistakes we hear from television, radio and podcast hosts? Here are the top three and what you can do about them.

Weak start

How you begin determines whether your audience listens to you or not. The first words out of your piehole in the first few seconds are where your content lives or dies.

In television, old-school journalists began with long preambles, like this long ago newscast from KTAR Phoenix that took 15 very boring seconds to get going.

Compare that with a 2020 clip of NBC Nightly News that hits with an immediate attention grabbing headline that compels you to put down the remote and stop changing channels.

Old-school radio deejays began by back-selling the artist and title (which we probably already knew) then the station name, frequency and slogan, a time check and the weather forecast. By the time they get to content most listeners have tuned out.

Today, winning shows like this Up First episode from NPR begin with an immediate hook first and show mechanics second.

A military veteran told me, “We used to call that BLUF: Bottom Line Up Front!”

Servicemen and women are trained to give conclusions first with supporting facts after.

Weak language

Filler words and phrases weaken your content and cause your audience’s brain to zone out. Mindless sounds like um, er, and ah are distracting and add no meaning.

When she was at Google, Sheryl Sandberg told an executive on her team that overuse of the word “um” “makes you sound stupid.”

David Letterman once teased President Barack Obama’s tendency to say “uh” in this bit from CBS’s The Late Show called the “Uh Count.” (Letterman is also guilty of “uh” starting the segment!)

Compare that delivery to CNN reporter Daniel Dale in this high-energy, information-packed segment with zero weak language.

Beginning a statement with qualifiers like “in my opinion,” and “I mean no disrespect” make your content weaker. Beginning a sentence with, “to be perfectly honest,” makes a person seem less than perfectly honest.

Zig-zags

You are like a tour guide and your conversation is the bus carrying a load of tourists. The tourists are your audience. Some hosts veer suddenly off-road causing their tourists to go flying off the bus.

Here’s a word-for-word example of a major market host that we coached on zig-zagging (name withheld to protect the meandering.)

“Last night driving back from San Diego… and thank you for listeners who have reached out… I’m going to be out for a week but we worked it out so we can do the show from anywhere. I will be prepared. But on the way back from San Diego last night…”

As an audience, we were riding along with this host on their drive from San Diego when they suddenly swerved into an orange grove! “Non sequitur” is Latin for “it does not follow.” I guess there was no word for “zig-zag” back then.

Hold your steering wheel straight driving conversation from point A to B and your audience will stay on your bus longer. They might even tip.