4 minute read

The Radio Game Changers podcast has been an amazing gift for me as a programmer and so-called talent coach.

In the last few months I’ve had more than 10 hours of one on one time with 10 of the best broadcasters on Australian radio and during these interviews I’ve been constantly reminded of the daily challenges that on-air talent face when they front up at 6am every morning with their audience waiting to have the day framed for them.

This quote from Matt Tilley stood out for me in this week’s episode.

“this is a job where everyday I go to work and I’m still not sure of how something is going to go for me. (This might be funny…I think the audience might like it…but then again, I don’t know.). You’re never certain. I don’t think there’s been a single day in my working life where I’ve been absolutely sure of myself”.

And this is from a guy who’s dominated one of the toughest radio markets in the world for the better part of 15 years!

Hearing Matt say that reminded me of the inherent tension and uncertainty of the creative process and how much courage it takes to push through those feelings of self-doubt and do it anyway.

The one level of comfort you can take from your own feelings of vulnerability is that you’re not alone.

Welcome to radio!

From the very best in the country like Matt Tilley, to someone starting out in a regional market, this is something that virtually everyone who turns on a microphone has to deal with at some point.

Sam Cavanagh EP of the Hamish and Andy show talks about it this way.

“I think what’s interesting about performers is that what they do makes them incredibly vulnerable. They are either loved or hated. Judged or ignored. Being confident is not the same as being bullet-proof. Great performers are often full of self doubt, but they know how to back themselves in and be confident in their ability when it matters most.”

A few years ago, Wendy Harmer explained it this way

“A wise-cracking, one-liner persona won’t get you very far. It’s tiresome for both you and the listeners.

Your anxieties, self-doubt and narcissistic tendencies aren’t appealing – even though most broadcasters have those traits in spades. So how much do you tell? What do you hold back? Who is it you’re trying to connect with?

It’s showmanship and bravado but it’s also something else: conviction, compassion and sincerity.”

So here’s the other side of this really messy equation and her name is your content director, who’s principle role is to help the team, and you as a performer, reach your potential.

If you’re on the air, listen up, because you’re about to read something that may never have even crossed your mind until now.

Here’s our dirty little secret. For most programmers we have exactly the same doubts and insecurities you have.

Our questions and anxieties go something like this…

How can I help this team?

Is what I’m saying going to help them get better?

Do they respect me?

What can I say or do right now that will have a positive impact?

Trust me, these sorts of questions go through most programmers fragile minds virtually everyday when they’re talking to their breakfast teams.

Some of us have managed to mask our insecurities with bravado,(sound familiar?) but these feelings are as real for us as they are for you.

So in essence it’s a different type of performance anxiety, but the impact is the same.

OK, so what’s the solution?

Outside of having a group hug, I’m not actually sure there is one, but since I’m now 700 words into this article, it’s probably a good idea to come up with some kind of moral to the story.

My suggestion would be to spend time together-breakfast and content director-on getting really clear about your expectations for the show, for the performer you want to be and for the feedback loop that you’ll both need to be a part of to improve your performance.

The more time you can spend on understanding each other, programmer and performer, 2 sides of the same coin, the more you’ll be able to help each other get the result that you both want.