Five rules of radio presentation

Catherine Scott reports from the practical sessions at Fast Train North, a day of free training for freelance media professionals, November 20th 2012. The interactive, illustrated session, featuring John Ryan, director of radio indie 2ZY and former Managing Editor of BBC Radio Manchester, examined the five immutable laws of radio presentation.

Having been a BBC radio producer and manager of Radio Manchester for 7 years, John Ryan of 2ZY knows his radio rules inside out. In this Fast Train session he shared his tips for quality radio presentation. Kate Roach, a freelance writer and broadcaster attending the session, also observed: "These rules also apply to a lot of other areas, such as television and journalism".

Rule 1 – Be the authentic you. People who are the same in real life as on the air make the best presenters. Don't use unnatural words or phrases you wouldn't say in everyday life, and never laugh unless you mean it.

Rule 2 – Talk to one person. Radio is an intimate medium, best when aimed at an individual. Pluralising ("Hi, listeners") breaks the bond between presenter and listener – use "you" as much as possible instead.

"Tell the truth, and never be boring." – John Ryan

Rule 3 – Feel the length. A great link might be 4 seconds or 40 minutes. Trust your producer, as they might be a better judge of when it's time to stop. If you’re a solo broadcaster, listen to your own show. If you find your links too long, then they'll definitely bore the listener!

Rule 4 – Respect the music. Talking over the beginning or end of a song is like vandalising a piece of art. The only exception is with songs that fade out, but never start talking till the song has at least reached the chorus after the middle eight.

Rule 5 – Life is prep. Keep a notepad or phone with you at all times. Read a magazine or watch a show you’ve never tried before – it will give you new ideas. Over-preparing can be as bad as under-preparing; remember that radio is an art form, not a science.