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SYNDICATION 101... How To Practice for a Radio Show

This article is for those who have not yet honed their skills at the microphone. If you are considering your own radio show (or even broadcast publicity in general), and you haven't done much on-air before, you may want to practice a bit before you actually put marketing dollars into your own show. Here are some things you can do...

CALL IN: Start your training by doing something similar to what you'll be doing eventually... call-ins; be a caller into talk shows (as a listener) and practice getting into longer and longer discussions with the hosts. Some popular radio talkhosts (such as Dr. Laura) actually got their start by doing call-ins. And a side benefit will result from doing this... you will become familiar to the hosts and their screeners. This will really help if you try to get your show on these stations.

VOLUNTEER: Call your local community radio station and tell them you want to volunteer to help them out around the studios. You'll probably get some time on-air, and you'll also get to talk to callers and other DJs/talkhosts. You'll get a good sense of the equipment there, which will help you when doing your own show. As for commercial stations, they are going to be more difficult getting into the studios (even as a volunteer), so you will probably have to start off in the business office (although you will probably still get to meet the hosts and management when they enter and leave.)

A not-so-obvious benefit of volunteering (especially at commercial stations) is that you'll get to see other prospective-shows (and their promo people) who are calling, mailing, and visiting the station in order to clear their shows. Finding out how the station reacts to different promo techniques, as well as how the actual syndication process is carried out, is something that will be of tremendous value to you when you are banging your head on the phone, trying to clear your own show.

GUEST HOSTING: After months of call-ins and volunteering, you may find yourself being offered (or you may ask for) a chance to guest-host a show. The first show that you get will be a small one, but the lessons learned will be the same as if it were large. Actually taking calls from callers and interviewees, along with dealing with the broadcast clock and equipment, will be what you need to know when doing your own show.

CHATS: You wouldn't expect this, but web chats are the easiest way to practice for the questions you'll get from typical radio listeners about your show topic. This is provided, of course, that you want to cover a specialty topic, and not just do a general-interest show.

The feedback you get from a web chat is different than what you get from a paid-speaking engagement, because the chat audience (since the chat is free, anonymous, and available in-home) is much more like a real radio audience. A chat will also give you radio tune-out training, meaning that you'll see people leave the chat if they get bored. This feedback does not happen too readily at speaking engagements, since the audience is reticent about leaving mid-speech.

SPEAKING: Speaking is about the only experience that is obvious, and most people will have tried speaking (or Toastmasters) before they attempt a radio show.

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