Making Connections

Posted on December 8, 2011

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I am in Baltimore at the 2011 Arbitron Client Conference and Jacobs Media Seminar which is full of great speakers and interesting presentations I’m confident will spark a number of great blog posts… next week. In the meantime, you can keep up with the biggest developments at the seminar by following @arbprogramming on Twitter.

While I travel I have engaged a few good friends, who are great broadcasters, to share their thoughts in a series of guest posts starting with today’s observations by Christine “Electra” Pawlak,who, until recently, was the most consistently successful host on Q101/Chicago. Christine’s success as a talent comes from her engaging personality and understanding of how to cultivate a loyal, enagaged audience who tuned in to hear her observations about music, pop culture and life.

Christine is currently deciding on her next career direction. Whatever she chooses I hope it involves creating content because she is one of the best true personalities I’ve worked with.

Anyone can learn to run a board, read liners, or execute on-air contests.

Anyone can read a local news story or rant about the poor performance of a local sports team.

Anyone can talk in front of a microphone.

So what sets great air talent apart from the rest? It’s the ability to connect with listeners.

When I was a student DJ at WBRU in Providence, I learned to talk TO listeners, not AT them. There might be thousands of people listening, but each one is listening individually.

A fellow DJ advised me to keep a picture of a friend or family member around during my shows. When I turned on the microphone, I would look at that picture and pretend I was talking to that person. I chose a picture of my father.

Talking to his picture felt silly at first, but it reminded me to focus. The picture reminded me that real people are listening. It also reminded me to talk like myself, not a larger-than-life character, hiding behind a microphone.

I stopped bringing a picture into the studio not long after I graduated. I soon developed a new habit: looking at whoever happened to be in the studio with me.

At Q101, that person was usually our promotions director, Jeannine.

When she smiled or laughed at my jokes, or nodded at my observations, I imagined someone in their car or office doing the same thing.

When you talk to a listener like you talk to the people who are closest to you, you can build a real connection.

We think about our friends even when they’re not around; listeners can learn to think of you in the same way.

And when they do, they’ll make a point to listen.

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