5 things you only know if you’re a radio host

Xanthe Palmer, freelance producer and presenter at BBC Radio Sheffield, gives us a behind-the-scenes look into the world of regional radio.

1. It’s not just music and conversation…
Well, it kind of is, but doing radio goes a lot deeper than you might think. Everything you hear, from the playlist to the wonderful packages carefully crafted by journalists or producers, has been carefully curated, planned, and probably at the center of several conversations between producers and editors to approve the finished product you hear on the way to work in the Morning. In saying that, there is not only the radio in the radio; it has never been more important for almost everything to live on social networks. So being able to turn a memorable radio moment into a successful IG post or tweet is always the icing on the cake for us radios. But, of course, the radio comes first!

Xanthe Palmer, BBC Radio Sheffield

2. Connection is key
For me (and pretty much everyone I’ve met in this industry), radio is about connecting with the listener as if they’re sitting across from you, listening, cup of tea in hand. I learned to appreciate this at the start of the first confinement. Phones rang non-stop with elderly and vulnerable people in panic, frantically trying to figure out how to get groceries or medicine, or simply terrified of what was happening and needed someone to talk to. Those first few weeks were both emotionally draining and eye-opening. It really drove home how important connecting with listeners is and that when needed, they turn to their radio stations.

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BBC Radio Sheffield

3. Expect the unexpected
My work is amazing for so many reasons, but one of the best things is that you never know what’s going to happen next. You never know what random and controversial story is going to get everyone talking, whether it’s a report about Britain’s favorite biscuits that divides people on social media (for some reason people love to talk cookies?), or a furious local landlord provocatively trimmed hedge becomes a viral local tourist attraction (true story). No matter how hard you plan a show, you never really know where it will go, who will text, or even what breaking news causes you to throw your show out the window and start over.

4. Time is really running out
Your concept of time will never be the same once you work on live radio, or experience anything for that matter. Every second counts. Precision and accuracy are imperative. You never notice the hands of a clock until you count them down in anticipation of pressing the next button… at exactly the right time. For the most part, every part of the show you hear has been planned, so it all starts and ends precisely when it needs to. I find that awareness follows me out of the studio and I’m hyper aware of every passing minute. You would think this could be very useful outside of work, although I always seem to be late most of the time!

Xanthe Palmer, BBC Radio Sheffield

5. Radio is a powerful medium
I remember one listener sending a text message thanking the presenter for playing a song – yes, just a song! I imagine it was one of those times when you hear a song on the radio in a store or in the car and the lyrics jump out at you as if the song was made for you to hear at that exact moment. . Well, I think something like that happened to her, and while the song was playing, she called her lawyer to end a very unhappy marriage. Apparently, the divine moment we played that song (wish I could remember which one!) was all it took for her to act on something she’d been putting off for so long. It reminds me how all the little things we do in life, on the radio or otherwise, can be so powerful.

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