Help Guests Relax
While your studio setup may vary, the core concepts remain the same. When your guests enter the studio, start recording the interview using the digital audio workstation on your production computer. You want every second of your awesome interview to be recorded in all its glory with clean audio.
PRO TIP: Have a notepad handy to mark down the record time on good soundbites to save time in editing.
Being live on the radio can be nerve-wracking for some people. It's up to you, as the DJ, to make your guests feel at ease while they're in the studio. Otherwise, your guests' nerves could impact the way that they sound and even what they say during the interview. Pre-interviews and studio visits can relieve a lot of anxiety for guests before the day they go live on air.
PRO TIP: Check out Pre-Show Guestwork for more ideas!
Pop culture shows people moving all around microphones with no effect on their sound. That's just not how our system works. Start by showing your guests the pickup pattern your studio microphones use. The goal here is to ensure they understand that if they move their mouth outside that bubble, or they aim their mouth away from directly into the mic, their audio will drop off. Leave room for questions as this concept will help your guests understand the rest of the mic mechanics.
Your biggest ally in helping your guests maintain clean audio is to enforce them wearing headphones. When a guest can hear the sounds they make or don't make, it helps them police their mic behavior along with you. It also immerses them into the show in a more full way. Have your guests adjust their headphones to be comfortable, and show them how to adjust the volume in their headphones. Understanding why you, as the DJ, are concerned with preventing audio goofs can help your guest work and help you to minimize these common errors.
Here are some common pitfalls you can help your guests avoid:
- If your guest is too close to the mic, their sound will be muddy and over-modulated.
- Being too far away from the mic makes your guest's voice sound tinny and thin.
- When you have multiple guests in the studio, they want to turn their heads to talk to each other while on air, aiming their mouths away from the mic.
- When a guest brings materials to help them on air, they often look down away from the mic.
These common guest behaviors make their audio fade in and out for the listener. You can minimize these mistakes by mic-training your guests before your interview.
Here's a solid strategy:
- Have your guests place themselves about six inches away from the mic, about a fist and a thumb.
- Ask them to put on headphones and adjust the audio to a comfortable level.
- Take your guest's mic out of your channel one live output.
- Since you already started recording using your digital audio workstation, have your guests say their rank, name and duty title and spell their name.
- Adjust microphone input levels and repeat as necessary until the audio peaks around the appropriate level. If you have multiple guests in your studio, set each guest's microphone one at a time.
- Once your guests' levels are set, pot down and turn off your guest mic.
- Then, place it back in your live output.
- Keep recording using your digital audio workstation. This will ensure your entire interview is recorded and give you a formal ID for your guests in any future sound bites.
You'll need to do some subtle mic input adjusting when live, but preparing your mics before your interview starts will make it much easier.
PRO-TIP: Check out Audio Levels to learn more information on input levels!
While you're live on air, you need to communicate with your guests without interrupting a live interview to tell them they need to turn their head into the microphone. It's jarring for everyone, especially the listener.
Cutting off your guest mid-sentence sounds rude and unprofessional; however, letting them ramble through a break can make listeners tune out of your show. So what should you do? You use nonverbal cues to communicate while live on air.
As part of your show prep, establish your nonverbal cues before your show begins while you're prepping your guest mics. Take a few minutes to explain your cues so that during your show, your guests will feel comfortable following your lead, and please let them ask questions and participate in the process.
PRO TIP: Watch Show Prep Basics for more tips on what to do while prepping for a great show!
Here are a few hand signals you can use to direct your guests to help them sound their best on-air and better adapt to audio changes while live:
Lean Closer to the Mic
No matter if the guest has been coming on air for years or it's their first time, guests tend to drift away from the mic during an interview. Though you can compensate by potting the mic up, boosting the mic input gain too much makes your guest's voice sound thin and tinny. Use this hand signal to tell them to lean closer to the mic.
Ease Back From Mic
When your guest gets too close to the mic, their sound becomes muddy and over modulated. Use this signal to help them ease back so their audio is clear on air. This is less common, but it does happen.
Back to the Mic
Explain to your guests that when they turn or lower their head even slightly, the mic will not pick up their audio. Often when you have multiple guests in an interview, they'll want to talk facing one another and not the mic. Use this signal to bring your guests back to the mic.
You Will Speak Next
You're the director of your interviews, and sometimes you need to redirect the flow of conversation, insert a question or comment or move forward so your guests can pick up on the conversation. This is a basic hand signal that lets your guests know you will speak in the next pause.
This one is a lifesaver. Sometimes guests have a lot to say—it's your job as a DJ to keep on-air breaks to a reasonable length and to break up content into digestible bits. Rather than jarring your guests with a quick wrap-it-up signal, let them budget their time by letting them know how much longer you're giving them to talk. As your break progresses, give your guests a cue for how much time they have left. This prevents them from rushing or cutting them off. Trust me on this one; you'll find guests become a lot more efficient on air when they have time guidelines.
Wrap It Up
Wrap it up is the most abused nonverbal signal. DJs often use this signal to tell a guest to stop talking so they can exit a break. That's what it's for, but should be used in conjunction with timing cues to ensure your guests aren't surprised when you use it. Also, be sure your guests understand that it doesn't mean stop talking immediately. You want the signal to cue your guests to finish their sentence and give the conversation back to you, even if they still have a point to make or content to push. Discuss the signal with your guests so they understand you're engaging in clock management and trust you will come back to their content in a later break.
Using nonverbal cues will immediately improve your show. Feel free to come up with your own and use what's best for you. After all, it's your show. If you're confident with using nonverbal signals, your guests will be more comfortable following your lead.
Get creative, try new things and, most importantly, have fun. Practice makes perfect. Have a great show.