On-Air Personalities

Article 5 min
Watch Senior Airman Hannah Malone of the American Forces Network (AFN) Radio Refreshers discuss building an effective on-air personality to enrich your radio show while covering the topics of personality, highlighting your strengths, using your perspective, getting personal and consistency.

Your job is to be an on-air radio host who delivers relevant command information, local info and credible military updates. However, there are plenty of other sources a listener could find with the same information. Our music library may be current, but we will never compete with commercial services that cater to a specific person's music tastes. Other than perhaps being the only English-speaking station in town, what do we bring that is unique enough for your listener to stay tuned? You!

Your personality and perspective are the reason your listeners tune in to your show. You know them, you know the military and you know their community. You're a part of it. Developing a clear, focused on-air character will help guide everything you do in your show. It's why your audience tunes in and, most importantly, why they stay.

Symbol of an “i” within a black circle representing a note of additional information. NOTE: Your personality on air should be authentic and balanced. Be enthusiastic but not too enthusiastic!

Highlight Your Strengths

Successful talent is genuine, but that doesn't mean you can't exaggerate a bit. Find the parts of yourself that you want to cultivate and highlight them on air. Maybe you're adventurous, energetic and a bit cocky. Maybe you're a bookworm, friendly and sophisticated.

You can bring any mix of your personality into who you present on air. Make sure it's authentically you. If you're trying to create a persona on air that isn't you, your listener will know. This is about highlighting traits that you already have, not pretending to be someone you aren't.

Many of us think we're a lot funnier than we actually are. A lot of humor may not translate on air, especially sarcasm. Not everything is funny, and nothing sounds worse than trying to be funny and failing.

Symbol of an “i” within a black circle representing a note of additional information. NOTE: Your on-air personality is you on your best day + 20%. Bring all the best parts of yourself and ramp up the energy, regardless of how you're feeling on that particular day. Remember that as service members representing the DoD, it's incredibly important to practice good customs and courtesies.


"So somebody has been telling me that I could do a little bit of stand-up comedy, so I'm gonna try a couple of the jokes I've got here. What did the grape do when he got stepped on? He let out a little wine. I think I'm getting pretty good at..."

Creating a response is far more important than getting a laugh, and being interesting is better than being funny.

Use Your Perspective

In the internet era, everyone has access to the same information. It's not what you talk about on air but what you do with the content that sets your show apart from the others. Lots of DJs will discuss current events or funny and interesting headlines, especially those sourced from popular show prep sites.

PRO TIP: Check out Show Prep Basics to learn more about planning a show.

A great on-air personality will find a way to stand out from the crowd by sharing their unique perspective on these events.

Symbol of an “i” within a black circle representing a note of additional information. NOTE: Your radio show is about your listeners, and they need to know how to connect with you. This requires openness and even vulnerability at times.


"On Saturday, 25 May 2019 Shape Trips and Tours is taking you to Amsterdam."


"A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were on a trip with a friend of hers coming from out of town, and you know where we went? The world-famous Amsterdam. You've got an opportunity to do just that with Shape Trips and Tours. They're heading to Amsterdam on Saturday, May 25th, and you've got an opportunity to go. So stop..."

Your listener doesn't want to listen to a fact-delivery robot. Your listener wants to hear a real engaged person talk about their perspective about things they care about. The point is to tie your content to your unique personal perspective. Your audience wants to get to know you.

Symbol of an “i” within a black circle representing a note of additional information. NOTE: It is essential to prepare your perspective. Construct your stories to have a beginning, middle and end or offer the listener some incentive or payoff for listening.

Get Personal

These personal stories and perspectives are great places to generate bits.

PRO TIP: Check out Bit Development to learn interesting ways to entertain your listeners while delivering command information.

You can turn a fumble, like spilling an entire coffee in a checkout line, into a multi-break bit where you tell your story and encourage audience members to call in and share their most embarrassing stories. Your audience will get as silly and vulnerable as you do, but you have to lead and share your experiences first.

If you're discussing a heavier topic, like Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP), you set the bar for how deep a listener is willing to go on a topic. Use your judgment but know that the more personal you are on air, the more your guests will feel like they know you and connect with you.

On air, you're the host of the party, not the center of attention. Your goal is for your listener and guests to have a great time. Your personal stories from your past and everyday life are how people connect to you. Weave them into your show.

Maintain Consistency

It's important to maintain consistency. If you sound like two completely different people through your different shows, it will confuse your audience and make it difficult for them to connect with you.


  • what your voice is,
  • how your on-air character acts and
  • from what perspective your character will approach topics.

The most important thing you can be on air is authentic. Use your personality to supercharge your show. Get creative, try new things and, most importantly, have fun. Practice makes perfect. Have a great show.

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