When we start on air everyone tells us the same thing, just be yourself. Its well-intended advice meant to get us to relax and not put on the infamous ‘trying to sound like a dj’ voice, but it’s also a little misleading. Very few successful on-air personalities are truly ‘themselves’ on-air. Instead, they’re well-crafted versions of themselves that dial down certain aspects of their personalities and dial up other aspects to given them the broadest appeal to the demo they’re trying to connect with. They learn to flip the switch before they turn on the mic or talk to a listener at a station event. The variance in those alter egos range from drastic and jarring for people they know and work with to subtle and harder to pinpoint.
Emphasizing parts of our personality while downplaying others isn’t fake or disingenuous. Everyone does it throughout their entire lives in certain social situations. Growing up we all had one way we spoke and behaved around parents and other adults and another way we acted around friends. When we began dating we all learned quickly how important it was to ease into all our quirks and idiosyncrasies that could send a potential partner running for the hills.
Finding our best on-air persona is a process that takes years and never really stops evolving. It starts by identifying the handful of traits within our personality that might not sit well with listeners or, worse yet, turn them away entirely. Then working on minimizing those. While at the same time slowly starting to introduce snippets of our personality through one-line outs or quick commentary on music or content. Paying close attention to how the listeners react and engage with us on-air, on social, online and at events to see what they’re responding to. Once we’ve mastered that its time to move on to bits, benchmarks and features. Again letting the listener’s engagement and reactions dictate which ones we keep and expand on.
Are there rare unicorns out there who can truly be 100% themselves on air and find great success with it? Yes, there certainly are but they’re extremely rare and often when someone thinks they are one they’ve simply been turning the switch on so often for so long that they’ve kind of morphed into their on-air persona.
What do you think, is it important for on air talent to dial up and dial down certain parts of their persona? Also, what’s some of your experiences working with people who were drastically different off air then they were on air? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.