When I hired and managed air talent there were a few key things I listened for when going through aircheck demos to fill open positions. They varied slightly of course depending on the daypart we were trying to fill. But, as I combed through the multitude of submissions, these were the top nine things I listened for.
Voice and delivery? Although not as important as they use to be with the focus now being on personality driven radio, the voice and delivery of the on-air talent is still the first thing that jumps out at you when you listen to a demo. It’s not the end of the world if either aren’t great, but it’s certainly a big check in the plus column if both are solid.
Does their personality come through and does it match our market/demo? Live and local terrestrial radio is personality driven. So, the demos that move to the top of the pile will clearly showcase an air talent’s personality that we assume will be a good fit for our audience. For talent coming from a market or format that are screwed down really tight it’s certainly more challenging to inject personality, but it is possible, and we want to hear it in the demo.
Do they choose relatable content? The content a personality decides to include on their aircheck demo tells a lot about how they select content for their shows. If there’s no true content breaks in the demo, then we’re going to assume that there’s no content in their shows. But, we’re also listening for whether the content chosen fits the demo for the station they were on. I would never knock someone because it didn’t fit our station perfectly as long as they’re showing that they can hit the strike zone for their current/former stations.
Can they tease that content? Teasing is one of the most important elements of an airshift yet it’s often neglected, and even more often, left out of an aircheck demo. But, it’s importance can’t be overstated. The number one thing any air talent can do to improve a station’s ratings is to increase their TSL through effective teases.
Do they set the hook? Anyone with a decent prep service can probably figure out how to choose relevant content, but learning how to set the hook is an acquired skill that sets the pros apart from beginners. Hooks are the short, turn up the radio moment that should kick off any content break.
Do they engage listeners? With more stations filling shifts with syndicated and voice-tracked talent, unable to engage with local listeners, it’s critical that on-air personalities being hired to fill a live shift know how to work the phones. That talent requires an air personality that chooses content that gets them to call and knows how to lead them into giving them usable audio when they do.
Do they take the out? Whether it’s theirs, their co-host’s in a multi-person show, or the caller’s, all air talent will miss the out occasionally, but hopefully the break segments included in the aircheck demo showcase times when the out was correctly identified.
Can they cover other roles too? It’s not a necessity but it’s always a bonus if the aircheck shows that the talent could cover multiple roles, host, co-host, instigator or solo talent.
HOST ROLE ONLY Do they have chemistry with and know how to utilize a co-host? It’s hard to know whether or not a new on-air team will have chemistry. But, if an aircheck demo shows a lack of chemistry with former coworkers we’re probably going to assume chemistry with other talent is an issue. We’re also listening for smooth handoffs between talent and hosts who know how to leave some space for their co-hosts and utilize them well.
Obviously it’s hard to do all of that in two to two and a half minutes, which is about what I recommend for the initial aircheck demo submitted for open positions. But, the goal should be to check off as many of those boxes as possible in the main demo and then have supplemental audio in your back pocket to send during follow ups that check the rest of the boxes.
Those are the main things I, and the other consultants and hiring managers I’ve worked with over the years, listen for. But, if you’re a manager who hires on-air talent what do you think? Comment below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, to let me know what you’re listening for when going through aircheck demos so I can pass that info along to air talent looking to improve.
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