Monday, July 5, 2010

What I Have Learned About Online Radio After 44 Episodes

Michael Render, Derek Brinson, and I have just finished our 44th episode of "Room 3026 Live" on BlogTalkRadio. To my surprise, today marks our two-month anniversary and I thought it would be helpful to share all that I've learned about hosting an online radio show. Hopefully, when I look back over the next two months, we will see continued growth and maturity.

Be Prepared
Each day, I spend an hour or more reading the RSS feeds in Google. The goal is to identify the latest news and understand where the buzz is originating. Some days, there are plenty of topics available for discussion and other days, nothing. From the very beginning, I knew that an hour was a long time to talk if we had nothing to say. Therefore, I make it a point to pull at least 13 interesting stories in an effort to give the team something to build upon.

I'm not always a strict task master when it comes to topics, as I often allow the discussion to go where it likes. However, if there is something I must share, I'll do my best to wrangle the dialog back to the agenda. Without some preparation, I believe the show would wander aimlessly, leaving the opportunity for dead air and awkward transitions.

Schedule Topics and Guests Ahead of Time
I do not schedule topics or guests enough. In fact, I have only scheduled guests a hand full of times over the past two months. However, I do understand the value this one change could make to the show.

My friend, Lisa Sullivan, first brought this to my attention over dinner one night. A group of us were talking about the show and she offered the suggestion. The message I received from her, and others, was that a little research on potential guests and topics would lead to more interesting shows. To accomplish this task, we would have to begin by putting these items into a show calendar.

Not only does it allow us to conduct the necessary research, but it also gives us time to advertise and build a buzz.

You Cannot Do It All
This lesson is applicable in just about every situation, but it works here as well. In the beginning, I tried to man the calls, manage the chatroom, produce the show, and conduct research. For an hour show, it took more effort than I originally planned. Thankfully, I have an awesome team who stepped up to the challenge. Today, Mike handles the switchboard, which includes receiving telephone calls, playing music, and sound bites. Derek, the other team member, keeps the chat room moving and engaged.

The lesson here is to find help where ever it may be available.  

Be Consistent
Personally, I may not be consistent in everything I do, but we have been very consistent with the show. Over the past two months, we have been on the air every single weekday at the same time. Our listeners have come to enjoy and expect our time together each afternoon. As a result, our numbers are growing and we have a band of loyal listeners who return each and every day.

Build A Relationship With Listeners
Building relationships with listeners is a must. To our advantage, BlogTalkRadio provides a chat window to engage participants. The team and I have come to rely heavily on the immediate feedback from friends/listeners. When a topic touches them, we know it. When something is incredibly boring, we'll sense that, too. Therefore, we are able to fine tune the show based on our interactions with them.

Outside the show, I have also received feedback from casual conversations with those same individuals. It is this feedback that allows us to make the show even better.

Be Patient
Starting an online radio show is similar to starting a blog. In the beginning, nobody knows about the show and few people ever really listen. As a result, it is easy to fall victim to disappointment. Like all things, growing a listener base will take time and plenty of patience. Be strong and continue to act as if you had a large body of supporters. Someday, you will.

Write It Out
Maybe its because I spent so many years acting on stage, but having a script is one of the best pieces of advice I can give. Many professional news anchors and public speakers read from a script. At first, it feels weird and mechanical, but it has helped me tremendously.

Because we encourage listener participation and dialog, we remain loose in that department. However, writing  a script for the opening dialog, guest introductions, and planned segments are great ways to sound like you've been doing this for years.

Have Fun!
Enjoy the show for the show's sake. People seem to rally behind fun and interesting shows, so forget about the statistics, the agenda, and just have fun. When you have fun, so will the audience.

Final Thought
Hosting an online radio show is both fun and rewarding. It provides an outlet for sharing ideas and helps strengthen relationships with active listeners. However, the road to a successful show does not happen overnight and requires plenty of behind-the-scenes preparation. The items listed above represent the major lessons we have learned thus far, but we also know there is more awaiting us.

Hopefully, you found this information beneficial. If you have any specific questions about BlogTalkRadio or Room 3026 Live, please feel free to ask. Good luck!

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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