5 things you only know if you’re a… Radio Presenter

Xanthe Palmer, a freelance producer and presenter at BBC Radio Sheffield, gives us a look behind the curtain at the world of regional broadcast radio.

1. It’s not just music and talking…
Well, it kind of is, but so much more goes into making radio than you might think. Everything you hear, from the playlist to the wonderful packages painstakingly crafted by journalists or producers, has been carefully curated, planned and probably the centre of several conversations between producers and editors to approve the finished product that you hear on your way to work in the morning. In saying that, there’s more to radio than just radio; it’s never been more important for pretty much everything to live on social media, too. So, being able to turn a memorable moment on the radio into a successful IG post or tweet is always the absolute cherry on top for us radio peeps. But, of course, radio comes first!

2. Connection is key
For me (and pretty much anyone I’ve ever met in this industry) radio is about connecting with the listener as if they’re sitting across from you, listening, cuppa in hand. I came to appreciate this at the start of the first lockdown. The phones were ringing off the hook with elderly and vulnerable people in panic, frantically trying to figure out how to get their shopping or medication, or just terrified of what was going on and needed someone to talk to. Those first few weeks were both emotionally exhausting and eye-opening. It really hammered home how important the connection is with listeners and that in times of need, they actually turn to their radio stations.

BBC Radio Sheffield

3. Expect the unexpected
My job is amazing for many reasons but one of the best things is that you never know what’s going to happen next. You never know what random, controversial story is going to get everyone talking, whether it’s some report about Britain’s favourite biscuits that divides people on social media (for some reason, people love to talk about biscuits?), or a furious local homeowner’s provocatively pruned hedge becomes a viral local tourist attraction (true story). No matter how much you plan a show, you never quite know where it will go, who will text in, or even what breaking news story causes you to throw your show out the window and start again.

4. Time really is of the essence
Your concept of time will never be the same again once you work on live radio, or live anything for that matter. Every second counts. Precision and accuracy are imperative. You never notice the hands of a clock until you’re counting them down in anticipation of pressing the next button… at exactly the right time. For the most part, every bit of the show you hear has been planned to time, so everything starts and ends precisely when it should. I find this awareness follows me out of the studio and I’m hyper-aware of every minute that passes. You’d think this could be quite useful outside of work, though I still seem to find myself running late most of the time!

Xanthe Palmer, BBC Radio Sheffield

5. Radio is a powerful medium
I remember a listener who texted in to thank the presenter for playing a song – yes, just a song! I imagine it was one of those moments where you hear a song on the radio in a shop or the car and the lyrics jump out at you like the song was made for you to hear at that exact moment. Well, I think something like that happened to her and, during the time the song played, she made a call to her solicitor to end a very unhappy marriage. Apparently, the divine timing of us playing this song (I wish I could remember which one!) was all it took for her to act on something she’d put off for so long. It reminds me how all the little things we do in life, radio or otherwise, can be so powerful.

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