What is an air check?
An air check is a method of quality control for radio announcers. The station manager or programme director spends time with an announcer, analyzing their on-air performance, offering encouragement, and helping make improvements.
Air checks need to be done regularly – perhaps even once a month per announcer. By making air checks a priority, you are saying:
- My announcers are important to me – I want to spend time helping them get better, so they will have job satisfaction.
- My listeners are important to me – I want our station to be the best it can be.
So, what sorts of things should be analyzed during an air check?
Well, anything the announcer does – eg: content, voice break duration, speech clarity and speed, dealing with callers, timing, operation of the equipment, attitude, station procedure….
Here are some steps to doing an air check.
- A segment of an announcer’s programme is recorded. Note: It’s important that the announcer does not know he/she is being recorded.
- The PD listens to a recording and makes notes of anything worthy of praise and anything that needs correction
- The announcer is invited to join the PD in a place where they can listen and discuss the air check.
Techniques for Running an Air Check Session
- Choose the best place for the session. In some cultures it is better to have it in a quiet and private location, such as the PD’s office. This is because criticism is a very private and personal thing. However, in some cultures a private session is not a good idea. To the other staff, it appears that the announcer is being disciplined! This can cause loss of face for the announcer. In some cultures, it is better to run air check sessions with all announcers together at the same time.
- Make the air check session as informal as possible, to put the announcer at ease (it’s never easy having your work criticized). Have a coffee together, and chat a bit before you get down to business.
- Choose a different day. Don’t have an air check session on the same day as the air shift you are critiquing. It is always better at least one day after, as then the announcer can listen to the audio clips in a more objective way (a sleep can make a lot of difference!)
- Don’t overwhelm them with too much to work on. Limit the number of things you will bring to the announcer’s attention in this session.
- Start by commenting on the positives of the announcer’s performance, and specifically identify some things they did well.
- Do not be personal in your criticism. Do not put down any part of the person that they cannot change. Make it clear that criticism is not a put down of them personally. You just want to help them do their job better.
- Be very specific in your criticisms. Being vague is not helpful.
- not a good voice break (not helpful)
- you talked too long – did you plan your voice break? (helpful)
- Play the audio of what you want to highlight to the announcer. Let them listen, and make comments themselves. Allow them the chance to identify the problem before you hit them with it! (“Listen to this and tell me what you think”)
- Talk about the way forward. Don’t just tell your announcer to improve in a certain area – help them do it. Give them ideas on how to do it better next time. If needed, give them what they need to help them get it right – eg: better equipment, speech lessons
- When discussing anything that needs improvement, let them suggest ideas as well as you. If they own the corrective measures, there is a high likelihood that they will carry them out.
- Keep a record of air checks. Before you start this session, look back at what you said last time, so you can see if there has been any improvement, or if the problem is recurring. Always praise specific improvements made.
And remember: Air checks are performance focused, not person focused.
Friday, June 15th, 2018: Trainer