Being a radio presenter is not for the faint of heart!

You need to be quick on your feet, well-spoken and ready for any caller that has gone rogue! However, if that sounds exactly like you and what you're looking for, then a career in broadcast may just be for you!

So read on because … 

media update's Saads Abrahams spoke to Tshepang Moji from 5FM on the ins and outs of starting a career in broadcast!

What skills and qualities do you believe are essential for someone who is starting their career as a radio presenter today?

Perish the idea of your voice bieng your only required tool in radio; that will only get you so far (which alone won't be very far at all).

You've got to have a wealth of tools in your arsenal. Being a radio presenter isn't about turning the mic on and being a glorified back-announcer — Shazam can do that just fine. 

You've got to go the whole nine yards; you're not just a presenter, but you are a creator, a producer — you ought to be acquainted with the latest tech and skills to amplify whatever you offer. Get familiar with editing, social media, blogging and all sorts of skills so that you are able to always have the best possible output.

You've got to be a well-informed person who really has a love and appreciation for connecting with the people (and in many cases, the music) — and your personality should absolutely shine through. The latter becomes difficult at times, and this is why you have always got to back yourself in such a space. 

Imposter syndrome is something you will grapple with, but you ought to stand firmly in your self-belief and bet on yourself over and over. That confidence will go a very long way, especially in building connections that will not only take you places but that will be essential when working in this space.

Something I learned the hard way is that discipline, dedication and sacrifice are absolutely essential. You've got to put a lot of hours into the craft of radio if you want to do well in this space. This will require you to be disciplined with the time you put in, and you will have to sacrifice a lot of time to get to the heights you want to reach. 

There are challenges you'll come across and you need to be able to overcome those, and your dedication and resilience will only help you bounce back and come back stronger.

You have also got to be able to adapt and be well-informed. 
With the radio space (and the world as a whole) being a changing industry, you have got to improve along with it, or you get left behind. 

Stay in the loop with what is happening around you and grow along with the world around you in order to stay relevant. You have also got to be consistent with what you put out — and this is something that has the most noticeable traits. 

Consistency truly is one of the key elements that makes one stand out.
Once you're on the up, keep at it. Be teachable and ready to learn as well. In as much as betting on yourself is essential, you don't know it all, and all the best presenters are still learning to this day.

Learn from your shows and your latest snoops, grow from your mistakes and continuously strive to want to do and be better. You can always be better than your last link, so adopt that energy and keep aiming to set the bar higher than what you think is your best. 

How important is networking in the broadcasting industry, and what advice do you have for aspiring radio presenters to build meaningful connections?

Extremely important. You'll never get anywhere if you don't put yourself out there and into the ears of the folks in charge. Social media has made this easier, and someone is always a connection or a DM away

I've found many people within the radio industry to be really willing and open to sharing their experiences and advice over a direct message or even over a coffee. I used to send e-mails asking for advice and tips from many people in the industry, and they were happy to give me tips, mentor me and listen to demos and offer coaching. 

Drop someone an e-mail or a LinkedIn message — or when you meet some of your favourite radio presenters, ask for some advice. I was lucky that working on TuksFM allowed me to meet many industry professionals who were so open to sharing advice on how to make it further into the industry. 

Get out there — attend events where you know you can strike up a conversation with the right people. Mingle where you can and start making connections! 

I sent e-mails to former and current radio players when I was in matric, and they responded with lots of guidance and tips. I met my current boss at a football event before I worked at 5 and reached out to him about sending demos and getting advice! 

 You don't get very far just knocking on some doors, so kick them down, build those connections and get your name out there!

In your experience, what role does education play in preparing individuals for a successful career in radio broadcasting?

A massive role. While many people study radio broadcasting, I joined campus radio while studying for my first degree, which was a BA in law, where I majored in international relations and politics. 

That education really helped me gain a better understanding of South Africa, the world and how it all works; it gave me a bigger appreciation for how I engage with current affairs — not just on a personal level but also on my show. 

I almost always touch on global happenings to ensure that my listener and I keep our finger on the pulse of what's going on around the world. 

Many of my colleagues are well versed in other things in the respective fields they are educated in, and given that 5FM is as much personality-driven as it is musically driven, a lot of that expertise shows through. Education in any sense is always a foot up going into any industry, and the same goes for radio.

Discuss the evolving nature of the radio industry, and how newcomers can stay informed about industry trends and changes.

Radio, like many other industries, is evolving with the times. When I was growing up, I couldn't imagine what my favourite radio presenters looked like and the things they were getting up to unless I also happened to see them on TV. 

Now, two clicks and I can see what is going on in the studio. There are many exciting changes, and as a radio anorak, these are things I'm always keeping alert on. 

[This could be] things like line-up changes and campaign launches, or the bigger things (maybe more nerdier things according to some) like DAB testing and the likes. The changes are rapid, and media and tech-focussed outlets are always a great start to keep abreast with the latest trends and developments.

What challenges can be expected when starting a career in the radio industry?

I started out on campus radio, which definitely showed me that there was more to what I thought I knew about the industry. There are lots of hours you have to put into the medium. The hours of training you have to put in behind the mic and away from the mic require lots of sacrifice

The jump to commercials, however, was absolutely insane. Everything is bigger, faster and there is little room for error. You have got to put in many more hours, lots more sacrifice and so much more work. I think I got whiplash from how rapidly the adjustment needed to be made. 

Thankfully, the team at 5FM understood that not only was I just coming in from campus radio but that I was still a student, and they helped ease me into the big, bustling world of commercial radio. To say it is a challenge is probably putting it lightly, but if you've got the discipline to make all these changes happen, it will definitely work in your favour.

How do you approach show preparation and content creation, and what advice can you offer to aspiring radio presenters in this regard?

So I carry a notebook with me most of the time, and my garbled scribbling makes a doctor's prescription look like the neatest handwriting

I'm always jotting down ideas there or on my Notes app, and when I get the chance to sit down and sift through these during my allocated, time-blocked "think-sessions", I refine these thoughts into what I can put on air. 

Show prep is critically important, and it doesn't start the hour before my next show as many people believe. In fact, something important I learned very early on is that my prep for my next show starts the minute my last show ends. Trying to get away from show prep will bite you in the back.

My rule of thumb is for each hour I'll be on air, I put in at least an hour of radio prep. I usually end up spending more time prepping than that, but there is no such thing as too much prep — ever. PREP. PREP. PREP

As cliché as the adage, "Failing to prepare is just preparation to fail," sounds, I can assure you that there has never been a truer statement made when it comes to preparing for your radio shows. 

Also, ideas and content are everywhere. Our everyday lives are chock-full of stories and ridiculous things to talk about. So you'll find that many on-air presenters are thinking of what to chat about on their next show at every given moment in time. We're always finding cool ways to turn something that seems like a banal, everyday occurrence into some incredible content. 

The storytelling element is a skill that requires a lot of learning and a lot of refining; with time, it will become second nature to wire your everyday experiences into on-air content

Shy away from taking the latest trending topic and pasting it onto your show — many do this and get away with it, and it's not something that should be encouraged (or replicated.) 

I always want to find wild and insane ways to bring my experiences to the listener, and so I am learning to do this by trying to broaden my intake of content and media to try and find better and cooler ways of presenting my content on air. 

It definitely isn't where I want it to be, but I am definitely making progress in getting to where I want it to be and how I want it to sound.

Can you provide some insights into the various career paths available within the radio industry, beyond being an on-air presenter?

Somehow everyone thinks of the on-air presenter as the only important member of a radio show — never mind the station. But there are so many more important roles that people might not think to be so glamorous.

On-air, the other contributors play just [as much of] an important role in bringing the show together through their respective fields of expertise, whether it's through being the current affairs aficionado or the sports enthusiast. 

I cannot stress the importance of producers on a show. The real magic behind what you get to hear on air, content producers make sure everything runs smoothly and are often the unsung heroes of the radio world. 

Alongside these guys, there are the technical producers who work to ensure everything sounds crisp — not just on the show but across the station — and help us get everything connected so you can enjoy it the best way possible.

The producers really are the true MVPs in the radio industry and, dare I say, the true captains of the ship. I have had my hand at being a producer, and I can say that it is definitely a lot of fun (while being a lot of work), and it is probably one of the most important roles in this radio. This industry is always on the lookout for some of the best producers. 

The music team is also incredibly important, for what is a great radio station without some incredible bangers? The people who select and schedule the songs we get to play have the difficult task of ensuring that the right songs are chosen to match the sound of the station. 

And it is definitely more than just people thinking, "We're in the mood to listen to some Blxckie, so chuck that in there." It's a job that sees them in meetings, sifting through a massive amount of music, ensuring that the songs and artists we get to play are just the right fit so you can enjoy your drive home or your late-night study session. 

Again, not the easiest job, but I have been lucky to work with some of the best in the game. There are so many more roles, like the media team and the marketing team, who really make us look good on the Internet and on billboards around the country. 

From PR maestros, editors supreme and everyone else in between, it's more than just uploading reels and going live when we've got a guest. There is:
  • a lot of editing
  • a lot of chopping and changing 
  • many hours put into setting up the coolest activations, and 
  • outside broadcasts.
And a lot more magic before it goes onto any of our media platforms, and these teams do so much to really make everything work well to the advantage of our listeners and clients.

How important is building a personal brand for radio presenters, and what steps can individuals take to establish their own unique identity in the industry?

It is absolutely fundamental to present a unique identity and build that brand. You cannot be a run-of-the-mill generic presenter — the listener gets to know you and learns to trust you. 

You do end up being a part of their lives to some extent, becoming a companion or, dare I even say, a friend. So it's important for them to know and understand who they are letting into their homes and their cars, and every other space. 

For me, I took the nickname, 'The Big Chief', which came about as a joke. [I] took ownership of it and just ran with it. I'm very loud and witty, behave like an absolute clown:
  • I'm always having a good chuckle at many things
  • I love alternative music, and
  • I'm a nut for current affairs and sports. 
I've got to find a way to bring all of that together and make it work — not just on-air but as I go about it daily. Everything I've listed, you will hear elements of when you listen to my show — even if it's at 04:00 in the morning. 

While you won't have it figured out in one go, it's important to know:
  • who you are, 
  • what you offer, and 
  • what makes you different. 
Why should someone listen to my show? What am I going to give that you won't hear on the next show or the next station over? What makes me a compelling personality?

Know who you are, what your unique points are and set targets for that. Find a niche, locate your strengths and play to them. Identifying these will help you grow yourself and your brand, and with the targets set, it will be easier to not only establish this brand but grow it further. 

What role do internships and practical experiences play in the development of a successful career in radio broadcasting?

It's massively important. It's one thing to read about the radio industry and gain a lot of insight, but you've really got to be in the kitchen to feel the heat and get the true feel of how things work. 

Experience is the most important part of it all. Getting into the studio and seeing things in action is the best — so wherever there are opportunities, I say grab them with both hands. I had read up so much on radio in high school, but there was no better teacher than when I started on campus radio to see how things work, getting to press the buttons and all. 

If you've ever wanted to get into the radio industry, gaining practical experience is extremely important because there is very little you can do without that. Volunteer at your local campus or community station and go through the paces of what working in radio actually feels like.

It is the only way you gain experience and get better and working in such a space — and like with any skill and craft, the more hours you put in, the better you become. I firmly believe it's the only way you can get better at this.

How has technology impacted the radio industry, and what skills should aspiring radio presenters develop to stay relevant in the digital age?

If video couldn't kill the radio star, I have a hard time believing the latest technological advancements will. Many people think technology spells the end for radio presenters, but if anything, I'd like to think technology should help amplify the radio industry and should help us take the radio experience to the next level.

Everything is available at the touch of a button, and that should help me put together an incredible experience for the listener on the other side of the wireless. 

Technology shouldn't be seen as an adversary to radio but rather a companion.
I obtain and create a lot of my content on my phone like everyone does these days, and I have learned to move with the times. I edit audio on my phone and record a bunch of things on the go, which is a breeze once you get the hang of it. 

You don't need to pay a ridiculous amount to get editing software, so get yourself a free editing software and learn the ins and outs of editing.

A presenter these days should be able to do an array of things. Like I mentioned, audio editing is probably the most important, alongside things like video editing and copywriting — all of this in addition to the required content creation and storytelling abilities

These are absolutely essential skills in the current age of radio. Adaptability is incredibly important, and keeping abreast with the latest developments in radio will help you stay ahead of the times and remain relevant.

How do you handle challenges (such as live broadcasting mishaps or unexpected situations), and what advice do you have for newcomers in dealing with such incidents?

Oh, you've definitely got to be a quick thinker. Whether you've caused dead air or a conversation goes south, I cannot emphasise the value of being ready for any and every eventuality

Radio being live really keeps you on your toes, so there's always a song ready in case of a fluff-up or if a rogue caller decides to drop an F-bomb on air. The mishaps are a dime a dozen, and what I'll tell you is what my boss told me the last time it happened: "These things happen, and mistakes will be made." 

While mistakes should be kept to a minimum, the likelihood of these happening is there, given that everything is live. Ensure that you prepare adequately and manage your time wisely to curb the possibility of these things happening. 

Where you can try to look ahead and keep a song or a sweep ready and always be ready to jump into those in case of an emergency. And again, like my boss said to me, "Don't be so hard on yourself. Keep trying your best and keep learning."

The learning is part of the process and all works out better once you’ve learned from it and [are] better prepared for it.

Are you thinking of starting a career in broadcast?  Let us know in the comment section below. 

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If you are interested in the wonderful world of radio, then take a look at our article on Careers in radio.

*Image courtesy of Tshepang Moji