It’s always great to get really unique products on Experience Days, so when I was invited by Andy from Radio Verulam to participate in the Big Broadcast Challenge, it’s fair to say I was rather excited! I don’t know a great deal about radio, so I was very interested to learn how it all works.
Located in the picturesque city of St. Albans, Radio Verulam is a community station aimed at highlighting the history and culture of the local surroundings. Since May, the station has held the Big Broadcast Challenge, a day-long workshop training people in the skills of radio presenting. I was invited along with Jo, who you may remember as the intern here at Experience Days before me, to participate for the day.
We congregated in a meeting room in the community fire station rather than the actual radio station, as this was roomier and we wouldn’t actually be broadcasting until later in the day (a station’s a station, right?). The fire station was easy to find, and there was plenty of parking, which was a big bonus! Six people were taking the course, so including me and Jo there was Richard, Jenny, Phil, Ben and Ben’s guide dog! From Radio Verulam, our instructors were Ian and Energy. After initial introductions, we were shown the itinerary for the day and were straight into recording a promo for the broadcast we would be making later.
Richard had a bit of radio experience, so we let him do most of the talking, each adding a couple of words here and there. The purpose of a promo is to advertise our show, and try to get people to tune in, it would be aired several times throughout the day, so we had to make sure it was perfect! After several attempts, we were happy with it, and it was sent off to the station to be added into the live broadcasts. Energy turned the radio on in the meeting room so we could hear it when it came on – it was very strange to hear myself on the radio!
We learnt a lot about how radio stations operate, and the history of Radio Verulam, it was all very interesting, and more difficult than I imagined! Timing is everything with radio presenting, and you have to try hard not to leave any empty gaps, which means talk talk talk! After the promo, we started to learn about interview techniques, and took turns interviewing each other, trying to think of questions on the spot and keep the interviewee talking.
Time was going pretty fast and it was lunch time already! Food was provided by a Radio Verulam sponsor, and it was a great spread. It was served buffet style, with hot drinks and desserts alongside – heaven! Following lunch, we were finished in the fire station meeting room and ready to hit the streets with our new-found interview skills. We would be interviewing people in St. Albans town centre to broadcast on the show later, so we had to ensure they were interesting to listen to!
Forming a convoy, we got in our separate cars and followed Energy to the radio station. I was quite excited, I’d never seen behind the scenes of a radio show before! I was surprised to see it was situated in a residential area, above a vintage style cafe. Again, there was plenty of parking.
To do the interviews, we would split into two groups of three, and walk into town. In my group was Jo and Richard, so luckily we had the experienced radio presenter with us! We weren’t given a particular topic to interview people about, we just had to get them talking and hope it was radio-worthy!
First stop, Jo needed coffee, so we headed into a Costa and scanned the people in there for easy targets. My idea was to call the show ‘Accosted in a Costa’, which I thought was pretty good, if I do say so myself… After a few failed attempts at approaching people, I asked the gentlemen next to us if they’d mind being interviewed, and they said yes! Success! I didn’t really know what to ask, so I started with a bit about them and St. Albans, then Jo got talking with one of them about skiing, which was interesting – another success! Saying our thank-yous and goodbyes, we headed out with a renewed confidence to get more interviews.
In the city centre, we approached a few people only to find they’d already been interviewed by the other group! This meant we were running out of time, so we hurriedly found someone to talk to, and made our way back to the station.
Our slot on the show would be between 5 and 7pm, so we had a couple of hours to have a bit more food, and prepare ourselves to go live on air. I was surprised to feel so calm about it, maybe it was the shock of being thrown into the deep end! I was tasked with putting together the weather and local news reports, and everyone chose songs they’d like to be played during the show. With such a range of age and gender, we had a pretty eclectic taste of music between us, with everything from The Mac Band to Elbow to Jason Derulo! Energy made an order of when we would be appearing, and what we would be doing, so we were prepared and knew who was saying what.
Five o’clock came round very fast, and it was time to go live! We started with introducing ourselves, then it was a blend of recorded interviews, news bulletins, weather reports and live chat. I found I was really enjoying myself! Especially when it came to the live chats, as this was when you could really be yourself and relax. Richard interviewed me about what I do here at Experience Days, and I interviewed Jenny about her job as a massage therapist. We hadn’t written down any questions in advance, so it was all ad libbing, which made it more exciting! The two hours went by very fast, with no mistakes from any of us, which I’m sure Ian and Energy were very happy about.
This was one of those experiences where you really learn a lot, as radio presenting isn’t the kind of thing available to most people! It was so fascinating to see the inner workings of a radio station, and I’d definitely recommend this experience to anyone, whether they’re interested in learning radio presenting or just want to try something new. Massive thanks to Ian and Energy who shared their expert knowledge with us and made the day so enjoyable.
Any questions? Drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org