Why should I prep for my radio show or podcast?

Heard of the phrase "fail to preprare, prepare to fail"? It is a phrase that can warn you for, well, pretty much anything in life. School, college/university, job interviews, visa applications, holidays, etc.

This phrase is especially true for radio shows and podcasts.

From my experience preparation can make your show sound like either: a slick, entertaining and memorable event; winging that best man’s speech or sound like you’re quoting Encyclopedia Britannica syllable by syllable.

I’ve seen/heard many radio shows and podcasts over the years, with very little or literally no prep at all. On the other hand I’ve seen/heard many radio shows and podcasts over the years with so much prep that it sounds stilted, dry and bland.

For me show preparation is like a see-saw. Both extremes can produce undesired consequences.

So my formula for good prep is:

My good prep formula

So how do I prepare?

There’s no right or wrong answer on how to prepare. You have to find the best preparation method that works for you and your show, much like swotting up for a school exam complimenting your learning style.

For The Feelgood Lounge, which has the additional complication of being presented remotely and I don’t do the technical operation myself like I would in pre-COVID times, the following components are:

Running order

I prepare a running order with timings, segment details (feature or link and it’s intended length), song details and next item cues. The last is very important since there’s no visual indicator for my engineer.

Piece of the running order from show 14 of the The Feelgood Lounge that keeps me on track.

Notes

Alongside the running order I also have my notes for links and features which I keep in very short bulletpoints. This acts something like cue cards that can be read at a glance.

Other things that help

  • Throat lozenges with menthol, for me it helps to clear my nasal passages and therefore clearing my voice.
  • Large bottle of water (typically 2 litres) to keep hydrated and obviously wet the whistle. Keeping your voice in good condition is critical.
  • Skyping my engineer prior to the show so I can go over any important details, discuss anything technical issues I need to be aware of and also create a mental fence where I enter "the zone" and not think about anything else.

Good prep of course is no guarantee your show will win a Sony award or it’ll enter radio folkore; but it can minimise the chances of your show becoming an on-air tragedy.

How do you prepare your radio show? Any tips of what and what not to do? Do you think that prep is essential or a waste of time? Feel free to share in the comments below.

The Feelgood Lounge, Thursday evenings, 2000-2200 UK time on Southern Sound (Channel 8 in the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow and southernsound.org.uk)