Jailbreak from the square

Student radio is a time to have fun, experiment with new ideas, be creative and generally be a little bit silly. But how do you manage to balance a show that could sound great to you and your mates – but maybe not to someone who is randomly listening in the SU shop? How do you keep an average listener listening and wanting to hear more?

It’s a question of balance between sounding professional – without taking away any of that student spirit and stories which are unique to your university.

So, here are our TOP TIPS to getting your show absolutely spot on.

1. Get involved as much as you possibly can!

Stick your fingers in as many pies as possible when you start. Everybody goes into radio wanting to be the next Radio 1 breakfast show host, but trying out specialist music, sport, politics and everything else is important in discovering what kind of radio makes you tick.

2. Get those crazy ideas out there

Do absolutely daft stuff because you won’t get to once you graduate and move away from being a student. Even if it doesn’t work or the audio quality isn’t amazing, if creativity is put into your audio then you’re going to impress people.

3. Plan your links

Make sure every link you do has an agreed starting point and end point. This is especially important if you present with someone – nothing can sound more off-putting to a listener than two people talking over each other! You also don’t want the link to drag on. Keep it tight (we always used to say three minutes max at my old station) and end each link on a high or forward sell.

4. NO in jokes!

Along the same lines, if you present as a team, make sure you fully explain who everyone is in your story or joke. I was listening to a link from student radio last week where the presenter was joking about a girl who I had presumed was his ex-girlfriend. When we got to the end of the link I found out he was talking about his sister. Ha. NEVER assume the audience know who you’re talking about!

5. Keep that text screen in check

I used to make my presenters minimise the text screen during their links, just because I didn’t like the random laughter (often with no explanation) that would cut into the presenting when a funny text came through – often with no explanation from the presenters about why they were laughing. Read the texts during the songs, and incorporate them into your next link.

6. Integrate your news reader into the team

If your show has news bulletins scattered throughout, then make the news reader part of your show! Don’t just interrupt the flow of your content with a random newsbreak, get that person involved either before or after a bulletin. (Also, make sure you find out the content of their news before they read it. There could be something funny you could discuss afterwards – or a topic in the news that you need to avoid altogether.)

7. Mix up your content

Phone calls, idents, games, clips – they all add to the richness of your show. Get your programme controller to show you how to upload audio if you don’t know how. The skill to record a phone call and edit it during your show can’t be underestimated!

8. Present with a smile on your face

Yeah, this is a weird one. But I promise you, you can hear if someone is smiling when they present (or when you’re doing a voice over). But it just brings a certain upbeat-ness to your show – and try and stand away from the mic and project your voice a bit at the same time. It just brings your voice to life a bit more.

9. Take advantage of any training your station offers

Advice from Hannah, programme controller at Xpress Radio: Take the time to make sure you have had enough training. Go to any sessions your station runs, and ask for one on one time with your programme controller or committee. They can give you lots of useful feedback! Take the time to plan your shows, but don’t script them as that can sound forced.

10. Create content for lots of platforms!

If you want people to engage with your show, make sure there’s loads of interactivity with your Twitter and Snapchat accounts. Write blogs if you want to, and even make YouTube videos. All this content lets the listeners know a little bit more about you, and that’s one of the keys to good presenting – being accessible and likable.

Which brings me to my final point… (which should go without saying, so I’m not giving it a number!)


Try not to moan or complain on-air, as it doesn’t sound great. Don’t be mean about people. Just be nice, be happy, laugh, and listeners will warm to you, your show and your content!

That’s all the advice I have for now. I hope it’s been useful. Tweet me @emmajbradshaw if you have any more suggestions to what makes a good student radio and I’ll follow this up with another post!

In the meantime, you might find these clips from our audioBoom page useful…