Whether you’ve got modern, ‘state-of-the-art’ digital studios or old-school mixing desks and record players, having a tech team that can adapt, develop and keep your gear and presenters on air and sounding amazing is crucial to any student radio station. However, they can often be one of the hardest teams to build, with many stations relying on a single person to keep everything running.
Here are some tips we’ve pulled together from our Officers on how to start or build a tech team to support your station.
1. Visit the departments with the ‘techy’ degrees!
One thing many Engineering, Computer Science and Technology students love is a chance to put their skills to a new use in their free time. Student Radio is a great way for them to get involved in something a bit more creative, and try things they may not have the chance to elsewhere. Hold OBs or sign up events in the engineering department (or your uni’s equivalent) and ask some of the academics if they’d let you pop in at the start of a lecture and give a quick shout out on why they should come and join your station as an engineer. With a busy lecture schedule, there may be students who have considered signing up, but just not got around to it. By going to them, you remove any potential barriers in the way!
If you don’t have any relevant departments, look out for other societies/committees on campus that may already have techies and see if you can join forces with them to share people around! Music/Drama socs can end up with more tech people than they know what to do with, so could be a good source to build your team from.
2. Drop in ‘Give-It-A-Go’ Sessions
Some students may know they are interested in joining the tech team, but have concerns they don’t have the skills to get involved. By offering a pressure-free chance for them to get in and have a go with the kit, you can prove to them that they have what it takes or demonstrate how they can learn as they go (it doesn’t really matter if they don’t start with the skills, they can pick those up as they go so long as the interest is there). It also gives them a chance to meet some of the current team in a more relaxed environment.
3. Training Sessions
You may find that you get a load of interest at the start of the year, but then it quickly drops off. This can be caused by your members feeling out of their depth in the role. Having the Chief Engineer, or other experienced people within the station, run regular training sessions on different aspects of the kit can help the new recruits to feel comfortable with everything before they need to know how to set it up/fix it in a higher pressure, live situation. These sessions don’t have to be long or formal, its just giving everyone a chance to get familiar with what they are doing, and get to know the team they are working with.
If the majority of work is maintenance, and there isn’t much of that required, it’s difficult to excite new engineers and persuade them to join. If you can offer them the chance to work on cool new projects, alongside any maintenance and events, it will give them a reason to come along and stick around. Demonstrate previous recent projects, or have some ideas in mind of things your station could do with. They don’t necessarily have to be big or fancy, sometimes the seemingly small projects can be the most technically exciting! These are also great for entering into the Best Technical Achievement category at the Student Radio Awards…
5. Get help from the experts!
Many broadcast engineers and radio tech professionals around the country are willing to help out student radio stations – you’re the future of the industry that pays their wages! If you find yourself in a bind, find a local professional who can help point a few things out and give you some tips on your set up. It’s much easier to find and keep student engineers if they aren’t having to figure everything out from scratch! A small bit of support to get them started will make it much easier for them to get stuck in, stick around, and share knowledge with everyone else!
6. Don’t be afraid…
If you are struggling to find yourself any tech support, don’t be afraid to try a few things out yourself! If something’s already not working, there’s a good chance you can’t easily make it worse! Don’t be afraid to get stuck in and try to figure it out. If you need some pointers of where to look, my email inbox (firstname.lastname@example.org) is always open (it can be hard to support a set up I don’t know over email, but I’ll always do what I can)!
If you have any additional tips of your own, feel free to send them my way and I can add them to the bottom of this post (with credit, of course)!
Additional Tips added by you! (and industry guests)!
7. from Ann Charles, Radio Production & Technology consultant – Ann Charles Media, Director – Radio Tech Con
Talent spot the producers and presenters who are tech-savvy and like pushing the kit to its limits. They already understand the pressures of a live environment, so you may find it’s easier than you think to lure them over to engineering (or they can do both!).
8. from Elizabeth Carr, Chief Engineer – Radio Lollipop (previously Insanity Radio)
I’ve found that low pressure drop in/out engineering sessions are good for getting new people to dabble with engineering but it’s still a real struggle to engage people. One thing I’ve found is that the first hour of or engineering sessions is always a bit slow because people are late and we realise there are twice as many things to fix, so I’m hoping that getting people to come along slightly later than the core team might be more productive.