If we were sitting in a classroom and I asked everyone who likes to listen to their own audio to raise their hands, conventional wisdom says very few of you would point an arm upward. Now look, we all have at least a little bit of an ego. That’s why we’re in a business that involves people listening to our opinions. But most of us aren’t listening to our own best of podcasts while we’re on the treadmill though or replaying our own interviews at the end of the day.
Airchecks are some of the most uncomfortable meetings you can imagine. I have talked to a couple of PD friends that say it’s uncomfortable from their side of the table too. One even told me it makes him so uncomfortable that he just doesn’t hold aircheck sessions anymore.
When I first heard this, I thought surely he was in the minority. Turns out I was wrong.
When I first started doing a morning show on rock radio, we had aircheck sessions after every show. Over time, those daily meetings turned more into prep meetings with airchecks happening only weekly, then monthly, then it got to the point that the airchecks were rare.
That wasn’t because suddenly our PD trusted that we were going to hit a home run every time. It was because my partner and I had learned how to aircheck ourselves. We had learned how to identify weak content or weak moments of great content on our own. Those aircheck sessions were annoying, but they certainly made me a better broadcaster.
Let’s talk about why airchecks work and what the ultimate goal should be. Your PD doesn’t want to host a meeting that is solely about making you feel like a fool or a failure. Frankly, that is what he is trying to avoid.
A good aircheck isn’t one where someone else points out your mistakes or even your best moments simply to knock you down or build you up. A good aircheck should teach you how to identify both good and bad material on your own.
I think all of us can listen to our own audio right now and tell you when a topic or interview goes poorly. We are programmed by nature to be our own harshest critics. The goal of an aircheck should be to help you identify your best moments and what made those moments so good. It should be about reaffirming your current strengths and discovering new ones. More material built around those strengths will lead to a better show.
I listen to my own audio within a week of doing a show. I can pick out why something worked or didn’t. I can listen to a segment that just didn’t work and at least have an educated guess as to why. It’s not that I don’t need or want to be airchecked anymore. It is a testament to the idea that airchecks work.
Are they uncomfortable? At first, sure. But the goal of any aircheck is to get to the point that they are needed less often. I’m not advocating for PD’s handcuffing talent or holding their hands and walking them through the do’s and don’t’s of good content.
This is about identifying the sound and positioning that makes the talent strongest and creates a better overall product. A station cannot achieve that sound if the PD avoids coaching his talent. If you trust your hosts to be able to get from point A to point B on their own, great, but you do have to provide the road for them to walk down.
Once you lay out the road, teach them to avoid the dangers. Show them where they hurt their own progress and then show them how to get out of their own way. You don’t have to walk with them or have these meetings forever. If that is what your ultimate goal is, do right by your talent and give them the framework necessary to improve.