It seems like so long ago and it was really, almost 30 years, that I had my first “I think I’m gonna throw up because I’m so nervous” experience in front of a live mic. The first time that I turned on a mic I thought I was gonna die! I didn’t learn about this in radio school. Scared that I wasn’t gonna remember what to say…what the heck are my call letters? What sponsor am I supposed to plug? What songs am I supposed to backsell, what songs am I supposed to front sell, all the while sounding confident, upbeat perhaps a little sexy but hopefully never forgetting what to say and talking yourself into a corner. The word “dunce” takes on a whole new meaning when you find yourself sitting behind the mic…not remembering what you were going to say. It’s like a colt finding it’s legs, really shaky at first, but then making your way. It’s embarrassing but it happens to all of us. It’s funny because I think that some of the biggest egos that I’ve worked with…have been in small markets. Name recognition comes much quicker…but come on, lose the attitude! So, in the beginning, it was rough. Just saying the calls and positioning statement was about all I could muster. Then, I got really great at that…but also developed the dreaded “crutch”. I would say the call letters the same way every single time…putting the emphasis on O. Mankat-0000. Mankato, MN…the cute little village that I lived in while working at a top 40 station called Z99. The station was number 1, the talent was all well known because of the small market size and I really seemed to thrive there. The program director was a lunatic…who programmed a hugely successful station. He was great at programming, but his people skills were dreadful. I can remember him calling first thing after doing his morning show…I did nights…for an aircheck. I’m thinking…what a jerk! I hated airchecking with him because if I felt like I had been doing a decent job before the aircheck…I didn’t after it was done. Leaving in tears and thinking that I was just talentless. Although it really hurt it toughened me up and helped to shape me as a jock. Geez…I can’t believe that I would ever give this guy credit for anything. But, through the tears I did start to find my voice. I always knew that I never wanted to offend a listener. I was always taught that the music is the “salad” and that the jock is the “dressing”. I was OK with that. I had no desire to share my opinions, for the most part with my listeners, because my forte is music radio. I always knew that I was there to entertain, not really to share my opinions. So what was my niche? Who was I talking to? I decided I’m talking to people just like me. I put a picture of my family on the board in front of me because I felt like I would be most comfortable talking to the people I knew best!
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