On-air training programs

I want to start by expressing my ongoing gratitude and admiration for all of the incredible talent we have in our sector, and on this listserv! I sometimes feel like I draw from this pool more than I contribute to it, but if there’s ever a question I can answer, I do always jump in!

Today, I’m wondering if folks would be willing to share how you onboard your new on-air volunteers. What kind of training you provide? Written materials? Hands on training? What’s the structure of training sessions - group, individual, both? How do you set your basic standards? And how do you ensure that they’re met? If you have any documents and/or best practices you could share, that would be immense.
As always, I’m curious about how my campus and community colleagues across the country handle these things, with a strong desire for us not to reinvent the wheel if there are already intelligent and practical solutions in place, and documentation that could be easily adapted.
Of course, they key tenets underpinning all of this are our licence obligations - but it’s the things beyond that I’m most interested in!
At CJNU, we’re currently in the process of rewriting our ‘on-air guidebook’ - a document with some parts dating back at least a decade or more - to ensure it’s still relevant. We’re also trying to formalise our training program so it’s more focussed, and less ad-hoc. Once our guidebook is up to date, I’ll gladly circulate if folks would like to see it.
Over to you, intelligent humans!

Hi Adam, please find attached some documents we use here at CFCR for bringing in new Volunteer Hosts. I may have sent you the Volunteer Broadcaster Agreement already, but there it is again, just in case.

When someone contacts me with interest in becoming a Host, I send this boilerplate list of steps on “Becoming A CFCR Host,” and await their response:

  1. MEMBERSHIP – Before starting training in our studio, new hosts have to become a member of our radio society. The cost is $25 per year, $10 if you’re a card-carrying student. You can either come down and get a membership at our offices, or you can do it all online here:http://cfcr.ca/membership.
  2. HOST APPLICATION – You can fill out a Host Application form if you come pick up your membership at the station. It just gives me an idea of where you’re at as far as you music taste/knowledge, etc, and then I can keep your application on file and get in touch with you about training, fill-ins, etc. You can also find the application at this page: http://cfcr.ca/volunteer.
  3. TRAINING – I will set you up with one or more of our experienced trainer hosts, and you’ll go through a few sessions (usually somewhere around 3-5 sessions) to get accustomed to our studio, the equipment, speaking on the air, and combining all those things to create a radio program by yourself.
  4. FILLING IN – Once you’ve completed your training, I’ll get you in to fill-in on some shows where the host is sick/away/etc.. This helps me get to know you as a host. If your availability restricts frequent fill-ins, but you have a specific idea for a program where there is an opening in the schedule, you may be still granted an on-air slot on a probationary basis.
  5. YOUR OWN SHOW – Once you’ve done some filling in, you may be considered for a position as a regular host (pending program availability of course). CFCR's schedule is set up whereby on each weekday, our daytime programs are more-or-less consistent genre-wise (Open Music (6-8am, 8-10am) followed by folk/country/blues (10am-12pm), followed by funk/soul/R&B (12-1pm), etc), but have different hosts programming each show each day to keep things different and interesting. If you are interested & available to host during the day, you will have a much better opportunity to get on the air. If you're only available in the evenings/weekends, there are still opportunities, they’re just a little fewer & farther between, so a bit of patience will be required. You can submit a Program Proposal form to let me know what type of program you would like to bring to the airwaves. There is usually a wait time involved in getting into evening programming, but it is definitely possible.

We do our training in a variety of time slots (daytime/evening/weekend), and I have a corps of experienced Hosts tasked with training new folks. I like to have them in with a couple different Trainers, so they get varying ideas of how to run a show. I have found that since developing the Manual & Training Checklist, the overall quality of training has gotten WAY better. The Training Checklist is to be kept by the Trainee, and brought to each session they attend. Things that are covered are initialed both by the Trainer and Trainee, so the next Trainer can see what has already been covered previously.

The one thing I’ve been lacking in over the last few years is the “How to ensure basic standards are being met” point. This is a tough one, because we have 16+-hours of broadcasting every day (mostly live-to-air), so it’s impossible to monitor all of it. I used to have a Programming Committee, but I found it to be a little redundant (we would all listen to a show, and typically come up with more or less the exact same good/bad points!), so I sort of dissolved it, but lately have thought that maybe I should resurrect it. I do sort of impromptu “reviews” when I hear something not-so-great, or notice patterns in a programmer’s show that needs addressing, but this is something I’d definitely love to find a way to get a better handle on. If you receive any helpful suggestions in this arena, please feel free to share them this way!

Hope this is helpful in some way! All the best!

Some bits are a little dated, but Tod Maffin's e-book From
Idea to Air is a good reference for spoken word / radio
story type of programming.  And he's made it free to get.  A
good one to have in the library.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *