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Radio presenting: how to make it on the air, according to Kiss FM DJ Tinea Taylor

Finding your way into a competitive media job can feel often impossible, but presenter and DJ Tinea Taylor is on hand to share her savvy, sage advice on breaking into radio with the Curiosity Academy. From how to get your name out on the airwaves to smashing it when you get behind a mic, here are her tips.

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Ever dreamt of hosting your own early morning primetime radio show? Or providing everyone’s favourite playlist for a night out?

The majority of radio presenting takes place in a studio and behind a mic, so it often seems like an inaccessible dream for many who have hoped to get through the door and start their own careers on air. With the radio industry experiencing a huge boom in listening in 2020, the fascination with how to get involved is only growing bigger. That’s why we enlisted Kiss FM DJ and presenter Tinea Taylor to share her advice with the Curiosity Academy to demystify your way into the job.

After studying media, film and television at Brunel University, Tinea landed her first presenting gig at online pop culture magazine Dropout UK – where she interviewed big names like Professor Green, Example, The Saturdays, Chase and Status, Tinie Tempah and Iggy Azalea – before going on to host the main stages of festivals like V Festival and Wireless.

To this day, Tinea has DJ’d and presented internationally for Kiss FM UK and MTV, as well as other brands like Puma and G-Star RAW. For her, it’s all about connecting with people.

“Radio presenting is such a special way to communicate with others,” she says. “It’s crazy to think that you’re chatting to people you might never have met before or might never meet but you end up connecting all the same during the show.”

But in an increasingly competitive – as well as white and male – industry, she admits you need to be savvy and work incredibly hard to make it. Here are her top five pieces of advice for budding radioheads who are looking for their first break, or advice on how to step up their presenting game.

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What to research when you’re starting out

Know your field inside out

To bolster your belief in your skills, Tinea encourages having as in-depth a knowledge of the radio show you’re going into as possible. For instance, she views her foundation of music knowledge and “being a fan of it” as a perfect way to convey her passion while presenting.

Hone your editing skills at home

Tinea recommends getting comfortable with editing software as soon as possible, to get ahead for when you get your first go in the studio. “It’s all in the palm of your hand now,” she says. “Download iMovie and work on editing your own stuff so you can hit the ground running.”

Cut your teeth at smaller stations 

When looking for your first opportunity, Tinea encourages keen would-be presenters to divert their goals for the first few years of their career from the bigger brands and names and set their sights on learning the basics and honing your craft at smaller-scale, local or student radio stations.

She refers to her time working at London-based community radio station Rinse FM as crucial to committing to a “career, not a job” in radio, concentrating on building longevity by learning as much as possible.

This early in her career, she was given a chance to “drive the desk”: taking care of all the technological processes of a radio show, including all the mad, spaceship-like buttons in the studio. “I was in control of what song is played, putting the ads out on time and pulling everyone’s mics up and down,” she says, adding that she views having this opportunity very early on in her career as a big deal, “especially for a woman in radio”.

“At the smaller radio stations you have to be really hands-on. [At Rinse FM] I was a presenter, a producer, an editor – I did so much for that one show.” Tinea says that wearing different hats in that way “helps hone your early skills as a presenter”.

“You can just start with the basics and really go through the motions of talking, as well as putting a fader up and putting a fader down. I know it sounds so basic, but it’s important.”

Use YouTube and Instagram to get your name out there

While she fondly remembers her time hiring broadcast equipment and interviewing people on the streets, Tinea insists that times have changed and those new to the game can make a dent into the industry from their own homes now.

“I would tell those starting out to use YouTube and Instagram to start their own little series,” she says. “Even if you don’t know anyone famous to interview, feature your family, your friends – create stories around who you know. This helps you to practice your presenting and communication skills, and gets those creative juices flowing.”

It’s not a good idea to get caught up in how many followers you have, she adds, “someone will always be watching, and you never know who it’s going to be.”

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your dream interviewees before you get your big break 

Once you’ve nailed your personal broadcasting goals, whether it’s a YouTube channel or playing around with Instagram Lives, it’s time to source some talent to feature. Tinea says it’s important to take advantage of the accessibility that the modern, digital age has given you. “Don’t be afraid to reach out to influencers and celebrities, just slide into their DMs,” she says.

“That person from Love Island that you want to talk to, DM them. If they don’t reply, comment on their pictures. A lot of them are very nice and very open.”

After all, the exposure you might be able to give them is only going to be beneficial to them, she says. “They like their faces – or in this case, voices – out there. Let’s be honest. Don’t be afraid to reach out.”

Work out cool, unique ways to keep your listeners engaged 

For Tinea, radio is supposed to be “fun, engaging and light-hearted”, so you need to think about how you’ll use your time on air to create this atmosphere for your listeners, and ways of keeping them switched on to your show.

“Think of engaging features, maybe a game that you can do that might be relatable to your listeners, and to potential interviewees and talent. Then, they’ll want to come on the show and join in the fun.”

This is an important thing to bear in mind with radio, Tinea says, you need to always be thinking of ways to stop your listener from changing channels. “People tend to only listen in for 15 to 20 minute bursts, while they’re in the car, or cooking, or going for a walk.”

For Tinea, finding “cool and memorable” ways to be interactive with your audience is crucial – this is partially because you don’t have the visual element of TV to keep people interested.“Being interactive is really, really important, especially when there’s no face – you can’t put a face to the name sometimes so you have to find other creative ways,” she says.

The only way to prepare for working and presenting live is practice, practice, practice  

Dealing with the pressure of working in an on-air environment can be tough, and Tinea says the only way to get better at dealing with it is to put your practice time or “air miles’ in. If you’re starting out, she also suggests using notes to work from while you adjust to the “live” experience.

“Write up notes for your live shows – not word for word, just pointers to guide you through the beginning, middle and end of the story you’re telling.”

It’s also important to get your radio listening time in, soaking up other presenter’s expertise by osmosis. “I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent listening to other radio shows,” she adds. “I’ve picked up techniques from presenters that I love, like breathing techniques from the mic, as well as pacing techniques,” she says.

Tinea Taylor’s best advice for forging a career in radio

Confidence and professionalism are key

While she admits feeling incredibly starstruck and nervous at certain points of her career, Tinea stresses the importance of putting these feelings to the side and channelling your inner confidence once you’re behind the mic and live. “Learning radio techniques will happen for you on the job, but you’ve got to have confidence from the beginning,” she says.

When you get your opportunity behind the mic…

“Don’t sit too close to [it], and remember above all that whether you’re talking to a million people a week or not, imagine you’re talking to one person. It’s a conversation – so talk slow, focus on your breathing and enjoy! Your aim is to create good background noise for your listeners’ days. Remember that.”

For more information on what an entry-level job in radio would entail, including salary expectations, responsibilities and working hours, check out this helpful guide.

  • Tinea Taylor, radio presenter for Kiss FM

    Tinea is a presenter and radio DJ who has worked for radio station Kiss FM and music channel MTV. You might recognise her voice from ITV2, the weekly MTV official chart and MTV Movies show, plus various TV and radio campaigns for Spotify, Channel 5 and iTunes. Her talents also see her frequently DJ’ing at huge events in Ibiza and Mallorca.