Finding My Voice: Lessons from Working in Radio

Written by Camille Cordisco, Agricultural Communication Senior

I rCamilleemember the very first time I heard country music. I was 11 years old, fidgeting with the radio dial in my room after my favorite pop station had gone off the air for good. One more small turn of the dial to the right, and Kenny Chesney’s “Don’t Happen Twice” started to come in loud and clear through the speakers. It was love at first sound. Little did I know I would someday be working in radio, playing some of the very same songs I fell in love with growing up.

Now, I work at 98.1 KJUG FM as a weeknight on-air host, sharing country music and stories with listeners. It has been an amazing adventure so far. I have learned quite a bit along the way and hope to share some of those lessons with you.

Here are four things working as a radio DJ have taught me about finding my voice in sharing my passions with others:

  1. If people can hear your smile, that also means they can hear your passion: I remember listening to myself when I was on air for the first time a few months ago. I sounded cold, and I am NOT a cold person! I was so focused on saying everything right, I forgot to smile, relax and be me! Some of that comes with practice, (another important aspect of finding your voice) but a lot of the ability to share your smile and your passion is remembering you have it in the first place! When we talk about something we are passionate about, others can hear it. Have you ever been on the phone with someone and heard a smile in their voice? It sounds much different than if they had a straight face. Granted, some things we are passionate about are not always going to be happy, but we can effectively share our emotions through our voice.
  2. Sometimes an elevator pitch is all you have, (and all you need): I usually only have 15-45 seconds to speak on air at a time, so I have learned how to summarize an idea or a story very well! As radio hosts, we talk about a number of things from events in the community, to contests, to musicians or stories of our own. We might have a lot to say, but we don’t have a lot of time to say it. Before I hit the record button, I think about three things: how I am going to get the listeners’ attention, what they really need to know, and how to exit the conversation. Those three things are also in an elevator pitch! So essentially, that is what I am doing every time I talk on air. If I want listeners to get excited, be curious to know more, or be informed on a topic, an elevator pitch is the way to go. Knowing the purpose of what you are talking about gives your voice purpose.
  3. People want to know you. So share your story: I think the reason they call us radio “personalities” is because we all have one! When I am on air, I want to be me. There is nothing worse than having a conversation with someone who isn’t real. Share your interests with others so they can get to know who you are while you are also sharing what you are passionate about – whether it’s music, agriculture or something entirely different! You know yourself better than you know anything else. I like food and agriculture, humor, out of the ordinary facts of course music, so that is what I try to talk about with listeners. If I am interested, they will be too! Or they’ll laugh at how weird I am, (did I mention I like humor?). You and your story are important parts of your voice. KJUG Board
  4. Know Your Audience and Keep A Theme: People who listen to KJUG are choosing to do so, which means they like country music. This gives us a common ground from the start. When sharing your voice and passions with others, it is always important to find that common ground. For a country music audience, the music speaks to things we care about or invoke an emotion we want to feel whether it’s happy, sad or even rebellious! When I talk about a song that was just played or one that is coming up next, I try to share that value or emotion I get from the song when talking about something else in order to stitch two ideas together. Finding common ground is going to set a strong foundation for your voice to be heard.

Radio has always been a part of my life. To go from being a listener to an on-air host has been quite an exciting journey! I still have a lot of work to do in finding my voice as an agricultural communicator, but I am thankful to have the opportunity to learn by doing as a student at Cal Poly and as a DJ at 98.1 KJUG.


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