Coaching Talent: A Message To Program Directors


(By Mike McVay) The coaching of talent can make a big and immediate difference in a station’s ratings. Unfortunately, too many Program Directors either spend too little time coaching an on-air personality or they overcoach and attempt to control every element of a show. You’re not directing a movie. You’re guiding a personality as they work extemporaneously.

Here are the key tips that I apply when coaching taltent:

  • Focus on the forest and not the trees. When a PD is too far into basics and bits/features, the talent feels as if they’ve lost control of the shows content, and they stop being genuine and become contrived or manufactured.
  • The show has to be about more than the basics. The basics are important, but no one listens for the basics. They listen to be entertained and to be put into a good mood. They want to start their day feeling alive and energized. Audio adrenaline.
  • Focus on the content of the show. Is it fun, funny, interesting, emotion evoking and targeted properly to the station’s specific audience? What about the delivery?
  • Listen to the talent. Make them a priority when you meet with them. Don’t be checking texts and interrupting the meeting with calls. I repeat … Listen to them. I’ve sat in meetings with the PD and the talent before, heard a morning talent tell me what type of show they feel they do best, and the PD then suggested something that was 180-degrees away from what the morning talent believes to be what they do best. If a 180-degree change is needed, then you address the need for a change, but don’t offer a content suggestion that’s contrary to the talent’s personality.
  • When I start to coach a show, or specific talent, I begin by understanding who they are, who the audience is, what the objective is for the station and who is the competition. I never focus on the basics in the first few sessions. It’s like coaching a baseball pitcher. If they can throw fast, you work on that, then later you teach them control.
  • Most PD’s don’t coach the talent. They fail to have regular meetings whereby they offer constructive criticism and suggestions upon which to build the programs content.
  • Too many PD’s focus on the wrong thing and deliver criticism that focuses on basics or suggest bits/features that are not befitting the talent. If all you do is define the parameters of a show with negatives, it will be easier for the talent to do nothing, than risk getting into trouble for trying something new.
  • The best morning shows are fun, funny, connected to the community, have a strong link to the listeners lifestyle, thinks like the audience thinks, is continually doing show prep and is anchored by an intelligent person. I’ve never seen a successful morning show that wasn’t anchored by someone smart.
  • The best on-air personalities can be difficult to coach. They can be difficult to keep focused. Some have issues that go far beyond anything ion your scope of expertise. However, the very best air talents are intelligent, committed to excellence, have a strong work ethic, a keen sense of right versus wrong when it comes to their audience and they often hear a “party” in their head that no one else was invited to attend. Great and successful air-talent are involved in their community. They are everywhere and they are seen everywhere.

Always remember this; don’t fix what isn’t broken. Evolve and grow your talent before a ratings decline takes place, but don’t make dramatic changes without being prepared to run the risk of a significant loss of audience. I can put up with a lot of “stuff” to be number one.

Apply the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]


  1. Very interesting learning about the Radio side of things & insightful for what I do on the Music roduction side. I hope you’re doing very well – It seems as if you are. Wishing you Continued Great Success!


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