I’m sitting in the hallway at Momentum, waiting for the on-air break-out session to begin, pondering how it is that I’m on a panel of “Gold Medal Air Talent”? That’s when Lisa Williams meanders over to my bench and sits down next to me because, of course, she belongs on a panel like this.
As we’re chatting and laughing about things, a woman comes up to us who works for KLOVE. When she finds out that I work at KTIS in the Twin Cities, she sighs deeply and proceeds to tell a tragic story of her daughter’s death after being struck by a car. It happened while her family was living in Minneapolis and she said KTIS got her through her darkest days. I’m sitting there in shock, speechless and silent. Not Lisa Williams. She leaps to hear feat and wraps her arms around this dear, vulnerable woman who had just invited us in to the most life-defining moment in her life. And they have a tender moment.
Of course that’s the right response! Why didn’t I think of that? So, naturally, I stand up and join the group hug already in progress. Awkward and late, but it’s all I can do at that point.
That’s what makes Lisa such a great air talent. She feels deeply. Her words are poetic. She’s always connecting. And guess what?
I’ll never be that way.
I’m just not empathetic like that even though I’ve tried to be. But here’s what I’ve discovered. I can learn to embrace the parts of me that are unique, like being the awkward third hugger in an emotional moment. 10 years ago I would have chastised myself for the missed opportunity to be the compassionate first-hugger. But now, I’ll harvest that moment and tee it up carefully to say to the listener, “I’m like you, I miss chances to say and do the right thing too.” That connects in a different way.
Here’s a thought: If you haven’t done this already, take the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment, or review your strengths, and even weaknesses. That’s a starting point for your unique vantage point on-air. Beyond that, ask people who know you best and will tell you the truth. Why do they choose you and keep you for a friend. If people around you say things like “You always _____” or “You never _______”, those will be some pretty good clues right there.
What are your strengths, quirks, assets, and uniquenesses? I would also strongly suggest letting a talent coach help you with this because not everything in our personalities is air-worthy. I’m cynical and snarky at times and that part of me needs toning down and rechanneling.
People are always saying, “Just be yourself on-air.” That’s a lot easier said than done. But with a little honest assessment and grace toward yourself, I think you’ll find your “A” game!
Lisa Barry is the midday on-air personality for 98.5 KTIS in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Spirit 1059 in Austin Texas and Star 99.1 in New York. Contact Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org