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Does working in radio make you a better person?

What is it about audio that attracts the nicest people? Whenever I put on a podcast or tune into a radio station I always feel like I'm about to hear from a friend. Last week I was looking for a birthday present in the overpriced food hall of Fortnum and Masons and I came across Bill Nighy in front of the Easter biscuit tins. The strange thing is that I am currently enjoying his Charles Paris Mystery play on BBC iplayer so I just said 'Hi Bill how are you?' and we ended up having a relaxed chat about radio, film and expensive biscuits. The fact that he currently lives in my phone and talks to me through my headphones meant that I felt very comfortable saying hello as if I knew him.

I left without biscuits, but with a good story to tell. Just now as I sat down to write this, I switched on James O'Brien, and within 5 minutes I was chatting with him live on air. There are not many areas of the media that are so amenable and immediate.

I run a podcast platform called Podium.me with over 400 young people interested in audio. Our unique selling point is providing a platform for people aged 15 -25 to be themselves, talk about their lives and broadcast their stories, whatever they may be. There is something about creating audio that is very personal and exposing. You don't have to dress up, put on a 'broadcast' voice, or be anything showy. You can sit in a cupboard, or a studio and chat away to your imaginary audience, but really you are just talking to yourself. Recent pitches to Podium have been about binge drinking, running, the Baftas, adoption, personality disorders, and portrait painting. The stories are varied and interesting and each one is told in a unique way.  

As a judge of various radio and podcasting awards, I get to hear a huge variety of audio and it is always fascinating to hear how different people use the medium to tell a story. I can always tell when someone is trying a bit too hard. The best ones are the ones that feel polished, professional but not overproduced. I assume you are reading this because you either make audio or present a programme. When you next sit down at your computer to write, edit or record, I encourage you to be brave, be vulnerable, be willing to be yourself and your audience will appreciate you for it. 

I asked a Podium journalist Oliver Morris to record some credits for our training series recently, and he went above and beyond the brief. After some of the links he added his own quips. One which made it into the edit went like this. 'Podium.me is a community of audio producers under 25... not that I sound it today' His realism, humour, deadpan delivery, and the fact that he had not been asked to add the last comment made it perfect to use as an off the cuff credit. He produced the work on time, well recorded, in various versions and with an added extra. This is the kind of work I love to receive. I don't believe in over-direction. When I go to the hairdresser and they ask what I want done, I say 'you're the artist, what do you suggest?'. This could be considered brave, but I think that giving creative freedom is the best way to encourage risk taking and you end up with a better product.

What ideas have you had that you haven't yet tried? Set yourself a goal to record an interview with a friend or a family member. Let them choose the subject, find a quiet space and press record. Follow the tangents, let them go off-piste, ask open-ended questions and see where it leads.  You will both be surprised by the results. Yesterday I was on a deserted tube train heading to Hayes to visit the Global Academy. An elderly lady got on and started to read a tiny ancient leather-bound book. I was intrigued and complimented her book, she was thrilled that I had noticed, and told me she had inherited it from her mother. It was an old spanish novel, gilt-edged and looked like a prayer book. We talked for 10 minutes about life, death, books and memories and wished each other a good day. What a gift of a conversation, and it only took a curious question to start it.  

Good luck with your audio, may it lead to rich personal experiences for both you and your listeners and in the process, make you a better person.

About the author

Camilla Byk
Camilla Byk is the co-founder of Podium.me
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