Getting a show on community radio is a whole different scenario than creating a demo reel to work at a commercial or public (SBS/ABC) radio station. A programming coordinator, manager or committee will want to hear more than just a 3-minute compilation of your best ‘radio voice’ and weather breaks to consider if your program is suitable for the station.
Become a member of the station.
For some stations, this is a prerequisite to being on air, but even if it's not you should be a member or subscriber of the station you want to present your show on. Memberships and subscriptions help keep community radio on the air and independent of fear or favour.
Research the station.
Make sure you’re pitching something the station doesn’t already have. Make sure your idea fits in with the station’s political, or social identity. Identify the station's community of interest and focus on that. A lot of stations have a ‘general’ license that has a variety of viewpoints, music and programming, but some stations have a very specific idea of the kind of content they want or a very specific audience. Make sure you know as much about the station as possible.
Check the station’s program application process.
This will ensure you submit in the right format, that you are giving them what they want. Every station is different - it’s likely they will want to hear your whole program but they may just want a sample. Make sure you’re giving the programmers what they need. A lot of stations will have an online application form, otherwise just drop them a line.
Have a clear plan for your program.
Have a detailed plan for your demo episode before you even set your equipment up, but beyond that think about the big picture, do you have enough ideas, themes and content for a year’s worth of programs? Will you be able to keep finding talent for interviews or the style of music you want to present? There’s no point having a killer demo if you only have enough content for one program - but if this is the case you could think about making a one-off documentary.
Plan where to record.
Where you’re going to record will impact on how you present your content. A lot of stations have access to training and production studios that you can use for free, which will give you the best sounding recording possible and get you in the right headspace, but time will need to be booked and you will need to have all your pre-prepared content (pre-recorded interviews/edited packages/music) ready to go before you get in there, so be prepared. An advantage of doing your program demo at the station is it will give you a practice run using station equipment and will force you to be organised as you will need to be when producing a weekly show.
If you’re going to record at home, all you really need is a computer and a microphone. Free editing programs like Audacity are still the go-to for quick and easy production jobs at lots of community radio stations, and their ease of use lets you concentrate on the content. A USB microphone will plug straight into your computer without needing any extra mixing desk equipment. Record in a quiet room in your house without too many hard surfaces (flat walls, windows) if possible, or set up mattresses or blankets on walls to help suck up some of those sound reflections.
Script out sections of your program, even if it’s just introductions, outros, how you describe the show in your back announces or station breaks. Some presenters will script their entire show, a seasoned veteran might do the entire program off the cuff, but for your demo, you want to make sure you are keeping the ideas clear and you’re staying focussed and not rambling on. A script will make sure you keep on track.
Make A Running Sheet.
This doesn’t have to detail down to the second, but it can. A running sheet will make sure you have enough content planned for your program and will stop you getting flustered or lost while you’re recording.
Submit your program with all the relevant information.
Submit the program in the right format. Make sure you’ve included everything they ask for. Most stations will want an image to use, and maybe a photo of the hosts. They will also want a brief rundown of what the program is about, and perhaps a more detailed version. They may want your social media links - find out and provide everything they are asking for.