Don’t just read—think!

You’re on the air and the teleprompter suddenly goes blank…

You’re on the air and a reporter package is not playing…

You’re on the air and you lose your place in the script…

You’re on the air and…

…Something goes terribly wrong. What’s the first thing you need to do? How do you act? What do you say?

Like many things in life, being a broadcast performer is a lot easier when things go right. But often times, things don’t go right. At that point, it’s incumbent upon the person on the air to do what he or she has to do to minimize the damage and—as they chorus crowed in the show Annie Get Your Gun, “…Go on with the show!”

The first thing you need to do when trouble’s brewing is to instinctively relax. It will allow you to take that “long second” to think of what the issue is and where to go next. Relaxing in a difficult situation is not something that is normally developed right away. Simply, you need to work on it.

Once you’ve re-gained your on-air “balance,” you need to cover up whatever mistake is being made. Whether the issue is caused by a technical snafu or by a member of the crew, it’s best when you do your best to camouflage the incident. Drawing attention to the problem or the person or machine that caused it generally doesn’t do anybody any good.

There is no script when it comes to covering up while things go awry. So, you need to know how to ad lib. That is, looking and sounding clean, clear and sensible while talking off the top of your head. I remember working at a major market radio station in the late 1970’s and early 80’s, watching some of the great voices of that station–men and women who’d been on the air for decades in major markets all over the country—literally shake during instances when they were forced to ad lib. That’s because it’s not easy to ad lib—you have to be able to organize your thoughts while, at the very same time, talk…and make sense doing so. stresses the importance of knowing how to think on your feet and ad lib, including a complete practical and theoretical curriculum on the subject.

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