Joining the Station: Preparing your show notes

There is quite a gap between having the idea and concept for your show to actually broadcasting, and most of this time is taken up with planning and preparation with quite a lot of energy thrown in for good measure! In order to ensure that your show goes as fluid as possible I recommend that you take the time to plan in detail. In order to help you with this, here is an insight to my own planning process and the software I use.

It would be great if there was actually a piece of software which actually did all the planning for us. Press and button and boom! an instant show. Sadly, this has yet to be invented, as far as I am aware, so you will need to get your head down and do it yourself. I once said to a news reader that I would actually like to do a show every single night and I could make the time available to achieve this, although what I couldn’t actually make time for is the hours of planning which would accompany these shows. I’m not sure how the professional radio stations do this and, if you are already an experienced presenter, you might be able to actually give me some pointers but, what I wanted to share with you is what I do so you have a starting point for your own planning procedure.


  • Software – Although I have very set times for planning during the week, I do like to have my show notes/plan available where ever I am. This allows me to alter them or even add ideas for future shows as soon as I surface in my often cloud filled mind. In order to keep everything up to date and available on a range of devices I use Google. Within their ‘suite’ of programs you have the opportunity to use Google Sheets if you want to calculate running times or work out issues with money for the station, Google Keep for collecting ideas and websites links for the shows and finally, Google Docs for your show notes/plan. The software which I use to broadcast from actually keeps a record of what I have played in each show, but before I got this I also had a Google Sheet which recorded this. Always make sure that you keep a record of what you have played, sometimes you think you haven’t played a track for ages, but believe me your audience will remember and can often point this out to you. This sort of record also allows you to include in your shows comments like – “This was played in my first ever show…”

  • Music and Chat – You have already decided what type of music you want to play so the first part of your planning is to collect together the tracks which will appear in your show. I usually aim to use eleven for an hour long show, although I frequently go over, so you might be able to do less. If you are planning on doing a lot of talking then obviously the number of tracks you will need to include in your show will be less. You will soon get an idea about this as your show progresses but initially it is better to have more tracks and remove some rather than having too few. Once you have decided on the music, you need to identify the content for your segments. If you have thought about this sufficiently then you will already have a good idea about the content. Using Google Keep to record your ideas as they come to you will be beneficial as well as adding web links to your show notes. With the key features of your show identified, you can now get down to the actual planning and script writing.

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  • Overview of show planning – As previously mentioned I use Google Docs to plan my show. I call the file the name of the show, the show number and the date – e.g. Musical Show – 12 – 17.07.16. This allows me to keep everything organised and to easily identify each show. Within the document, I actually create a three column table for the content of my show. The main script goes in the middle column with additional information appearing in the other two columns. Web links general go in the final column and title of segments in the first, but apart from this there is no set place for the additional information. Once you have done one show, then planning for the next show is just a case of making a copy of the doc and renaming it.

  • Planning the tracks – When tracks are being entered, I shade in the background colour so these are apparent, and include the title of the track and the artist. Initially I used to enter the actual timing of the track in the final column but I didn’t find this useful so I stopped doing this. Myriad actually shows me the time of the introduction so I don’t actually need this in my show notes although this might be something you want to add so you know you how long you have for sweepers and talking before the song actually starts. Jingles have a different background colour so they stand out. I tend not to say which jingles I want to play – I tend to just go with the flow.

  • Planning the consistent chat – Within the doc I use different font colours to show what type of content the text is. Bold Blue refers to text which is not altered a lot. This text tends to be introductions to the show, contact details and anything else which I want to remain consistent. This text can easily be copied and pasted between documents and, because you have copied the next show from the previous one, then these segments will already be available. During the reflection phase after a show, or even during a show, I often add comments to the doc so it is worth reading these so that you know if you need to make any changes.
  • Planning the segments – The names of segments I actually use bold purple text to make them stand out, although you could use any colour which suits your purpose. The actual text for the segments is just ‘normal’ black text. I actually write out these segments in full hand – writing exactly what I am going to say and provide some indication about how I will say it – if needed. I present as part of my job and usually I can talk about my topic well and with a limited number of notes, however, when I am on the radio, I still script my show. Yes, I sometimes add bits or deviate from the script but I like that reassurance that the script is there and I can just read it, maintaining a natural tone of voice of course! These scripted segments are what takes the time when planning. I like to make some reference to the track before and then provide some sort of a lead in to the segment -e.g. last week we were chatting about, that was Bonnie Tyler holding out for a hero – talking about heroes – you get the general idea. The script allows me to maintain the ‘feel’ of the show as well as providing information or points for discussion. I often put questions into the segments – e.g. have you ever? do you remember? These are generally rhetorical and require no answer live on air, although it does promote engagement with your audience and promotes that feeling of involvement. Avoid copying and pasting large amounts of text from an internet page – read it and put it into your own words and always quote your source – I often tweet the actual page onto twitter or the Facebook page so that listeners can engage with the story themselves. Sometimes this is reversed, for example – I once presented an interesting fact (a regular segment on the snuggle show) that referred to an island inhabited by swimming pigs. On air I mentioned that I was not sure of the actual validity of this only to find that during the next song, a listener posted a link to a YouTube video onto twitter showing the actual swimming pigs! Finally, when scripting the segment, I add a bit, if appropriate to link to the next song. This is optional and often I just go straight into it. Is is a good idea at this point to add in your notes something like <> – if this is going to happen.

  • Check and rehearse – Once the show has been planned it is a good idea to read through it all to make sure that the show flows. Check for spelling mistakes and the ‘wrong word’ being used – for example ‘me’ instead of ‘be’ – so that the meaning is clear. Consider if you need to move any segments or tracks around or whether or not there is new content which need to be added. Finally make sure that everything is saved and, if you have a co-host, that the doc is shared with them in plenty of time for show.

  • Continual Input – Throughout the show I always have a piece of paper and a pen ready. This is mainly so that I can make notes to remind me to say or include items. Sometimes there is a lyric which I really like or a song reminds me of something which I want to include as the track comes to an end. I have learnt the hard way that I always thought I would remember these things only to start talking and my mind has gone completely blank – e.g. “I really love that lyric when it says…“. If people have made contact with the show/studio it is also a good idea to jot these down somewhere so that you have the name and comment/answer for future reference.

  • Initially this procedure might appear very arduous but once you get into a routine it can be quite enjoyable. I always think I am actually doing the show as I write the show notes so it is a good time to ‘rehearse’ as well. I used to do a radio show for a station with a co-host. When the show came to an end, I actually ran the first ever show again and it was really good to have the show notes there and to talk about how the segments and the show had changed. If you plan well then the show will go well and you will be more relaxed and in control. You might be, as I did, thinking now, I can talk quite naturally and that you don’t need show notes or a script. If you are then I suggest that you script your shows to start of with and then see how it goes. A script removes the gaps, the pauses and makes for a more fluid and altogether professional show.

    If you have any thoughts about the content of this post or any advice for creating your own radio show, then please add them in the comments below.

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    About Ian Wilson 80 Articles
    Hi, I'm the founder and station manager of Wilson Waffling Radio. I guess you could say I am the person who organises and runs the station as well as presenting the Musical, Snuggle and Waffling Shows. I work full time as a Senior Lecturer in higher education and love 80s cheesy pop music!

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