Air Checks and How I Conduct Them
Everyone has their own system for doing air-checks. I formulated mine after years of working with air-talent followed by a couple of decades teaching public speaking at universities and technical colleges. What I ended up with is something that works. Your mileage may vary.
The primary goal of any air-check is improvement. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been on the air for 40 years or this is your first month, we all have room for improvement.
The secondary goal--and this is primarily for newer, less experienced pitchers--is to build confidence by emphasizing the positive and not trying to fix everything at once.
The third goal of air-checks is accountability. Every aspect of pledge must be accountable to a clear set of goals, best practices, and expectations.
Air-checks should be done in a studio or private office in a one-on-one setting. Here is a sample outline of the basic process I use.
Listen to the air check before the meeting and make notes about the following:
Here’s what we said we would do:
Did we do it? Good. Mark this as something to keep doing.
Did we not do it?
How should it have been done differently?
The next two steps involve you and the pitcher both listening to the air-check
What went well?
Have the pitcher identify what worked well before introducing areas for improvement.
Pick out something good that the pitcher did not notice.
Where can we improve?
Ask the pitcher to identify something he would do differently if he could do it over again.
Share something you noticed and connect it to your best practices’ list.
Agree on one thing to work on for next time.
One of the things that happens here is that the pitcher learns a set of self-assessment tools so that they can do their own air-checks in between pledge drives. When I taught public speaking, all student speeches were video recorded and available for students to review. Part of each speech assignment was to watch the speech and prepare their own critique of the performance. I rarely found that I was more critical of their work than they were. I followed up with each student to help them learn how to properly evaluate their performances and identify both positives and negatives based on a clear set of standards. (Note: It’s a good idea to prepare a rubric for on-air pitching practices and refer to it when air-checking. Here’s a link to a pretty good article about how to make a good rubric https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-create-a-rubric-4061367)
Another option is to have pitchers perform air-checks on each other. The goal is improvement; not employee evaluation. Improvement is a crucial thing to emphasize with everyone. Having pitchers air-check each other helps ensure that these are not high stakes encounters. Regardless of whether you’re doing the air-checks one-on-one or pitchers are checking each other, it’s important to keep the process low key and relaxed. No one should get fired based on a pledge drive air-check.
Keep notes on each air-check, particularly those items that you have agreed to work on for next time. Refer to these notes at the time of the next air-check.
There’s no question that air-checks are time consuming for both parties. This is true for big stations and small. Everyone’s busy all the time. It isn’t practical to air-check everyone after every drive. Here are some suggestions for how to organize this effort.
Train more than one person to do air-checks – here’s where developing an effective rubric is helpful
New pitchers need to be checked more often than veterans, but everyone should get an air-check annually.
Teach pitchers how to air-check themselves. This works well with new pitchers and can help them get better faster.
Pitchers can air-check each other (again—a strong rubric is important)
Collect examples of good pitch breaks for people to listen to. If you have group meetings about pitching, play these examples for everyone and have them discuss what’s good about them.