Your on-air fundraising drive is just a few weeks away and you've just scheduled rehearsals. Here's what most of us have heard in response:
Oh, I don’t have time for that.
Just give me the script and let’s get this over with.
But I want to be spontaneous.
It’s not real so what good does it do?
Actors rehearse, athletes practice, musicians practice AND rehearse. Why not pitchers?
Rehearsals give on-air talent the opportunity to get back into the swing of things and learn a few new tricks to boot. It gives them a chance to meet their on-air partners and producers and build the team that results in a great sounding - and money raising - drive.
While everyone should at least have a brush up rehearsal between drives rehearsal is particularly important for new pitchers.
Here are some suggestions for making pitch rehearsals effective and fun.
Start with a good rubric. A rubric is another name for the plan of action for a rehearsal. A good rubric outlines the scope and process of a lesson and names the objective. Teachers use them all the time. Here’s a link to get you started. Your rubric will ensure that everyone knows what good fundraising breaks contain. What is it you want them to do? How do you want it done? What are your best practices?
Keep rehearsals short – no more than 30 minutes for a one-on-one rehearsal, and 45 minutes for groups.
For large groups - here's a technique that will work.
Make sure your room is large enough to accommodate the group.
Have your pitchers form groups of three.
Distribute scripts for a 4-minute break and have everyone look them over for a few minutes. In each trio two will pitch and one will keep time.
Encourage pitchers to try different things during the rehearsal – particularly putting the messages in their own words.
Each group should have enough rounds with the same script so that everyone gets to pitch at least once.
Leave time to discuss, in groups, what they noticed, what worked and what didn’t.
Have a larger discussion with the entire group about what happened.
This is a great way to have brush-up rehearsal just before a drive.
For brand new pitchers, or if your staff is small and group rehearsals are not practical, set times for one-on-one pitching sessions led by whoever is responsible for pitcher training.
Plan to spend 30 minutes per session. Each new host should participate in more than one session.
Make audio recordings of all sessions
Use script for one 4-minute break and make sure the pitcher has it 24 hours in advance of the practice session.
If your scripts call for a recorded spot to be played be sure this audio is available.
If possible, make sure that you can both see the clock and are aware of how much time is left in the break.
Ensure that the talent understands the roles of case and close messages.
Run the break once and then listen to it. Talk about what you heard, starting with what went well and then identify one thing that could be improved (even if there were multiple items needing some attention).
Run the break again and listen to it. How did it compare to the first time? Was there improvement in the specified area? What else did you notice?
Leave the recordings on a shared drive or make them available to talent to listen to later.
Using a pre-established rubric, write up an evaluation of the rehearsal session and share it. This serves as a record of what happened and where work needs to be done.
Set a date/time for further rehearsal if warranted.
For more experienced staff use air-checks and large group practice sessions instead of individual rehearsals.
It is extremely important that these sessions NOT be used as a means of employee evaluation. The goal is to raise more money for the station by being more effective on the air. Rehearsals are a great place to experiment and learn. They should not be high stakes performances.
Other interesting training devices-
List commonly used script phrases and ask people to come up with alternatives. In a group setting this can be lots of fun.
"Trading twos" is a great way to add variety to a pledge break. The title refers to a jazz trick of handing off a solo to another player after two bars. The other player hands it back after his or her two bars until the 8 or 16 bar solo ends. Pledge partners can do the same. Break a case or close message into smaller pieces and have pitch partners hand off to each other.
Since storytelling is a big part of asking for money on the air (or should be) ask everyone to prepare a story about being a listener or an employee of a public radio station. Tell them they have 45 seconds to tell their story and turn it into a reason for people to give money to the station. Five minutes of prep time should be enough – don’t let them overthink this.
Rehearse live in person, or via Zoom. The important thing is that we all understand the importance of rehearsal before each drive.
As the Scout motto says: Semper Paratus – always prepared.
Coach. On-air talent training. Pledge Consultant