There will always be a place for traditional radio despite a rapidly changing media landscape. That was one of the key take-outs during a discussion between a panel of radio industry legends at the recent Radio Awards conference which took place in Sandton on Saturday.

One of the benefits of the new multiple platform media landscape is that radio industry experts can remain visible with the help of digital and social platforms rather than disappearing into obscurity when their radio careers come to an end, pointed out talk show host, Ashraf Garda. He said radio presenters need to understand the privilege they have of connecting with society.

Fake media, said former 702 talk show host, John Robbie, means that the need for credible and trustworthy voices is greater than ever before, which makes radio more relevant than it’s ever been.

Robbie spent 30 years with 702, joining the station in 1986 as a sports reporter. “When we introduced the idea of talk radio nobody knew how to do it,” he recalled, explaining that most presenters made it up as they went along. In order to learn from the best Robbie travelled to Australia to watch renowned radio presenter Alan Jones in action and to learn from him.

“After watching Alan in action I was initially convinced that there was no way I could emulate him, he was just so good: he entertained, educated, informed and annoyed, but he never waffled. He was always very well prepared. I came home convinced that the only way to be successful was to prepare even harder. Alan got in two hours before his show aired; I decided I would get in even earlier with the result that for 17 years I got in at 3am to prepare for a show which started airing at 6am.”

Preparation, he added, is king. “The best bit of advice I ever got was from Stan Katz who advised me to work from the punchline back: you don’t have to be funny, but you must be informative. It’s all about storytelling.”

Robbie conceded that he had made every single mistake in the book, including putting the phone down on a former minister of health. “That’s the mistake I most regret,” he recalled, “I had her on the hook but I gave her an out by asking how she dared to call me by my first name. The lesson was that you don’t have to be rude or strident to ask the tough questions.”

Patrick Bogatsu, programme manager at Vuma 103 FM, admitted that his radio career was not planned. He trained to be a teacher before entering the radio industry.

The mistake many stations make, said Bogatsu, is assuming that Twitter users will be successful as on air presenters. “Just because somebody is successful on Twitter does not necessarily translate to success on air,” he said.

Lynn Joffe, CEO of Creatrix, said that her entry into the industry – as a copywriter specialising in writing radio adverts – was challenged by the fact that she is female. Her success, she added, has been the result of doing something she loves and her passion for storytelling.

Denzil Taylor, Head of News at POWER 98.7, advised new entrants to the industry to choose their mentors very carefully. To be successful, he said, you need to immerse yourself in the industry and learn every facet of it, be passionate about what you are doing and be prepared to work hard.

The big take-out: Good talk radio presenters entertain, educate, inform and even annoy, but they should never waffle.