It’s holiday season, which means hosts across the country are likely reviewing their remaining vacation days and planning to use them all up before the end of the year. This leaves PDs in the position where they typically look for replacement talent to help fill shows. Some PDs will look outside the building, while others will see it as an opportunity to better see some of the other voices that are employed as board members, podcast hosts, etc.

This is an important moment for the young voices of the building who aspire to be hosts of shows. In fact, this is possibly the biggest opportunity of the whole year. Now is a great time for someone to develop who they are behind the mic and identify strengths and weaknesses they may have.

But what exactly are PDs looking for and where do they normally go for replacement talent? These are the questions I asked three DPs across the country.

Armen Williams – Brand Manager at SportsRadio 610 and CBS Sports Radio 650

How did you come across the filler hosts you are using?

AW: Replacement hosts are often inherited – let’s first take a look at the voices that have been used over the years at the radio station. Who are the most familiar listeners? Then, it’s always healthy to look internally to see if there are other people on the support staff who would be interested in the opportunity or perhaps could be prepared for future roles. Then it’s a search between other members of the media or notable people within the market.

What do you expect from these people?

AW: It depends. In a perfect world, there are at least a few people you someday prepare for potential roles at the station. Who is good enough to do this thing on a regular basis? Building a depth map on the station is one of the hardest things to do, but can pay dividends in the long run.

Then sometimes you are just looking for other people who might have another job but can offer a unique perspective and may be available on occasion.

Do you coach them in the same way as your regular hosts?

AW: Well, most replacements are only in your building for a small time of the year, so it’s not a situation where you do regular air traffic control sessions with them, no. But it is important that they are informed of the minimum expectations and a general idea / direction of the brand and the content. Regular replacements are likely to get more feedback than someone who is only called a few days a year.

Tye Richardson – CEO of ESPN Arkansas and host of The Morning Rush

How did you come across the filler hosts you are using?

TR: We have found our replacement hosts at ESPN Arkansas in several ways. Some were former employees. Others have done weekly podcasts associated with our radio station. Giving part-time workers a chance is another avenue we have explored.

What do you expect from these people?

TR: We are looking for future station animators. Radio is a constantly evolving profession. I always have to be prepared if someone quits for another job, quits, etc. Most athletic directors have a short list of people they would then hire if needed. We take a similar approach.

Do you coach them in the same way as your regular hosts?

TR: I rarely say anything to our current hosts as a program director. Our market manager takes care of this aspect of coaching. I am more willing to share my opinion with the substitutes. It is in my best interests that they are prepared to take the next step.

John Mamola – PD 95.3 WDAE, AM 620 and NewsRadio WFLA

How did you come across the filler hosts you are using?

JM: During the holidays we tend to give air time to some of our board members and producers. We try to circulate it among the staff to try to get representatives. We want it to stay local with people the public knows, rather than taking someone out of the market. Sometimes we’ll lean on our partners, like the Rays, Lightning, or Bucs want some of their on-air staff to do shows. But we try to keep the voices familiar

How valuable is it to you, as a PD, to be able to use this time to assess talent?

JM: It is extremely valuable. It’s good to give opportunities to some people who have worked really hard throughout the year and give them some experience behind the mic, instead of just the board. We are attracting talent from the other radio stations in the building to make it a different twist, but these are more guest spots than full shows. We have a few options to do more syndication, which we lean on a bit, but we try not to dive into it too much.

What advice would you give to a replacement talent?

JM: I don’t think booking interviews is necessarily a good feature if you want to air check a talent. Can you ask questions? Of course, as long as you ask the right questions and phrase them correctly, fine. If I have to give advice to a talent, I prefer to give advice on a skill set that defines them.

If I were to go to North Carolina and have someone spend a few hours in Tampa the top three things would be, make sure you understand what you are talking about because if you don’t research my city and my market, then people are not going to listen to you. Work on pronunciations. It’s a big misstep for a lot of people, unfortunately, when I hear from people at other stations with talent that isn’t in those markets. Know how to pronounce Amalie Arena. Three, just be welcoming to be a little shaved. If people don’t know who you are, they’ll ask you who the hell do you think you are. You have to be prepared for this, because it’s one thing to immerse yourself in Bucs horror on Sunday, but if you can’t remember a certain game or moment in the game, and it’s obvious to the audience that you have no idea what you are talking about, you must have thick skin. Have fun with it, because it’s a unique piece and the most important thing is being able to entertain my audience from a distance? If you can do it, you win the day.