Updated: May 13, 2020
Those are the most important elements of great, entertaining radio shows. For each break to work close to flawlessly, all three elements must be applied at the same time. One cannot exist without the others. You can be prepared but not know when enough is enough, causing your execution to fall flat. Let’s look at each one, how important they are and how they compliment each other on great radio personality-driven shows.
There’s a one-liner that asks, How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall? Practice. It’s a great joke but it’s so true. How we practice is also very important. Sure, there are shows that think spontaniety is lost in preparation and that might be true sometimes but the art flourishes in the execution. Let me explain.
In Major League Baseball, players have become obsessed with launch angle, the angle at which the bat meets the ball when hitting. Different launch angles produce different results. A 7 degree launch angle produces a ground ball while a 20 degree launch angle produces a fly ball. While a fly ball increases home run probability, what happens prior to and during the launch angle of the swing determines whether the ball goes 300 feet or 450 feet. Balance, weight shift, bat speed and load all contribute to and increase power prior to launch angle. Consider those elements, in essence, preparation and moderation combined with launch angle or execution resulting in a home run.
In radio, it’s the same. How you prepare for a break and how you apply different elements to it effect the outcome. Preparation is always first and most important.
Too much of anything is not good. There must be a balance of everything and everyone involved. In a morning show with multiple personalities, if one of them is too dominant, the rest become secondary and not effective. There must be a balance of each. The set up not only involves details of the topic but also introduces characters and what’s expected from them during the break. Check this out.
Set up: This is what the break is going to be about, usually coming from the personality driving the ship. Every show has one person that starts the breaks and sets the tone direction for breaks throughout the show. This personality will give their opinion on the topic and open the door for discussion among the other players or characters.
Co-Host(s): This person or persons, explains their take on the subject usually different from the set up person’s. They’re letting the audience know how they will interact on the topic.
If one or more of these becomes overly dominant or even non participatory, the break falls apart therefore destroying the execution.
Concentration & Execution
Concentration on what is happening in the moment is very important. Listen to the direction of the conversation and adjust as needed. YOUR plan on where the break is going could take a detour at a moments notice. You need to be able to recognize it and adjust. You might have to throw away your plan or outline of where you hoped it would go. That's okay. It's live radio where anything can happen.
Execution determines the life of the break. This is so important. When it starts is easy. When it ends is the tough part. Sometimes talent gets so caught up in the conversation it lasts far too long. Remember, you're on the radio not having a conversation at home with friends. If you feel you bailed out too early you can always set up a revisit of the conversation. Tease it, set it up and start all over again.
The more you are prepared, the better the break will be, whether or not the audience is compelled to participate and for how long. If all these elements are in place, spontaniety is not lost. It sounds natural, welcoming to the audience and entertaining. Don’t confuse spontaniety with preparation. Seinfeld looked spontaneous only through preparation. That show “about nothing” really was about everything.