When I’m working with brand new air talent, one of the first questions I get is ‘How long should I talk?” It’s an understandable question. After all, they’ve no doubt listened to on-air personalities across formats and dayparts that do everything from super short comments over the lip of a tune, to talk show hosts that act as 100% of the content and everything in between. Plus, even when working with seasoned radio broadcasters a great deal of our focus in aircheck sessions is spent trying to get them to tighten up their breaks so they get into, through and out of them faster without wasting the listener’s time.
So, because of a multitude of variables, format, market, competition’s programming, stopset length, etc., there’s no simple answer to that question. That’s why typically I respond with something like this. How long we talk should be in direct proportion to how much value we’re giving the audience. On a music-based station, if they take the time to listen to us we need to give them something of value or get out of the way of the things they do value, the music.
Once we’ve developed a show prep process that allows us to come up with multiple content breaks, phone topics, benchmarks and features every day, then we’re ready to go longer. Until then it’s better to err on the side of caution and be tight and bright.
However after that consistent daily prepping process is in place the next step is to start mastering the art of the economy of words. Asking ourselves, how can I say in 30 seconds what someone else would say in 3 minutes? Exactly how much detail do I need to include so the listener isn’t confused but also isn’t bored. Then, how concise can I get my out while still adding to the content.
Both learning to prep and working on our economy of words improve exponentially with the help of a professional on-air coach and regular, strategic aircheck sessions. But, even with that and especially without, we should learn to self-edit. Hands down the best way to do that is by spending time listening back to our own breaks and rewriting them. While doing that we’ll catch crutches, unnecessary phrases and words, leading transitions with co-hosts on team shows and callers on solo shows, reiterated statements, times we go past the out and so on. All of the same things we bring up in aircheck sessions. But, if the air talent is catching them on their own, clearly they’ll improve much faster and respond quicker when their coaches point them out. Airchecking ourselves isn’t just for novices. Every level of air-talent should do it. I’ve said it before, but in this business that’s constantly changing, if we’re not improving each day we’re actually slowly getting worse.
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