Over Prepare, Don't Over Air By Andy Meadows

I’m a huge proponent of on-air personalities doing lots of showprep and working further in advance because a lack of preparation, or only preparing right before the show begins, is one of the main things shows get wrong. However, once we’ve developed a system to adequately prepare, that can sometimes lead to another issue, over-airing. 

Just like the challenge talented writers face of not falling in love with their words and learning to self-edit, or film directors being willing to cut a great scene that isn’t needed, good on-air personalities can struggle with leaving some of that prepared content off the air. We’re not in a contest to see who can talk about the most things and nobody is listening to us with a clipboard checking off a list to make sure we hit everything. Often talent who are good at show prepping miss that critical step of trimming the prep down to only choose content they can add to and make their own. Then, strive to get the most out of the content they do air. After all, we need less content than we think because we want the room to carry over content that becomes sticky and drives more engagement on air and social than we expected. We should also be willing to bring that content back later in the show or the following day. That’s hard to do when we feel obligated to talk about everything we prepared. 

Shows that prepare well, but edit poorly, tend to have several multi-topic breaks with very loosely connected content that’s all weighted the same. Then over the course of the show they end up sounding like they’re just throwing a bunch of things against the wall to see what sticks. That lack of focus leads to very little engagement from the listener because they’re not sure what to engage on. A better move is to be more selective about the content we air so we can let it breath and focus on ways to make it relatable and interesting to our core demo. The goal should always be to use the prep as a jumping off point to start a natural conversation that we then bring the audience in on. 

Being willing to cut content we’d planned to talk about also helps leave room for things to happen organically. I’m a firm believer in never going into a break without knowing how I’m going to get into content, a rough idea on how I’m going to wade through the details and how I’m going to get out. So, when I’m on air I’ve always got a planned out, and sometimes I think it’s a particularly good one. But, if I’m truly taking a ‘what’s best for the show’ approach I HAVE to be willing to abandon that pre-planned out if something better comes up naturally either from my cohost, a listener weighing in or even myself. 

But, I get it. It’s human nature to want to get some use out of things that we’ve spent time developing. However, we don’t win an award for rushing to air something. We can always save content for later. Then, if that stuff starts to pile up, we can even do a ‘stories that fell through the cracks’ type segment similar to what most late-night talks shows do. The Daily Show’s is currently called ‘Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That’ and Colbert dubbed his similar feature ‘Meanwhile.’ Or, if we really feel like it’s piling up daily, we can utilize some of it in a post-show video for the web or social as a way to extend the show. 

What do you think? Comment below or email me at Andy@RadioStationConsultant.com. 

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