In comedy, the difference between a punchline generating laughs from the audience and awkward silence usually depends on the storyteller creating a strong, externally-based premise. For radio shows, the same applies to personal stories. There’s an entire seminar called Mastering The Setup devoted to this aspect of performance. The seminar is available on demand here.

Here’s an outstanding example of establishing an external connection with listeners by creating a dramatic emotional entry point that makes you lean in to hear what will happen next. Listen to B98.5/Atlanta’s Tad, Drex, and Kara’s segment about Kara’s co-sleeping situation at home:


Here’s what stands out:

  • Kara gets into the segment with a provocative opening line that suggests the story’s direction.
  • Then she doubles down, adding more drama.
  • Tad and Drex respond perfectly, letting the hook marinate. Tad tees her up to continue without revealing the whole story. This is an outstanding example of Delayed Resolution in personal storytelling.
  • The entire show expresses a point-of-view without attacking Kara, but bringing friction to the storyline.
  • The story takes a turn to a relatable topic (which continues for several excellent segments with listener contributions to the conversation).

Segments have to get off to a fast start or the audience is at risk of leaving before the story is established. Yet, it’s important to not rush and let it breathe. This is a perfect example of finding that balance.

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