Radio listeners are a picky, fickle bunch. They don’t listen nearly as much as we would like, have little loyalty to even a favorite personality or station, and are quick to tune out anything that annoys them. It’s similar to your loyalty to a “favorite” restaurant. But every radio show can reduce audience turnover by fixing the three things that drive listeners crazy (not counting commercials. There’s nothing you can do about that yet).

Imagine that you just opened a terrific restaurant featuring an amazing chef with a unique menu. Critics are raving about it. But there are a few problems.

  • Problem #1: It’s in a hard-to-find location that doesn’t show up on navigation systems.
  • Problem #2: The chef’s identity is hidden and guests know nothing about him or her.
  • Problem #3: The restaurant is always loud with music blasting and bright lights. It’s impossible to have a relaxed meal.

These are barriers to success. Wouldn’t you make changes that unlock the potential? Of course, you would.

3 Things That Drive Listeners Crazy

Like the restaurant metaphor, radio shows create barriers. It’s fairly easy to fix the problems by making it a priority. For personalities, listeners have a problem with:

  • It’s difficult to understand what is going on.
  • Not knowing who is talking.
  • Personalities talking on top of one another.

Problem #1: Confusion

The restaurant can’t assume customers will magically discover them. It needs to be convenient and to find.

Radio personalities often assume the audience knows more than they do, creating a barrier to usage.

  • Backstory: Listeners already know you have a husband, two young kids, and a golden retriever, right? You talk about them all the time. Uh, no, they don’t. Most don’t know your name (see problem #2), let alone the names of family members.
  • Previous Listening: You just talked about this topic 10 minutes ago. The current audience heard that, right? Probably not. The audience turns over quickly. But even those who did have the radio on weren’t paying attention and have forgotten by now.
  • Basics: The game is on every day at the same time and it’s the same phone number to call and participate. Everyone knows that, right? No. They don’t. Not at all.

The most important job of a host is to ensure the audience doesn’t get “lost”. Listeners are constantly tuning in and out. That’s why every host should become proficient in resetting the topic,  communicating the basics, and providing necessary details.

Problem #2: Who’s Talking?

Wouldn’t you want to know the name of the amazing chef that created the culinary masterpiece? Of course!

Listeners want to know who’s talking on the radio. But many personalities make it difficult to figure out “who’s who”:

  • Introduce yourself frequently. Never assume the audience knows your name. Casual listeners are tuning in (and out) all the time. Like the host of a party, introduce yourself to make them feel welcome.
  • Even if you’ve been introduced at the beginning of a segment, team shows should name tag one another during the conversation. It’s awkward at first, but it allows listeners the chance to sort out who’s talking.
  • This is particularly important on shows with multiple cast members of the same gender and on shows where one name could be either a male or female.

Problem #3: Talking On Top Of One Another

This is the one that will drive listeners crazy the most. It comes up in focus groups all the time. When more than one voice is talking at the same time, listeners can’t sort it out. It’s chaos, like a noisy restaurant with a bad ambiance.

Here’s how to fix it:

  • Hold that thought. Train yourself to listen and respond rather than blurt a comment that may be relevant to the topic but is not to the conversation.
  • Wait your turn. Use hand signals to smooth the conversation flow. This may mean some great lines are missed. But the segment will be better.
  • Focus on making the conversation as great as it can be for the listening experience by setting up partners (including listeners). This is at the heart of a For The Show attitude.


These three common problems can make a huge difference:

It’s the difference between the audience tuning out because they don’t understand what’s happening and being glued to the radio to hear what happens next.

It can be the difference between listeners becoming a fan of a personality and being a casual listener that doesn’t recognize your name.

And it can be the difference between creating an interactive, fun conversation and driving listeners away because it sounds like shouting.

How will you adjust your approach to fix the three things that drive listeners crazy?

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