Discipline is a simple word, but a hard thing to practice. It is defined as “a system of rules of conduct.” For a radio show, the discipline of editing may be the most valuable of all disciplines.

Spontaneous performance isn’t normally associated with editing. The free-wheeling nature of a live radio performance takes unexpected twists and turns that can lead to great moments on-air. But when personalities take too long to get where they’re going, listener interest fades. And that often ends in tune-out.

The segment may not be too long. It’s just too long for the content. That’s why every personality must learn the discipline of editing. Editing applies to everything. When a waiter takes too long to take an order, then goes over all the specials, your eyes glaze over. They need to edit.

But it takes practice, refinement, and discipline.

The Discipline of Editing

Marketing guru  Seth Godin says:

Everything gets better when it’s shorter. Everything. Nobody goes to the church service or the comedy club or the theater hoping for it to be longer. They want it to be better.

And that’s the challenge, particularly for radio personalities. One of the most-asked questions I get is how long a break should be. This question has no answer. It varies, depending on the station, format, competition, and expertise of the talent.

But there is a guideline:

A talk segment should be as long as it needs to be and no longer. And it should be as short as it can be, but no shorter.

This can be confusing, but there are two factors that will help get it right.

Preparation: When a break is carefully laid out, it’s easier to stay focused. When there are detours, a well-prepped show gets back on track. Some personalities resist preparation because they want natural reactions These shows need to understand how to Prepare Tight and Perform Loose.

Airchecks: Football teams watch game films to improve. Take the time to identify what could be left out. If starting it over again, what would be trimmed? What didn’t need to be there? A performance critique will help keep the show on course. Get details on how to do it here.


The goal is to be tighter, not shorter. That applies to 20-second breaks and 12-minute segments. That comes from editing.

Entertainer Steve Martin has come to love the process. He says:

Editing is one of your most powerful tools to success. Changing, subtly reorganizing, taking things  out. It’s thrilling, Editing is the best feeling you can have. Getting rid of things that aren’t working by pruning leads to growth. As you perform more, you’ll learn to sense when material isn’t going to work halfway through its delivery. In these moments, confidence will allow you to edit the line in real-time, cutting and altering depending on the mood of your audience. You’ll also begin to build a catalog of material that you can draw from when you need to revitalize your act.

Develop the discipline of editing and practice it daily. You’ll be amazed at how much more effective the show will become.

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