Programmers commonly tell air personalities to increase their energy. Understandably, they want the station to move quickly. However, without specific coaching and guidance, personalities naturally inject the wrong things into their presentation. Typically, they talk faster, shout instead of talk, and play a music bed behind talk breaks. That’s emphasizing the wrong syllable. Those things have nothing to do with increasing energy. The key is to add energy to language with a more action-oriented, colorful choice of words.

Using powerful language increases the energy, but it’s a seldom-coached technique. Which of the following headlines would more likely cause you to click to learn more:

Details About a Popular New Diet


Lose 15 Pounds This Month With This Groundbreaking Diet

That’s obvious, right? The more exciting headline with colorful language is much more compelling. The same principle applies to talk breaks.

How To Add Energy To Language

Recently, I led a client brainstorming session for a show’s upcoming segments. Here are the phone topics they planned:

What incident happened in your high school that everyone talked about?

What did your kid do to embarrass you in public?

Both are fine topics, and each has the potential to cause listeners to respond, but the resulting stories would likely not produce great stories. And the topics probably wouldn’t be enough to cause a listener to lean in and be excited to hear what happens next. They needed to add energy to language by turning up the volume.

Here’s what we came up with:

What scandal rocked your high school?

What did your kid do that you thought would ruin your life or cause you to have to move out of the neighborhood?

Interestingly, the show used those words in the brainstorming session. But when prepping it to take to the air, they reduced the volume on the language instead of turning it up! Adjust the energy louder rather than toning it down!

The Result

Adding energy is not that hard, but it’s more nuanced than adding hyperbole or exaggeration. Research shows that most radio shows are generally liked, but few are loved. This is the difference between an audience that “likes what they hear just fine” and one that “couldn’t turn it off.” Agreeing that “I like what I heard” is not the same as a listener telling someone, “Did you hear what they did?”

Passion follows those who excite listeners by adding energy. Imagine responses to the examples above.

The School Incident Topic:

Question: “Did you like the calls about people who had strange incidents at their high schools?”

Answer: “Yes. It was entertaining and reminded me of some things from my high school days.”

Energized Question: “What scandal rocked your high school?”

Answer: “OMG. You should have heard it! They told the most amazing stories about scandals in high school all morning.”

Kids In Public:

Question: Did you like it when they had callers about how kids embarrass parents in public?

Answer: “Yes. It reminded me of my kids. I could relate to it.”

Energized Question: “What did your kid do that you thought would ruin your life or cause you to move out of the neighborhood?”

Answer: “I can’t believe the story from the woman who called (show) about how her kid ruined her life! I sat in my car to hear how it would end.”


None of these examples of adding energy to a talk break depends on how fast you talk. Energy is more nuanced, and when you find the right words, it attracts listeners to lean in and be afraid to tune out. Energy transfers from personalities to listeners when you turn up the volume on ordinary topics. Do it consistently and it becomes a habit that changes how listeners hear the show.

Add energy to language. Turn it up!

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