The Harvest Your Life Brainstorming Technique

The Harvest Your Life Brainstorming Technique

by Tracy Johnson

Usually, show prep is something air talent looks forward to just a little more than an air check meeting with the PD, GM, VP of Programming and one of the station’s biggest clients. In other words, it’s low on the list of things we love. But it doesn’t have to be such a grind if you harvest your life. In fact, it could make show prep fun!
The most valuable content almost always comes from your personal life and observations It’s unique, and can’t be duplicated by any other source. Sometimes the inspiration comes naturally, from a personal observation or experience. Other times, you have to dig a little to harvest your life for material.
When you learn this technique, you’ll find more content from your real life than you ever imagined, and you’ll come up with topics that can be turned into stories for almost any occasion or application.
The result is a more personal connection with your audience to advance your progress on your success path.

How to Harvest Your Life

This process may sound like a lot of work, but it’s usually a lot of fun. The key is that everyone involved come prepared and be ready to participate!

Start with a team of people. It could be the other players on your show. Or, if you are on by yourself, get personalities from other time slots or even other stations in your cluster together. It’s also a good idea to  add an outsider or two. This can change the dynamic and add a different perspective.

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Someone should moderate, and suggest specific storylines related to a specific topic you’re brainstorming. it may be a current event, a holiday or any other topic.

The process is simple: Everyone should participate by sharing stories from their life experiences.

For example, if you were brainstorming ideas for Valentine’s Day, you might ask specific questions like:

  • What’s your earliest memory of Valentine’s Day?
  • Who was your first crush? What age? What did you do to embarrass yourself? How did you feel at the time? To what lengths did you go to show your love?
  • What is your biggest Valentine’s Day disappointment?
  • Who is the Valentine that “got away”? How did it happen? Where are they now?
  • Did you ever cry on Valentine’s Day?
  • What practical jokes did you play on someone that messed up their Valentine’s Day?
  • What was your favorite Valentine’s candy?
  • Describe what Valentine’s Day was like in High School?
  • As you might imagine, there are dozens of other questions you could come up with. Be creative, and keep it moving quickly.

As stories are shared, take notes. You can hijack someone else’s story and make it your own. Just because it actually happened to someone else doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened to you! Or you could turn it into a story from “a listener” or “friend”. Or you may find stories that fit a feature.

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Add What Else & What Next

Then, when developing the content, use the “what else” and “what next” techniques to add to the story. This can get you a little deeper into the brainstorming process and uncover even more potential stories.


What else could have happened?
What do I wish happened?
It would have been even better if this had happened: ________
The next thing that should happen is __________


Regardless of what you do with the stories, choose the ones that best add to your character brand.

Give it a try, even if you get your crew together just once a month or so. Prepare the topics in advance and you’ll be amazed at how many stories you’re able to collect.

Author: Tracy Johnson

Tracy Johnson specializes in radio talent coaching, radio consulting for programming and promotions and developing digital strategies for brands.

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