The High Risk Zone of Every Talk Break

The High Risk Zone of Every Talk Break

by Tracy Johnson

Why do program directors limit talk breaks? They’re usually not just trying to show who’s boss. There is usually a good reason. Because every time a talk break begins, the station enters a high risk zone. And that’s scary.

The risk is real. Every time the entertainment element changes, listeners are much more likely to change stations or go away.

It drives programmers crazy because they can control just about everything on the air. But they can’t control what comes out of an air personality’s mouth. The mic goes on and their stress level rises.

And it’s true that many listeners punch the button. They’re gone (quickly) before the talk has a chance to get established.

It reminds me of a quote from Fran Lebowitz, a journalist from three decades ago:

Radio news is bearable. This is due to the fact that while the news is being broadcast, the disc jockey is not allowed to talk.

That may seem unfair. But the high risk zone is real. As soon as a personality starts talking, the chance of tune out increases.

It’s not because talk is weak or personality is bad. It’s because the listening experience is disrupted .

And any talk that fails to relate to the audience is too much talk.

Why Talk Enters The High Risk Zone

Here’s why there’s a problem.

When launching a break, 100% of the existing audience is happy with what they’re hearing. Or at least not unhappy. They’re still tuned in, right? So the song, or the newscast that’s been on have held all current listeners. Anyone who doesn’t like what’s happening has tuned out.

And you’re about to change that. Change invites re-evaluation. And the risk of tune out is highest. The content that has held the audience has changed. And no matter how strong the personality is, change runs folks off the station.

There’s also a scientific reason listeners seem to resist talk on music based stations. It has to do with how the brain processes information. Get details on it here.

You might also like:  It's All About The Hook Seminar on Demand

This happens, to a lesser degree, every time a song changes. The next song may not be as popular as the last, or it may be a different genre. So there’s tune-out risk even when transitioning song-to-song. But it’s still music, so the risk is lower. And the program director can control that. So it’s lower priority.

The Hand Shake

Whenever there’s a transition from one content element to another, an on-air shake hands. The handshake is a greeting that makes listeners feel comfortable as the environment changes.

Shaking hands is an important part of a relationship. It breaks the ice when meeting someone.

You don’t call a friend and immediately start a conversation without a short greeting to say hello first.

And it’s an important part of the transition on the radio. Take a couple of seconds to break the ice and connect before launching content.

Now, don’t want to spend too much time with small talk. There’s also a risk in not getting to the content quickly enough. The 7-second challenge is a real thing.

But it doesn’t take long to shake hands, which will minimize the high risk zone.

There are many ways to shake hands, including:

Thank Them For Listening. Just being polite and thanking listeners in an authentic way builds a bridge and helps personalities be perceived as more likable.

Relate to a Mood. Reflecting what’s happening in the listener’s life, at this time, in their market, helps the transition. It shows that personalities are connected with how they feel. That personal connection pays dividends. I call it IZE-ing content.

Putting Personality Into the Basics. Many personalities rush through basics, such as rattling repetitive content like weather and the positioning statement.  That usually happens early in a talk break. And it sends the signal that it’s time to turn out. Every element is an opportunity to entertain and show personality. Don’t waste it.

You might also like:  Radio Personalities and the 7 Second Challenge

Acknowledge The Audience. Sometimes, just mentioning a listener’s names in a mini-story makes you more friendly, likable and less intrusive. And it absolutely wins fans. Listener shout outs are incredibly valuable.

Get more details on how to shake hands on the air here.


These seem like small things, right? The goal for every personality is to be likable, warm and relatable. If not, the content doesn’t have a chance to find an audience.

Find a way to build bridges from music to content and back again, without taking too much time. How will this affect tomorrow’s performance?


The 7 Second Challenge Is Real

All About Generating Great Hooks

eBook: It’s All About The Hook

It’s All About The Hook Seminar on Demand

How To Shake Hands On The Air

The Science Behind Why Listeners Reject Talk

Do More Music Morning Shows Work?

How Much Should A Radio Show Talk?

Opt In Image
Topics - Bits - Features - Games - More

"The service is really outstanding. I love the moral dilemma situations each day. We get tons of feedback from listeners. The topics in Personality Magnet drive real listener calls." - Andreas Hinsberger, Programming Chief, Antenne Vorarlberg, Austria

Just $19/month or $149/year.




Audience Magnet Blueprint ebook
eBook, FREE

3 secrets to become a successful personality without depending on your company or PD. PERSONALITY MAGNET: Daily Show Prep Topics - Bits - Features - Games - More "The service is really outstanding. I […]

Advanced Storytelling Seminar on Demand
Webinar, $19.00

ADVANCED STORYTELLING. Human beings are attracted to storytellers…and since most listeners are human beings, developing storytelling skills will serve radio talent well. In this seminar, Tracy Johnson builds on Storytelling Basics to take you […]

The New Insiders Radio Network

Is This Really Radio's Most Valuable Resource For Personalities Programmers and Promotion Managers?