Why do program directors limit talk breaks? There are good reasons. Every time a talk break begins, the station enters a high-risk zone. And that’s a scary place to be. The risk is real. Every time an entertainment element changes, listeners are far more likely to change stations.

This drives programmers crazy because they can control music, promos, and imaging. But they can’t control what comes out of an air personality’s mouth.

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 of each break is real. As soon as a personality starts talking, the potential of tune-out increases.

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

Why Talk Is In The High-Risk Zone

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 newscast has held all current listeners. Anyone who doesn’t like what’s happening has tuned out. And that experience is about to change. Change invites re-evaluation. When things change, the risk of tune-out is highest.

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

This happens in every transition from one element to another. The greater the change (as in talk disrupting music), the higher the risk.

The Hand Shake

Personalities can navigate the high-risk zone with an on-air handshake. This is a greeting that makes listeners feel comfortable in a changing environment.

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 spend too much time with small talk. There’s also a risk of not getting to the content quickly enough. The 7-second challenge (the maximum length of time to retain attention) is a real thing.

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

How To Shake Hands

There are many ways to shake hands on the air, including:

Reference The Music. Don’t perform in a vacuum. Connecting to what the audience enjoys makes you more likable.

Thanks For Listening. Just being polite and thanking listeners in an authentic way builds a bridge and helps personalities be perceived as friendly and warm.

Relate to the Mood. Reflecting on what’s happening in the listener’s life, at this time, in this city, helps. It shows that we are connected with how they feel. I call it IZE-ing content.

Putting Personality Into the Basics. Many personalities rush through repetitive content like weather and positioning statements. That usually happens early in a talk break and sends the signal that it’s time to turn out.

Acknowledge The Audience. Just mentioning a listener’s name in a mini-story makes personalities sound friendlier, more likable, and less intrusive. And it absolutely wins fans. Listener shout-outs can be incredibly valuable.

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


These seem like small things, right? That’s true. But together, it means a lot.

Find a way to build bridges from music to content and back again, without taking too much time.

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