Five Minute Air Check Sessions

Five Minute Air Check Sessions

by Tracy Johnson

Air talent dreads it. And PD’s that are honest with themselves do, too. It’s air check sessions. Some programmers seem to think it’s their responsibility to schedule an hour with each personality, then fill up the time with critique. It’s not necessary. In fact, long air check sessions are counter-productive.

I regularly get more done in shorter meetings, some as short as just five minutes.

photo by Getty Images

Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs is recognized as one of the best coaches in the NBA. Popovich has adjusted his coaching techniques, and one specific tactic is keeping coaching sessions short. He has learned it’s more effective to spend less time in long meetings and more time in short, focused review of his team’s performance.

The Spurs have more frequent contact, and make the time together more productive with focused use of studying game film.

It makes sense. Players are performers, just like air talent. And every performer needs clear instruction that they can act on immediately. Performers have a hard time putting many concepts to work at once. Shorter meetings and clear coaching is a winning combination.


Popovich says:

With us, film is short and directed. It’s very specific on certain items. You can’t do a coaching clinic every time you do a film session or you lose them all. But if something is directed, like pick-and-roll defense, transition defense or how the ball was shared or not shared and you get after it and do it. It makes sense to most players. That’s our way.

It should be your way, too. Air check critiques with personalities usually end up with the PD listening to every break from an entire show. or at least an hour. Programmers break down most breaks in excruciating detail. But short and focused is a better way.

Keep Air Check Sessions Short

Every PD coaches air personalities to keep their content as short as possible, and encourages them to stay focused and concise. The same advice applies to programmers for the meeting itself. And it takes time to plan those short meetings. In fact, it may take more prep time than a longer, traditional air check.

There are many techniques detailed in the ebook Air Check Sessions That Don’t Suck. Each theme is a focused strategy that could be the topic of a five minute air check.

But those techniques are ineffective without the discipline to keep the meetings tight and focused. Just like coaching athletes, this is a key to coaching air talent.

3 Ways to Keep Air Check Sessions Short

Set a Start Time-And Stop Time.  This is as important for the PD as for the talent. Defining a start time and end time keeps everyone on point. But be sure to follow through and enforce the times. Start right on time, even if someone is late. Hold them accountable to be on time next time.

How much time do you need? 5 minutes? 15 minutes? 30 minutes? Anything longer is probably going to be counter-productive. The key is that everyone knows what to expect. Follow up by your promise by delivering. Just be sure that it’s as short as it can be, but as long as it needs to be.

Then, stay on time. If the team expects a 20 minute meeting and it goes 90, it’s a disappointment. You will lose attention.

Distribute an Agenda

Before the meeting send a short list of things to be discussed, hopefully all on one theme. Everyone will know the reason for the meeting and can be prepared to participate. During the meeting, stay focused on the topics, and require each person to be active participants. If anyone is not prepared, call them out on it (in a positive way). And let them know what you expect next time.

If someone wants to bring something up that’s off-topic, delay it until the end of the meeting and address it then. But let anyone leave that wants to (stay on time). Or, table it until a future time and build the next meeting around it.

Action Plan

Meetings without actionable results are a waste of time. End each meeting with a plan. What is the take-away? What is the expectation? Do they know what to work on for tomorrow?

Have a very specific action plan, even if it’s simple and short. Give them clear guidelines that will allow them to succeed, and a timeline. Follow the meeting with a short memo or email to reinforce the key points.

In the next few days or weeks, pay attention to performance so you can reinforce their progress with praise when you hear it.


There are many ways to coach talent. Great programmers learn to manage each show individually, adapting their leadership to the personality of the talent.

No matter which techniques you work with, remember to keep it short and focused. You’ll get much better response.


Author: Tracy Johnson

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

Opt In Image
Treat Them Like Dogs
View this presentation and get the slides

Tracy Johnson's proven method to coaching and managing high profile air talent.


The Original Morning Radio
eBook, $19.95

  by Tracy Johnson. The original Morning Radio has been described as the Bible of Personality Radio. Find out why programming and personality legend Scott Shannon described it as, “The best book I’ve ever read about radio… period.” Scott […]

10 Steps From #10 to #1 Presentation & Slides
Webinar, $19.00

Being a dominant air personality is hard work. but it’s a lot easier if you know what you’re working toward. In this presentation, I share the 10 Steps that can take your show from […]

Join the TJMG Newsletter

Hire a talent coach for less than $1 a day.

Sign up for Insiders Radio Network.

Game-changing guidance to transform your show, station & career.