Radio According to Seinfeld: End on a High Note [video]

Radio According to Seinfeld: End on a High Note [video]

by Tracy Johnson

Seinfeld reruns never get old. They are classics and rich with lessons in character development, show preparation and story structure for radio personalities. Radio according to Seinfeld could help a lot of radio shows.

Do you remember the episode when George learned the secret to his success was to “end on a high note”? In meetings, in relationships, on the phone and in any other situation that involved making an impression on others, George figured out that his biggest problem was a tendency to keep talking after he made an impact.

Radio According to Seinfeld: George’s Aha Moment

George Castanza’s a-ha moment happened by accident, and he was so excited to realize how easy it was to make people like him. He realized that when he got out on a high note, he wins!

Just hit the punchline, and shut up. Leave them wanting more. When he embraced this new philosophy, Seinfeld’s best friend reached a new level of acceptance!

Learning “when to say when” is one of the most valuable skills to learn. The anatomy of a great break includes the Hook, the Set Up, the Dress Up, the Pay Off and the Black Out. Finding the pay off and going to black out is one of the most important storytelling skills.

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Getting Out On Time

When you hit a high note, it’s over. So end it. The hard part can be identifying the best moment. Sometimes it happens by surprise.

But too often, air talent keeps going, riding a topic just a little longer, hoping for another magic moment that often doesn’t happen.

Like George, the more they talk, the worse it gets.

Find the payoff. Hit the high note. Shut up. Fade to black.

Avoid the temptation to go for one extra punchline. It’s always better to get out a little too soon than a little too late. That additional thought or one more comment can be deadly.

The Cost of Going Too Long

There’s a thin line between success of a great segment and pain of one that is extended and runs listeners off.

You may think this is over-stated. But it’s not. Extending the break can cost up to 40% of your audience. And it happens quickly. Don’t believe me? We prove it in the Content Superhero series.

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The point is made in the Content Superhero presentation Chapter 1: What Causes Tune Out.


George Castanza learned the lesson to get out on time and end on a high note. What he missed, however, is  the ability to transition to another topic or smoothly segue. He just left the room. A lot of air personalities do this, too. When you hit the Pay Off, you don’t have to just end the break. It’s the perfect time to transition to a tease or promo. Don’t just “walk out of the room”.

The audience rarely says they wish the movie were longer or the church service lasted another 20 minutes. Or that the comedian was on for 10 more minutes. The same thing happens on the radio. They tune in for a great story, not a long one. Find your pay off, and use it!

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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