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 and programmers. Radio according to Seinfeld could help a lot of radio shows and we can all share a laugh in the process.
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 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.
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!
George figured it out: 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 a personality can learn. Finding the pay off and letting it resonate is one of the most important storytelling skills to master.
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 or one more phone call. Unfortunately, hoping something better comes along often doesn’t happen.
Like George, the more they talk, the worse it gets.
Find the payoff. Hit the high note. Shut up.
Avoid the temptation to go for an 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.
Side Note: Getting out on time and moving on doesn’t mean literally shutting up and abruptly going to commercials or a song. It’s a natural transition point that can be effectively used for teases or building anticipation for the next great moment on the air.
There’s a thin line between success of a great segment and pain of a break 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 see it all the time in dial test research. For details, you can watch our seminar What Causes Tune Out. It’s a dramatic demonstration of how good segments are often ruined.
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. They measure the entertainment by how it made them feel.
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!
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