by Tracy Johnson
Programmers and personalities have the same goals: to capture listener attention and command more time spent listening. The problem is finding common ground in a strategy to achieve that goal. But here’s a concept that may help bring these warring factions together. Short and tight are not the same thing.
There’s a ton of research that shows listeners won’t put up with too much talk. It’s one of the biggest complaints in most research studies. And it’s true. The audience won’t tolerate personalities who talk too much. So PD’s place restrictions on the length of breaks. It’s another example of applying programming rules without thinking it through.
So personalities talk too fast and edit content. This results in a short break that stays within the time limits. But the content doesn’t connect. Breaks that don’t connect are too much talk, regardless of length.
So how long should talk breaks be? That’s a good question.
Here’s the problem: Programmers think they can mitigate the “talks too much” complaint by shortening breaks. But that’s not the point. Creating tight breaks should be the goal, regardless of how long that break is.
This is about editing and focus.
I’ve heard many breaks that sound like 7 minutes of content crammed into 3 minutes.
And vice-versa. Sometimes, 3 minutes of content are stretched into a 7-minute break!
Tight and short are different concepts. Short can be measured with a stopwatch.
Tight means editing words for maximum impact. It’s a discipline that has nothing to do with the length of a talk segment.
I was in an aircheck session with a client. We listened to the first segment. The program director turned off the audio, looked at the talent, and said:
Do you know what I like about that break? It was short.
All the air left the room. That places the emphasis on the wrong syllable.
Coaching mechanics (How long is the break?) instead of performance (How good was the break?) drives personalities crazy. And rightfully so.
Maybe this will help. Here are guidelines for personalities:
If you take nothing else from this article, remember this simple concept:
A break should be as long as it needs to be…and no longer. And it should be as short as it can be…and no shorter.
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