The Winning Show Prep Formula: TSP = TSL

The Winning Show Prep Formula: TSP = TSL

by Tracy Johnson

Memorize this show prep formula and remind yourself of it every day: TSP = TSL

The amount of time spent preparing your show is directly related to the amount of time spent listening to your show.

Now most of you will read this and think the solution is to spend more time gathering topics and coming up with things to talk about. That’s the easy part. I’m talking about deeper preparation that transforms content from topics to entertainment.

Master chefs spend time selecting the ingredients to be used in a recipe. Finding the freshest vegetables and most desirable cuts of meat are the foundation of his masterpiece.

Even more attention is placed on what he does with the ingredients. How will they be cooked? What is the perfect combination of spices to accent the individual tastes and textures? Should it be sautéed, broiled, baked or fried? How will it be presented? What side dishes and wine pairings will turn dining into an experience?

The art of performance takes time to perfect. And each performer will find their own show prep formula.

Show Prep Formula Perspective

Dan Wylie is the group PD for Blackburn Radio in Canada. Recently, he shared a remarkable comparison that emphasizes the importance of preparation, and the commitment it takes to excel on the air. he said:

The average NFL football game lasts about 3.5 hours, but there’s only about 12 minutes of actual action in each game.

Most of the game time is spent planning, preparing, organizing and adjusting to current circumstances. Things like huddles, time-outs and adjustments at the line of scrimmage makes up over 95% of the game.

And that’s just the game itself. NFL players spend the rest of the week reviewing their performance. They analyze competition, learn new plays and prepare a game plan. The off-season is spent conditioning, training and keeping themselves in peak condition for next year.

Show Prep Formula: The NFL Way

The quarterback comes out of the huddle. He looks over the defense, and as the seconds on the play clock tick down to :00, a frantic series of adjustments at the line of scrimmage looks more like a fire drill than a well-oiled machine.

Blocking assignments are altered, pass routes changed. Even the play is different. Sometimes it looks like they’re making it up as they go along.

Watching quarterbacks in the NFL is a great lesson in the art of creating a morning show. Those last-second decisions are the result of deep preparation.

You might also like:
Giveaway Strategy: Why One Day Contests Can Be a Big Success

A quarterback spends countless hours learning his playbook and knowing the assignment for every player on his own team. Then he spends about 60 hours each week watching video of the opponent, studying tendencies and looking for clues that give him an edge.

The coaching staff prepares a game plan. A play is called in the huddle. Everyone on the team knows what is supposed to happen. Then, everything changes when it’s time to execute.

For the champion, what looks like chaos is the result of planning for every contingency.

Changes are made based on a deep knowledge of team strengths and weaknesses, opponent’s vulnerabilities and the situation in the game. but those changes are always made based on the team’s playbook, game plan and coaching direction.

Aaron Rodgers on Show Prep

Here’s MVP Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers on the keys to winning the 2011 Super Bowl:

The key is to be able to focus on preparation. You can’t let the distractions take you away from what you need to do next. You need to show up prepared to play, expect the unexpected, and know exactly what you are going to do.

Going into the game mentally prepared will help Rodgers know exactly what plays to run, and which audible to call against each defense. When your mind is prepared, it’s just execution from there.

Visualize It

Visualization is the ability to create clear, detailed and accurate images in your mind of events that you want to create as physical reality. There are visual triggers that help quarterbacks recognize which type of defense he should expect.

We often hear talent claim that their best shows are spontaneous, just “living my life on the air.” I’ve actually heard personalities say, “Don’t talk about that now, save it for the air.” More often than not, they start their show without the tools to succeed. They haven’t prepared.

Quarterbacks don’t design new plays in the huddle. They don’t run plays that haven’t been rehearsed. They plan every detail to give them the best chance to win.

It may be true that the best moments on the air are spontaneous, just like the difference between winning and losing is the result of instant decisions on the field.

You might also like:
Here's How The Audience Hears The Way You Promote [audio]

Spontaneity is the product of preparing for every possible outcome so you know how to react when unexpected circumstances arise. When a caller takes your topic down a different path, are you prepared? When a local news story breaks, do you know what to do? If your partner is having an off day, is your content prepared deeply enough to compensate?

When Lindsey Lohan is arrested… oh, yeah, we’re all prepared for that.

Show Prep Formula & Your 12 Minutes of Content

Most air personalities are on the air between 3-5 hours per day. The average for a personality oriented morning show, coincidentally, is 3.5 hours. On a typical music station, it’s common for a show to execute four breaks per hour, each about 3-4 minutes, or around 12 minutes of content per hour. That doesn’t seem like much, does it?

But to make it great, you must invest the time.

At 101.3/Virgin Radio Halifax, the morning show of Turk, Rachel & Alex perform Entertainment News every hour. They call it the Hollywood Flash.

The feature is Rachel’s “baby” and she is great in presenting it. But this doesn’t happen by ripping and reading the latest headlines and hoping Turk & Alex respond.

I love what Rachel told me about show prep:

“It takes about two hours a day to prepare the Hollywood information, understand it, digest it and know it so I can just tell it without sounding like I’m reading it. It’s a lot of work to sound spontaneous and fresh.”


How much time and effort goes into your show? Do you have a show prep formula?

Like a professional athlete your show should be in a constant state of preparation planning and adjustment. Train yourself to be alert for content that applies to your show. Obsess about how your content will be presented. Plan your entry point for maximum impact.

Every day is game day. You can’t win by making it up as you go along.

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
Tracy Johnson's Audience Magnet Course
Become a Wildly Successful Personality Without Depending On Your PD, Station or Company

The industry's first online video course is a complete training program for radio personalities.

This is the breakthrough you've been waiting for.


Audience Magnet Blueprint ebook

Tracy Johnson's Audience Magnet Course Become a Wildly Successful Personality Without Depending On Your PD, Station or Company The industry's first online video course is a complete training program for radio personalities. This is […]

Treat Them Like Dogs Seminar on Demand
Webinar, $19.00

Treat Them Like Dogs Tracy Johnson's Audience Magnet Course Become a Wildly Successful Personality Without Depending On Your PD, Station or Company The industry's first online video course is a complete training program for […]

Join the TJMG Newsletter

The New Insiders Radio Network

Is This Really Radio's Most Valuable Resource For Personalities Programmers and Promotion Managers?