The Winning Show Prep Formula: TSP = TSL

The Winning Show Prep Formula: TSP = TSL

by Tracy Johnson

Everybody loves shortcuts. They save time and energy. But cutting corners isn’t always a good idea. Especially in Show Prep. But TSP = TSL is a Show Prep formula that works: TSP = TSL.

TSP is Time Spent Preparing. TSL is Time Spent Listening. TSP = TSL in radio. Time spent Preparing is directly related to the time spent listening.

The formula has nothing to do with gathering topics or identifying what listeners will find interesting. That’s easy. Any good show prep service helps with this mechanical, daily task. In fact, you can get my Personality Magnet Show Prep service to help with this. Get started for just $1.

I’m talking about turning topics into ideas, and ideas into entertainment.

Great art takes time. And TSP is always a good investment in your art.

The Show Prep Formula

Dan Wylie is the VP/Programming for Blackburn Radio in Canada. A few years ago, he shared a remarkable comparison that emphasizes the commitment required to excel on-air.

Dan said:

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

Most of the game time is spent planning, preparing, organizing and reacting to current circumstances. Huddles, time-outs and adjustments at the line of scrimmage are more than 95% of the game.

And that’s just the game itself. NFL players spend the rest of the week reviewing performance, analyzing competition, learning new plays and studying a game plan.

The off-season is spent conditioning, learning new skills and staying in peak condition for next year.

The NFL Way

Let’s break it down, and place a value on the actual action.

Tom Brady makes nearly $200,000 per minute (based on 12 minutes of action) for the time he’s actually involved in the game.

But there’s more to it.

Watch a game and it doesn’t always look like there’s a plan.

Brady exits the huddle and looks over the defense. The play clock ticks down. A frantic series of adjustments at the line of scrimmage makes it seem they’re making it up as they go.

Each adjustment is based on deep preparation. The time spent preparing for the game allows Brady to make informed spontaneous decisions.

Great quarterbacks spend up to 60 hours a week watching videos of the opponent, studying tendencies, and looking for an edge. That’s in addition to the time spent in meetings with coaches and teammates. Not to mention daily practices to rehearse the plays they think will be most effective.

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All for 12 minutes of action. Without deep preparation, an NFL quarterback would not be able to perform spontaneously.

That’s what it’s like on a radio show.

Focus On Show Prep

Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers talked about the keys to winning a championship:

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.

Rodgers knows which play to run against each defense because he goes into a game mentally prepared. It helps him relax. It slows the game down and allows him to perform comfortably.

After that, it’s just execution.

Visualize and Adjust

Some personalities claim they sound better when they “wing it”. Others say they don’t want cast members to know anything that is coming up because they want a natural, spontaneous response. And a few even make excuses for lazy show prep. One told me:

I can’t plan my show until the morning it happens. I have to react to everything happening up to the moment, in real time.

Sorry. That doesn’t hold up. Personalities should invest more time in preparation. That’s what creates confidence to perform spontaneously. I explain this in detail in my Prep Like a Pro seminar on demand.

Here are a couple of tips that will help:

  • After planning each break in detail, visualize how it will sound.
  • Form a clear, detailed, and accurate image of how this segment will be performed.
  • Troubleshoot it. What could go wrong? Plan for possible outcomes.

That doesn’t mean rehearsing a break in advance. Just plan it in greater depth.

Discarding Content

Sportscaster Joe Buck says one of his greatest frustrations is spending so much time getting ready for an event, only to discard most of the material:

I over-prepare out of insecurity. Then I walk out of the booth and realize I used only 10% of it.

Yet if the time and effort were not invested, performance would suffer. When unexpected circumstances arise, a prepared performer takes it in stride, able to adapt to changes.

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That’s why TSP equals TSL.

Radio shows are surprised every day. A caller takes a topic down a different path. A local news story breaks. A cast member is having a bad day.

That’s okay. Take it in stride. Adjust. And save unused content as leftovers for a future show.

Your 12 Minutes of Content

A personality-oriented radio show is on the air for an average of 3.5 hours per day.

Shows on a music station typically execute four breaks per hour, each 3-4 minutes long. That’s around 12 minutes of content per hour.

That doesn’t seem like much, does it? It’s about as much action per hour as an NFL game. How much time are you investing to make those 12 minutes awesome?


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

A radio show should be in a constant state of preparation, planning, and adjustment. Be alert for content, but obsess on presentation. Plan the break for maximum impact.

Every day is game day. You can’t win by making it up as you go. TSP = TSL is a show prep formula that should drive every radio show.

Putting Radio Show Prep In Perspective

Personality Magnet Show Prep Service

Radio Show Prep & The Low Hanging Fruit

Harvest Your Life Show Prep Seminar on Demand

eBook: Harvest Your Life Show Prep Guide

Show Prep Resources For Every Show

The Science of Show Prep

Prep Like a Pro Seminar on Demand

Show Prep: The Missing Link Seminar on Demand

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