The most successful performers break the rules. YouTube personalities produce videos that are technically sloppy and raw. Podcasts are longer than the content merits. The stories meander aimlessly. Twitch broadcasts go on and on about nothing. It’s generally undisciplined and unpolished. Yet personalities on these platforms attract huge audiences. There comes a time to take off the training wheels.

Performing to a template happens when an overly strict format clock is designed. Personalities are instructed to fill each opening with content. This can be a good policy for inexperienced talent. But the goal should be to grow as quickly as possible. Talent must evolve if they will become meaningful, difference-making personalities.

When To Take Off The Training Wheels

There’s nothing wrong with templates. That’s what format clocks are. Many artists become skilled by learning from the structure of a template. But great art doesn’t come from a paint by numbers template. Large fan bases follow those that color outside the lines.

The other extreme is also dangerous. Turning air talent loose to do whatever they want results in an undisciplined, unstructured performance rarely turns out well. The solution lies between raw, unfiltered chatter and performing to a template.

Here’s how to increase potential by removing the training wheels.

Deliver prepared content in a spontaneous, conversational, relaxed presentation.

I call it Prepare Tight, Perform Loose.

Guidelines and standards are critical. Even a master painter is restricted by the size of her canvas. Personalities must have boundaries. But art should never be a slave to the structure. Here are three guiding principles:

Gather: The first step in show prep is hunting and harvesting topics. Find material that fits, appeals to listeners and is powered by personal observation. But that’s just where show prep begins.

Organize: Curate topics into ideas that becomes stories. This is the most critical part of the show prep process.

Improvise: With deep preparation and a plan for each segment, personalities can perform spontaneously, reacting “in the moment”.

This is the art of working with what you have gathered rather than gathering content to fill open breaks. It’s making the template work for you rather than vice-versa.

Radio’s Future Has No Training Wheels

Templates are not a bad thing. Every show needs structure. But as personalities develop a following, advancing to Stage 3 (Growth) in the Personality Success Path, make adjustments. Know when to remove the training wheels.

Personality is the future of radio. Radio needs authentic personalities sharing personal stories and experiences.

Here are some tips for personalities and the programmers that coach them:

Enforce Prepare Tight, Perform Loose. The more freedom to improvise, the more important show prep becomes. The tighter a break is prepped, the easier it is to be spontaneous. Find that balance. For details, watch this seminar on demand.

Adjust The Guidelines. Communicate the most important aspects of the station’s clock structure. Then trust talent to execute with enthusiasm. Allow them the authority to make adjustments, but provide oversight to guide growth.

Coach. Unleashing talent on the audience requires more time in coaching. Coaches encourage and nurture strengths, work toward mutual goals, and inspire great performance.

Give Up Control. The more proficient personalities become, the more freedom should be granted. Just don’t do it all at once. Do it in stages.

For guidelines of how and when to relax talk restrictions, go here.


Radio stations stand out because of the people on the air. Imposing too many restrictions results in a show that sounds technically flawless, but lacks warmth. When you find talent that truly makes a difference, coach them to bring out their best qualities. Develop those on-air superstars.

Take off the training wheels. Let’s go!

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