There are three critical considerations when constructing a team show. The first is casting a great character mix that complements one another and generates creative friction. Another is ensuring everyone in the cast understands what is expected and how they fit into the team strategy. And the third is often overlooked: It’s performing The Dance.
Many shows are put together like an arranged marriage. Management takes the best parts of several shows and builds what they believe (hope) will be successful. Problems often occur when roles have not been discussed and expectations made clear.
Recently, colleague Mike Shepard and I have inherited several shows facing this challenge. Each show is full of talented folks with Alpha personality characteristics. And each expects to be the leader of the pack.
That’s a problem because, as Mike puts it, performing on the air is like a dance. Someone has to lead and the partner(s) need to follow. If multiple dance partners try to lead, there are stumbles and spills. Toes are crushed and ankles sprained. It’s a mess. Alternatively, if nobody leads, nothing happens. The dance is a mess.
Radio: The Dance
The same is true on the air. Great shows get into a comfortable, familiar rhythm that makes it easier to listen to. Segments flow smoothly when hosts (lead)and cohosts (followers) know their role and stay in it. And that means there may be some bruised egos, difficult conversations, and some compromises.
We’ve been battling an internal issue with a client for months because the personalities both want to play the lead role. We’ve had countless meetings and the person cast as a cohost (follower) continues to try to take on the host’s (lead) assignments. On a recent Zoom call, the personality’s frustration boiled over:
I don’t get why this is a problem. Show me some evidence or research that proves listeners don’t like it when we trade off as the host.
Fair enough. It’s not going to show up in research. And the vast majority of those attending a dance recital would not identify why a couple stumbles all over one another on the dance floor because they’re both trying to lead. All they know is that it’s not pleasant to watch.
Coaching The Dance
This problem is quite common. Many times it lingers because it’s uncomfortable to confront the issue. Here are some tips for working through problems with The Dance:
- Get It Right In The Beginning. Most problems can be avoided by clearly defining roles when casting the show and getting each cast member to sign off on it. When someone steps out of their role, it’s easier to reset.
- The Leader Is Not The Boss. Sometimes the problem is jealousy or ego. A host (leader) is no more or less important than the cohost (follower). It’s a team with very different responsibilities and roles. The host is not being put in a position of authority any more than Joe Buck (Play-by-Play Host) is more important than Troy Aikman (Color Analyst/Cohost) on the Fox Television NFL broadcasts.
- Establish A For The Show Mentality. The Three Musketeers motto was “All For One, One For All” and winning radio shows raise the goals of the team ahead of individual interests. This is hard because everyone is selfish to some degree. But unless the show is succeeding as a team, none of the individuals can possibly win.
- Don’t Procrastinate. Fix Problems As They Arise. Small issues become big problems when they’re not addressed early. Left unresolved, little things lead to hurt feelings, frustration, anger, and distrust. That can be poison to a show.
Fixing Existing Problems
Maybe you’ve identified the symptoms of a show that’s not performing The Dance properly. Managers tend to sense there’s a problem, but often don’t know how to deal with it. Here’s some advice on how to reset expectations:
- Don’t Expect The Show To Fix It On Their Own. If there are problems from poor role definition already, it’s not fair to expect the cast to figure it out. Roll up your sleeves and get involved.
- Listen To Input. Each personality should be heard and each opinion valued. Don’t let it become a tug of war over turf. The goal is to identify how each character can be put into the best possible position to succeed. That will be better for them individually and collectively.
- Coach The Process. Teaching two leaders to dance together is a major change. The very nature of the show and how it interacts is affected. Changes won’t be obvious immediately. It’s a process that demands communication, repetition, and patience.
- Get Some Help. We’ve choreographed The Dance a time or two (or a hundred). Sorting through the details and defining a winning formula can be complicated. We can help. Contact Us for more information.
Building a winning radio show is difficult when everything goes smoothly. When the performers aren’t in the right role, it’s nearly impossible.
It doesn’t work to tag-team the lead role on a show.
There can be only one lead dancer.
One Play-By-Play announcer.
There’s room for only one quarterback on the field.
A movie is chaos unless a single director is in charge.
And a radio show must have a single, clearly-defined host that leads the team. Get it right and The Dance can be a beautiful thing.