Everyone looks forward to time off this time of the year. And when Christmas draws closer, many shows go into auto-pilot. That creates a huge opportunity for smart personalities and programmers. Here’s how to capitalize when everyone’s off for the holidays.

An Everyone’s Off For The Holidays Schedule

Stations can sound great when talent is on vacation if the team takes it seriously. As Christmas approaches, audience attention is at its peak. But personalities start to become fatigued with Christmas music and topics. And once the rating period ends, many start to coast. But this is a key time to finish strong.

But what about vacation schedules? Talent takes well-deserved time off. Here are some tips for making it sound great and building momentum when everyone’s off for the holidays:

Don’t Move Personalities To Other Time Slots. This is tempting but doesn’t work well. When a show is disrupted, listening levels are at risk. It has nothing to do with the quality of content. It’s just different, and that puts listeners in motion. Avoid the temptation to t replace a show with talent from another show. It weakens both time slots. The station loses twice!

Be Careful With External Solutions: It’s usually not a good idea to bring in a substitute personality from outside the station to fill in unless the guest is a high-profile talent that attracts a broader audience. For example, a major local athlete filling in as co-host on a sports talk station or a compelling artist on a music station can be terrific promotional opportunities. Research proves that importing talent rarely provides a boost. Listeners don’t “get” it no matter how good the fill-in show is. It almost always causes audience erosion. I mean, how excited would you be to watch an episode of Jimmy Kimmell with a fill-in host you don’t know or care about?

The best solution for winning share when everyone’s off for the holidays is a Best Of Show.

Programming a Best Of Show

The decision often comes down to a recorded Best Of Show or live shows with a different or incomplete ensemble. No matter what you do, something is compromised.

Here are some best practices:

  • Never call it a Best Of Show. Why would you advertise that it’s a rerun? I’ve never seen an episode of Friends promoted that way. There’s no point.
  • Avoid Messages That “We’re Off”. That’s an invitation to tune out, even if the Best Of show sounds great. Most of the audience will never know it’s recorded. Yet telling them it’s not live could make them feel that it’s not as good.
  • Provide Live Service Elements. (traffic, weather news). It can help Best Of Shows sound topical and current. Surround it with evergreen recorded content and it will sound like the full show is there.
  • Program Relevant Segments: It’s winter. Probably not a good time to replay a “Summer vacation horror stories” segment or put on calls about the first day of school.
  • Record a Tease For Each Segment. Make it sound as much like a live show as possible. Some even voice track intros for songs to make it sound more immediate.
  • Edit All Content. Remove dated references (times, dates, events, etc.). Nothing sounds worse than being out of touch with the listener experience. Also, tighten the segment to make it sound better than the first airing!
  • Bank Extra Topics. Work ahead to get extra phone calls and develop fresh topics to use during vacation week. It’s easy to do with a little preplanning. You could even go back to last year’s archives and pull out some great post-Christmas segments to air during the week before New Year’s Day.
  • Promote Next Year. You’ve built momentum during the holiday season, especially if playing all Christmas music or running a Christmas promotion. This is the perfect time to promote what is to come. Introduce new features and programming changes. And if possible, give the audience a taste of what’s to come with a few previews.


Enjoy your time off. But take steps to make sure the audience continues to enjoy your show when everyone’s off for the holidays.

For more information, follow these principles for Best Of Shows and get details on holiday programming in my eBook Radio Guide to Christmas Programming.

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