How to Be Prepared, Yet Still Perform...
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Tracy Johnson
How to Be Prepared, Yet Still Perform In the Moment
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Here’s a term that could unlock the next level of your performance: Relaxed readiness.

Air personalities struggle finding the balance between being highly prepared to perform and “winging it”. I’ve actually had personalities tell me that they can just come in and talk about their life, confident that they would be able to find something entertaining. On air personality actually told me:

I just bring my experiences to the air. It’s good enough. My show is totally spontaneous. I plan nothing. That’s how I get such a natural response.

Okay. Fine. How is that working out for you (hint: Not very well)?

This type of approach almost always sounds sloppy and unprepared. And it’s one of the things that is causing radio shows to lose ground in the battle for attention. In some cases , it’s rampant.

I actually heard this on live sports radio. A talk host was interviewing Trent Green, the former NFL quarterback turned television personality. Green’s show on the NFL Network is quite popular, and known for a loose, fun personality approach to football, with high energy dialogue.

The host asked Trent about how they prepare for the broadcast. Green responded that the team spends many hours off the air exploring topics and discussing angles. They debate the best approach in searching of the most entertaining way to present content. When they hit on something, their producer takes notes and crafts the organic dialogue into a structured topic list for the show.

That’s a healthy approach to injecting point of view and individual personalities into content.

Then The Radio Host Said THIS

The art of show prep was obviously lost on the radio host. He asked,

Do you ever have those times in the production meeting when you get on a roll, and the producer stops you and tells you to save it for the air so that it’s fresh and you don’t lose the magic?

Green paused and uncomfortably long time, as if trying to think of how to respond. Then he said,

No, that literally never happens. We go through everything in detail so we know what to expect, what’s going to work and not work and so we don’t step all over each other.

There you go. I’m all for spontaneity. It produces surprise and some of the most memorably moments in a performance. But the spontaneity shouldn’t be a surprise to the performer!

Many personalities think they can get away with “winging it.” They create a topic list and don’t plan the approach so the rest of their show can react naturally. This is a mistake.

It’s no wonder radio is struggling, and programmers place strict limits on talk breaks. In cases like this, it’s self-inflicted. We can’t control everything but we can control how we prepare, giving us the best possible chance of being important to the audience.

Every other form of entertainment spends more time and attention in preparation than live radio shows. The audience is granting you a precious gift when they give you their time. Respect that time and don’t waste the attention they give you.

On the other hand, some personalities don’t feel confident unless they’ve outlined every detail. Some go so far as to script it in advance. It sounds like it’s rehearsed. It’s predictable and lacks excitement.

There is a solution. You can be prepared and ready to perform, yet preserve natural, spontaneous reactions with Relaxed Readiness.

Tina Fey Explains Show Prep: Relaxed Readiness

Comedian Tina Fey is one of the most naturally likable improvisational performers in the world. She’s likable, spontaneous and always comes off as being in control. How does she do it?

Here’s what she said when asked what it takes to be ready to perform:

I call it relaxed readiness. There’s a lot of preparation. So preparation, preparation, preparation. And then you want to be in a state of relaxed readiness so that if something spontaneous does happen, you’re there and can take advantage of that moment. But I think you only get there with a lot of prep work.

I love that so much. It’s exactly at the heart of what radio personalities should be doing. That’s why Time Spent Listening is in direct proportion to Time Spent Preparing.

That’s why, when you’re prepared for virtually anything that can happen, great personalities can make the best of mistakes. In her book Bossypants, Fey relates one of her rules of improv:

There are no mistakes, only opportunities, which doesn’t mean that things can’t go wrong, but that it’s your job to make the best of the situation you find yourself in.

If I start a scene as what I think is very clearly a cop riding a bicycle, but you think I am a hamster in a hamster wheel, guess what?  Now I’m a hamster in a hamster wheel.  I’m not going to stop everything to explain that it was really supposed to be a bike…. In improv there are no mistakes, only beautiful happy accidents.  And many of the world’s greatest discoveries have been by accident.  I mean, look at the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, or Botox.


Relaxed readiness happens when you have invested the time and effort to know your content in enough depth to perform spontaneously. Don’t script it. Prepare it in great depth. It’ll give you confidence to unleash your personality and create some magical moments.

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