Who Talks More or Less on Your Show?


(By Jeff McHugh) On a multi-person show, do all hosts get equal airtime? Who should talk more? Who should talk less? Whose mic should be turned off most of the time?

Mic balance is often an under-appreciated subject when launching a new show or when reviving an under-performing one.

Like your favorite Netflix series or situation comedy, the best shows today are ensemble casts based on interactionchemistry, and conflict. Think of the old Seinfeld show as an example.

Jerry Seinfeld’s name was on the show, but he was smart to share the glory with talented stars playing Elaine, Kramer, and George. Think back now on why that was such a smart move.

  • Imagine watching a Seinfeld episode where Jerry did 90% of the talking.
  • Imagine an episode where Kramer didn’t burst chaotically through the door and was not on an episode.
  • Imagine if 90% of the show focused on a tertiary character like Soup Nazi and you saw much less of the regular cast.

Your show will perform best when your cast works together, sharing mic time consistently throughout every segment in a way that serves the content.

The three most common mic balance trouble spots are:

  1. Over-dominant quarterback. One host is absorbing over 60-70% of mic time.
  2. Silent or background cohosts. A player is not contributing or only providing one-word/short interjections.
  3. Weak B players. Too much airtime devoted to interns, producers, or random guests diminishes time for your stars.

Consider these solutions:

Hand-off like a good quarterback to other players to change the monologue/dialogue and fuel momentum.

Consider involving or delegating some teases, setups, contest explanations, and other mechanics. Split anchor duties on news and other story features.

Plan together to play together. Involve every player in show preparation. If you have a role in choosing content, you are more likely to participate with enthusiasm. Discuss mic order – who’s setting up, speaking second, last, etc. — before airtime.

Cut some mics off. Too many players can make conversations difficult to follow. Limit the number of players in most segments to three. The Rule of 3 is an effective one to follow.

Avoid mowing the same grass twice. Over-dominant hosts often reiterate, go down side-roads, or zigzag. Eliminate excess verbiage and go in a straight line to create space for co-hosts to interact.

Listen. Follow the half-second rule: Pause before you respond to minimize talk-over and interruptions. Be aware that men interrupt women more often and female listeners definitely notice when it happens.

Don’t change the show for guests. Have all your main hosts interact during interviews and make guests part of your show instead of turning it over to them.

Jeff McHugh is known for developing remarkable talent for both morning and afternoon drive. He brings an uncommon mix of positivity, creativity, and strategy to the shows that he coaches. He is a member of the team at the Randy Lane Company. Reach Jeff at [email protected]


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