The job of a radio announcer is to do what they’re supposed to do, efficiently and correctly.
The job of a radio personality is to keep people listening longer than they intended.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Two “Usual Alternatives”
Once when working out the story of a movie, Alfred Hitchcock said to his collaborator, “In other words, we’re back to our usual alternatives: Do we want suspense or surprise?”
Hitchcock believed that suspense “is the most powerful means of holding onto the viewer’s attention.”
Both Suspense and Surprise are crucial to the programming of a successful “live” radio station.
When does suspense exist on the radio? Whenever the audience is wondering what’s going to happen next.
That can occur in the space between your asking a provocative question of a guest and the guest’s response.
One common example of Radio Suspense is the Tease:
“In just a moment, we’re going to hear the Beatles song that they left until the very end of the recording session…because they knew it would completely ruin John Lennon’s voice for the day and they’d only be able to give it one take.”
Another famous film director, Francois Truffaut, declared, “The art of creating suspense is also the art of involving the audience.”
It’s not enough to say, “We’ve got something interesting coming up but we’re not going to tell you what it is.”
You’ve got to involve your audience. They’ve got to actively want to hear what’s coming next.
This Card Magician Has the Secret Formula for Increased Time Spent Listening
There’s a well-known card magician named Darwin Ortiz, who has coined Darwin’s Suspense Formula:
“Make them care, then make them wait.”
That’s how you build suspense. Make them care….And then make them wait.
The Structure of Surprise
Remember, Hitchcock had two choices when he wanted to move the story along: Suspense…and Surprise.
Surprise is something happening in the wrong context.
Without context, there can be no surprise.
But when something happens in the wrong context, it can be both surprising and hilarious.
On the off chance that you’re not among the 80 million people who already have seen this short video, here’s an example of something completely unremarkable occurring in the “the wrong context.”