Personalities: Get Rid Of Those Annoying Habits and Crutches

Okay, everybody, here we go. So this is, like, an article about, ah, all those, um, bad, uh, habits that radio personalities pick up, you know. Know what I mean? Fix these things and, like, you can be super-better at your, um, job and stuff. Do you know? Whatever. Fine. Okay. Here we go. That’s a paragraph loaded with crutches, pesky small habits that individually don’t seem that bad. They may not even be noticed. But they’re communication killers.

Get Rid Of Crutches

In the spoken word, crutches are like the pesky stagehands who inadvertently stumble into the limelight. They’re filler words or phrases used while you rummage through the cupboards of your mind for the right words to say next. The problem is that crutches work as intended. They fill time while your brain catches up, but soon, they become ingrained habits that we hardly notice.

But these words stick out like neon signs at midnight. Crutches may not be a direct reason to tune out, but they are a definite barrier to engagement.

Common crutches include:

* Repeating certain phrases (‘How you doin’ on a Thursday morning?”).
* Running thoughts and sentences together mindlessly (“This is Peppy and Zippy on 1037. Call us at 888 888 8888 or check us out on socials anytime”). Punctuation, man!
* You insert “filler” words such as “you know” or “ladies and gentlemen” into the dialogue.

It IS A Problem

You probably don’t know of Kevin Olmstead. He broke records for winning on the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” but he’s also a communication expert.

Olmstead observed that filler words cause a loss of audience confidence. Picture a President giving a nationwide address. Which version is more inspiring – This crisp, well-prepared, and direct statement: “WE ARE GOING TO HUNT DOWN TERRORITS AND BRING THEM TO JUSTICE, DEAD OR ALIVE.”


Overcoming The Problem

The first step towards shedding these crutches is awareness. Kim Welter, a member of Toastmasters and a former English teacher, says, “WE SELDOM LISTEN TO OURSELVES, SO WE DON’T KNOW WHAT THE PATTERN MIGHT BE.”

Listening to your shows or seeking feedback from a talent coach can identify problems. Then, begin the journey to overcome these on-air tripwires.

Pause: To paraphrase Mark Twain, sometimes silence speaks louder than words. Use more pauses to add dramatic effect and let your brain keep up. Slow down and savor the conversation – it’s a banquet, not a fast food drive-thru. Small amounts of dead air are not a horrible sin. Collect your thoughts and move on without the crutch words. This feels awkward at first, but it will help break the habit.

Relax: Many personalities rush through content because they are subconsciously tense. Learning to relax will help you slow down and improve your vocal quality. Speak as slowly as needed to maintain a thought without the crutch.

Posture: Change your position in front of the microphone. If you usually sit down to perform, stand up. If you typically lean back, lean forward. This can get you out of your comfort zone and sharpen your performance, forcing the brain to be more alert.

Prepare: Better preparation fixes most problems. Some personalities create bullet points or a storyboard as prompts to maintain focus. If that doesn’t work, write scripts until the habit is broken. There’s no shame in writing your lines. All of Tom Hanks’ lines are scripted, and that’s working well. for him. Just saying.

Focus: Many segments get off track when personalities try to do too many things at once. Even when prepared, most personalities don’t pay attention until a few seconds before the mic goes on. Visualizing the segment before turning on the mic will make a huge difference.

Use Technology: There’s nothing wrong with voice-tracking to get it right. Force yourself to re-perform each break until you nail it without the crutches.


Even seasoned pros struggle with crutches. It’s not unusual, but it is a problem. Identify your problem areas and start treating them to sharpen your presentation, tighten your language, and eliminate baggage holding you back.

Of course, fixing a problem is easier when you hear it yourself, but most shows don’t listen to enough airchecks. Reviewing your performance regularly with a PD or talent coach will help identify small habits that need to be fixed.

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Tracy Johnson is a talent coach and programming consultant. He’s the President/CEO of Tracy Johnson Media Group. His book Morning Radio has been described as The Bible of Personality Radio and has been used by personalities worldwide.

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