The suspense is killing me – and I love it

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Sebastian Fitzek knows how to have audiences glued to their seats. He is a bestselling international thriller author and successful screenwriter. But Sebastian started in radio and is also a senior creative strategist and copywriter for one of Germany’s most popular stations, 104.6 RTL in Berlin.

In this session, Sebastian shared some of his storytelling secrets regarding how to build suspense in radio.

Personality is one of the most important drivers. The example of US President Donald Trump was brought up on a number of occasions during Sebastian’s talk. In effect, President Trump has all the characteristics of a successful breakfast radio host – he has a personality, is well positioned, and audiences are kept waiting to see what he comes up with next. This is a typical radio technique and Sebastian joked that if it wasn’t the American president coming up with these crazy outbursts than it could be a really entertaining proposition.

Sebastian discussed the virtual ‘glasses’ through which on air talent see the world. This point of view is what makes for an interesting listen. Your presenters should be able to approach any topic and address it through their own ‘glasses’. Listeners should know what to expect when they launch into the conversation because they understand what those ‘glasses’ are.

But the biggest mistake you can make when working with on air talent, Sebastian argues, is giving them the wrong pair of ‘glasses’ that don’t fit. Programmers can work out how to position their presenters but it won’t work until the presenter lives that personality. Your on air talent are presenters not actors and shouldn’t be forced to be so.

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