Tommy Kramer Tip #172 – Learn from Mike Nichols, Part 3

In his last interview, the great director, actor, and comedian Mike Nichols really opened the door to what fueled his process.

I’ve talked about a couple of his concepts in the last two tips, but this one may be the most important one when it comes to understanding what really creates a distinguishable and memorable presence on the air:

Your show, like a movie or play, isn’t totally real life. It’s a VERSION of real life.
And your persona on the air isn’t totally you. It’s a VERSION of you.

Don’t really like an artist you play? I doubt if saying that on the air will endear you to the listener who adores that artist.

Reading something for the 50th time this week? Make it sound like you just thought of it, and you have a real INTEREST in it.

Can’t stand kids? Well, depending on the format, you may not want to reveal that fact.

My friend and partner John Frost talks about being “transparent” on the air, and I agree, with my version being “Crack your chest open and show us what’s in there.” BUT, I don’t believe in total transparency. Some things aren’t useful, or reveal a side of you that may work against trying to win over more listeners.

As I’ve taught this over the years, many times the reaction has been indignant, with something like, “But that’s not me.”

You do get that Tom Hanks isn’t really Forrest Gump, right? And he’s not the guy in Saving Private Ryan, either. It’s ACTING. However, each of those characters IS a version of him.

If you need help creating the most effective version of you, get it. Every athlete, every actor has a coach…for that very reason.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #171 – Learn from Mike Nichols, Part 2

Legendary film and theater director, actor, producer, and comedian Mike Nichols did an interview just before he passed away, sharing many of his unique perspectives on what makes people watch and listen to you.

One of them was this thought: There are only 3 scenes: Negotiations, Seductions, and Fights.

For radio purposes, Negotiations – with the listener or with a partner – work if they’re well done. Events, Contests, etc. need to be worth the listener’s time; that’s what we’re negotiating for.

Our “Seductions” aren’t about sexiness. Our “seduction” is about attracting the listener to you and making him or her want to come back again, or for more time, or more frequently.

And our Fights are really just situational banter. Unlike a play or movie, we may only have the audience for a few minutes. So while emotions play a huge part in pulling the listener one step closer, remember that we have to be “friends at the end”. Nobody goes to a party to see a guy fight with his wife.

If you want to learn more about this, well…just click or call.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #170 – Learn from Mike Nichols, Part 1

Mike Nichols was one of the most talented people ever. Grammy Award-winning improv comedian with his partner, Elaine May. NINE time Tony winner for directing on Broadway, Academy Award winning Director (The Graduate), and on and on.

One of the plays Nichols directed was Neil Simon’s most brilliant work, “The Odd Couple”. If you know the play (or the movie), you know that some of the funniest scenes are Oscar Madison’s poker nights, with great character actors playing each part. But in rehearsal, it wasn’t working. So Nichols huddled up with the actors and told them, “Lines delivered as ‘punch lines’ don’t work. It has to sound ACCIDENTAL to work.”

In radio, it’s the same, even when it’s not about being funny. In something as simple as bringing up a subject, just one sentence – even just one phrase – can make the difference between sounding like you’re just sharing something, as opposed to “presenting” or “announcing” it. (Or even worse, just reading something. Eww.)

If you haven’t mastered this “accidental” sound yet (and about 90% of air talents haven’t), get some help. We’ve all heard enough “heeeerrre comes a punch line!” people on the air.
Radio’s still a great way to make a living, and there’s no time limit. You can do it ‘til you drop dead at the microphone – IF you know what you’re doing.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #169 – Listen to Yourself

In this age of voice-tracking and syndication, I often come across people who never listen to themselves on the air.

In the old days, we had cassettes, usually one for each day of the week. And I’d take the cassette, and play it in the car as I drove home or ran errands, just listening to the show. Not to see how “wonderful” I was (I don’t think there was ever a show that seemed perfect to me), but to have an accurate feel for how I – or we, in my team show days – came across on the air, and to pick up on little “crutch” habits or words I used too much. Maybe I laughed too often as a sort of reflex, for instance. After HEARING it, I could start working immediately on CORRECTING it.

Okay, cassette days are gone. But they’ve been replaced with truly incredible technology. We have computer audio files that we can access remotely, we have devices for our phones or computers to record the show, and there’s simply no excuse anymore for not really knowing how you sound on the air.

If you want to get better, listen to yourself. At least once a week. PDs often don’t have time to do aircheck sessions much anymore. And if your station doesn’t use a Talent Coach, you can get into some nasty habits pretty easily. (One woman I worked with laughed like a water buffalo being electrocuted. But she was totally unaware of it. Had she EVER bothered to listen to her OWN SHOW, she’d have realized it herself, instead of having to have me tell her about it. Boy, was that session not fun.)

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #169 – Being yourself…unless…

We hear it all the time. “Be yourself on the air.”

Being yourself IS what you want to be, UNLESS your natural “self” is too exuberant for the intimacy of radio.

Loud talkers, for instance. Those jocks that seem to SHOUT everything. Over the course of coaching somewhere around 1700 people, I’ve dealt with a lot of these foghorn types, usually old Top 40 jocks who make “announcements” or “present” things. And they always say the same thing when I point this out: “But that’s just the way I talk.” (Actually, they say “BUT THAT’S JUST THE WAY I TALK.”)

Well if that’s true, you’ll need to change.

To become a great talent, you need to fully understand, master, and be able to control your “instrument” – your voice.

When you SHOUT at me on the air, you’re forgetting that I can hit a button and turn you OFF. And believe me, I will.

If you need to get loud to express excitement or outrage, back off the mic a few inches, even turn your head away from it. That way, I still get the Emotion, but I also still have functioning eardrums.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #167 – What you SHOULD want out of phone calls

One of the things I get asked about a lot is phone calls. Some PD’s think that putting a lot of phone calls on the air is the whole point; that putting people who’ve never had any sort of training in mass communication, speech, acting, or writing will somehow be better than an air talent who’s had years of experience and doesn’t ramble on about insignificant details when he or she is telling a story.

It’s not that I don’t like callers being on the air; I’ve done shows that were extremely phone-intensive. But you have to have a sense of what the real point is. So think of it this way:

You don’t want to take phone calls. You want to take verbal photographs from people. If what’s being said doesn’t make you see something, or imagine in your mind what it would be like to be in that person’s shoes, it’s not worth airing.

And let me clarify that you want snapshots, not movies. Every second that you let a caller continue to talk, you face being driven off a cliff. If possible, record and EDIT every call. In a Talk format, be prepared to simply cut off a caller, then go on to make your point, or hit the button to go to the next thing.

Whenever I tell a group of people this stuff, someone says “But won’t that sound rude?”
No. What’s rude is subjecting the Listener to a boring, information-driven call that seems ten times longer than it actually is. Frankly, the listener deserves better than that.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #166 – Character vs. Caricature

“Look at how she treats me…” immediately followed by the guy who said it laughing at his own remark.

That’s what I heard an air talent do the other day on a team show that I was listening to.

Sometimes in coaching, I ask a talent “What were you trying to do there?”
What that question really means is something I really don’t want to print. : )

Besides the fact that this line was just a useless, extraneous remark, when you point something out like that guy did, it only gives off the vibe that you really didn’t like it – or even worse, that you’re just trying to draw attention back to yourself.
Don’t “explain” it or comment on how you’re “mock”-being-taken-advantage-of. Just let it sit. People will like you more. When you over-act (or overreact), you become a caricature instead of a character.

If I’d been that guy’s partner, we would have had a serious talk after we got off the air about his killing the moment.

Sometimes it’s the little, tiny things that make or break that connection with the listener.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #165 – Becoming a Beginner Again

Beau Weaver is an excellent Voice Actor in Los Angeles. I’ve worked with Beau on and off ever since we first met as radio babies decades ago, and his transition from being a great disc jockey to succeeding in the voiceover universe has been inspiring.

At a seminar we did together in L. A. a few years ago, one of the things that Beau said to a roomful of radio people who were looking to move into the voiceover arena was “Sometimes you have to be willing to become a beginner again.”

As this is being written, I’ve just finished listening to an aircheck from a jock who always answers comments from his Program Director with “I’ve been at this for 25 years,” a defensive mechanism that’s keeping him from learning. To put it gently, I fear that his situation will not end well.

At key times in your career, you have to be willing to become a beginner again. Unless they’re making another Jurassic Park movie, no one is looking to hire dinosaurs.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #164 – Information and Details = Ugh

The words “information” and “details” are poisonous words. You should try to avoid them.

If you’re a regular follower of my tips, you know that “left brain” thoughts or words don’t really click with the listener as much as “right brain” stuff.

For the uninitiated, the left brain is about order, reason, math, numbers, percentages. The right brain is where emotion, art, creativity and allegiance all live.

When you say something like “Find the details on our website” or “Go to my Facebook page for more information,” what people HEAR is “There’s a bunch of crap in a really tiny font that you can go read.”

What you SHOULD say is something like “Find out more on my Facebook page” or “Everything you need to know is at khip.com” instead.

You’re talking to a PERSON, not a robot getting information.

ALWAYS live in the right brain. “A juicy steak” is better than just “a 14-ounce rib-eye.” You want to paint PICTURES with words, not numbers or lists.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #163 – Fun Grows out of Relevance

The future of radio – no matter how it’s delivered – is going to be about Personalities. Air Talent that seems like your best, most entertaining friend; that person that always finds just the right word to describe something that we’re both going through or thinking about.

But radio isn’t the Chuckle Shack. We’re not standup comedians, and shouldn’t really want to seem like that, anyway. You just want to be that one person that always gets invited to the party because you’ll be interesting and amusing, and make the person who’s hosting the party look good for inviting you.

Here’s the way it works:

Job One is to only talk about things that are relevant and top-of-mind to the listener. Once you’re zeroed in on “narrow focusing” your Content to that degree, Fun grows out of that.

But there’s a difference between being perceived as fun versus seeming like someone “trying to be funny”.
I think that the very core of “trying to be funny” is when you take something that ISN’T relevant and attempt to make it entertaining.

You have to CHOOSE. One way leads to tremendous, never-ending growth. The other leads to actually having to WORK for a living. Ewww.

Work joyfully on getting better. If you hit a wall, get a coach.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.