Tommy Kramer Tip #152 – Fake Disagreements

Here’s something that needs to be clubbed to death, never to appear again:

I’m hearing a lot of “fake disagreements” these days on team shows. Person #1 says something, then Person #2 disagrees with it. Which does happen in real life. But you can’t just take a position because some Consultant or some PD told you that “conflict is interesting, and you’ll get more phone calls.”

First of all, the object of being on the air isn’t to get phone calls. It’s to be a good neighbor, and to be informative and entertaining. Sometimes that’ll be funny; sometimes you’ll disagree. But it has to born of a genuine emotion, not just put on like a coat, because it ALWAYS SHOWS.

Manufactured disagreements are like fake I. D.’s – they don’t really show who you are.

Here’s a tip in developing a more real, true to life sound. You can AGREE, but for different REASONS. (Actual people do this all the time. Let’s be like them.)

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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 #151 – All Morning People

Here’s how you build a great air staff, and keep them great over a long period of time, even with the natural ebb and flow of turnover:

Only hire people who could potentially do mornings. For EVERY daypart.

So many stations today are the morning show, then…everything else.
A lot of jocks doing nights or overnights (which, of course, might be a voice tracker nowadays) simply aren’t very dynamic or entertaining. Blah.

But PERSONALITIES should be in EVERY daypart.

Naturally, many of them won’t be fully hatched yet. But if you look for that spark, that “everybody at the party’s listening to this guy tell stories” ingredient, or someone who writes great copy, for instance, that’s a great starting place.

Because here’s the deal: people who DON’T have that Entertainment factor have a low ceiling on how good they can become.

Three centuries ago, I started in radio in my hometown doing all-nights. I wasn’t very good. But with a lot of mentoring, and the permission to try stuff AND permission to fail, three and a half years later, I moved from Shreveport to Dallas to begin the greatest adventure of my life. I wasn’t the best jock on that staff either, but that staff was all young bucks who would end up doing morning drive at some point in their careers. And we’re all in the Texas Radio Hall of Fame.

That can be YOUR staff, if you don’t just settle for a seat filler.

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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 #150 – One Word

Just one word can change the listener’s perception of you. Indeed, in the moment, one word can change anything.

“The woman screamed when she saw a moose” is very different from “The woman screamed when she saw a mouse.”

“I took my daughter Angela…” tells me who this person is. “I took Angela…” doesn’t.

“We have Taylor Swift tickets to give away” is about you. “You can win Taylor Swift tickets!” is about me, the listener.

Choose your words carefully. Craft what you do on the air. Stop thinking of what you do as a shift, and think of it as a show. You’re here to be good company, to catch me up on things, and to entertain. Don’t just be “radio” good; be “down to earth, but definitely the life of the party” good.

It’s all about the performance.
And every word matters…both said and unsaid.

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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 #149 – The Power of Certainty

Obviously there are exceptions, but for some reason, a lot of things I hear from jocks on music radio stations these days sound somewhat tenuous in their delivery. So let’s focus on that for a moment.

Here’s the goal:
Be SURE of what you want to say when the mic opens. Stumbling over words because you haven’t really digested them yet, or hemming and hawing around because you haven’t fully fleshed out the “story board” for this break, just makes you sound unprepared or weak.

CERTAINTY carries more weight than anything else. People who sound hesitant, or like the information owns THEM, don’t pull the listener in closer. They’re just audio wallpaper.

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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 #148 — The Basics: a Tutorial

Many air talents these days can be virtually crippled before they even get to the point of a break. New theories of what works best for PPM are bandied about every month – many of them “incomplete thoughts” (like the “you have to do a tease at the end of each break” virus that’s going around now) – and many of them are based on faulty (or no) research, or are simply opinion without experience to back it up. Let’s work on that a bit…

The SIMPLEST formatics are the BEST formatics. All you really want is an efficient package of very basic things, but they should VARY from break to break. Let me be clear in advance that there are a lot of different ways to skin a cat. Some formats may prefer to not talk over song intros, syndicated shows may not do everything on this checklist, morning shows may have different clocks and needs, etc. So this is not the ONLY way, but it’s a pretty GOOD way to deliver the basic elements with some sense of engagement and style.

Say the name of the station first, every time. (There’s a reason the Jif label is on the OUTSIDE of the jar, not mixed in with the peanut butter somewhere.) The longer you take to identify who you are, the harder it is for the listener to remember you. And no, you can’t just rely on PPM devices to reflect that, because first of all, not every market is a PPM market, and secondly, PPM is simply the report card on listening AFTER the listener has decided to tune you in, which he wouldn’t have done if he didn’t know who you are and where to FIND you – which is easiest when they hear the name first. To PD’s who complain that this sounds the same every time or it’s boring, I remind them that this is not a reason to hide your name. Every single time a network TV show comes out of commercials, they flash the logo on the screen, first thing. We have to do it vocally. So this means that you have to coach the jocks to say the calls like they MEAN something; like we take some PRIDE in working here. (I coach many subtle techniques for this—matching the tempo of the song, matching the emotional vibe of the song, and for advanced students, even starting on the same NOTE that the song is playing.) Burying something because you do it poorly is not the answer. Get BETTER at it, instead.

Music stations’ basics should include the Artist and/or Song Title—but not always both, and certainly not always in that order. (And sorry, but album titles don’t matter. Who buys albums anymore? We just download the 4 cuts we like from iTunes. Stop thinking like an early 1970’s audiophile.)

In “drive” times, time checks should be given at least every time you stop down. DIGITAL time ONLY. “8:16,” not “16 minutes after eight o’clock.” It’s a digital world. Live in it. (I had a talent once who said “it’s twelve minutes after the hour of ten o’clock.” I told him “I don’t have TIME to listen to your time checks.”) And no “double” time checks (“3:15, that’s 15 after 3.”) The listener isn’t an idiot; stop treating him/her like one.

Your name, somewhere…not always in the same place. And not every break. Once in a while, in a song intro. Always, when you stop down.

So the template is: Name of the station first, everything else varies.
I used to write little symbols for each element (calls, artist, title, temp, time, my name), and just switch them around each break, so I didn’t repeat the same things in the same order over and over again. It worked like a charm. And of course, except for the name of the station, not every element was in every break.

Now comes the real art. With the opening “basics” out of the way, get into your Content in ONE line, two at the most. Any longer than that sounds needlessly wordy. Think “newspaper headline” (assuming that anyone remembers what a newspaper looks like).

If you do this right, you’ll be consistent, but you’ll have slight variations every break, which makes the brain receive what you say as NEW information every time. (Brainwave mapping has proven this. It’s not just an opinion. It’s called the Fourier Transform, and was developed at Cal Tech.)

It won’t take long to master this stuff, and if everybody buys in, you’ll have another layer of “stationality”. Why not start now?

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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 #147 — The Last Logical Place

One of the major themes in science fiction is that as the technology gets better, the skills atrophy. That’s why you see those old monster movies where alien beings had giant brains, but machines and computers did all the work for them, since their arms and legs had gradually degenerated to being useless twigs.
On our own planet, in Music radio, we’re hearing more of this “the machines are taking over” factor all the time. In a music sweep, for example, a song’s ending is a chord that hangs for 3 or 4 seconds, but one-tenth of a second into that hang time, the next song slams in (or the antsy jock starts talking), abruptly cutting off both the previous song and the mood. Cue tones on music, Imaging, and commercials are often set to fire the next element too soon, so the last word obliterates the beginning of the next thing, or gets drowned out by it. Or a song will end with a fade, but instead of hitting the next element at the end of a sentence, where it would seamlessly appear, we hear an extra couple of words (“And…if…”), then BLAM!…next song. Woof. Clumsy.

When it doesn’t even sound like you’re engaged with what you’re doing, why should I be, as a listener? I constantly hear stations with live jocks that sound voice tracked because of their lackluster board work.

As a Talent Coach, I want to help everything you do, not just what you say. Try this exercise: run the board manually for a few days, only putting it in “auto” mode when you go into stopsets, and your board op skills will get razor sharp. An element of FEEL will enter the picture, and then the cue tones can be changed to match it. Slamming songs (or elements) together is careless and random sounding. But waiting too long to hit the next thing makes the momentum stall out. The right timing is somewhere in between. The right place to hit the next element in a sweep isn’t “at the last place” in the song you’re playing. It’s “at the last LOGICAL place.” Let that little artistic touch into your brain, and you’ll sound alert and in control—and like you’re actually listening to the music with me.

Then, when you open the mike to say something, maybe I’ll pay more attention to it, because something as simple as your board work drew me in a little closer to you.

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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 Coaching Tip #146: Yet another lesson from John Wooden

Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden has influenced people in all walks of life. On the surface, I guess it’s easy to think that this may not include Radio, but there are things he preached that we can adopt to our benefit—and the listeners’ benefit.

Re-examining his “Pyramid of Success” today, I saw two items of significance:

Industriousness:
“Success travels in the company of very hard work. There is no trick; no easy way.”

Above that, on the next level of the pyramid, is Alertness:
“Constantly be aware and observing. Always seek to improve yourself and the team.”

What this means to those of us in radio is that talent is not enough. We’ve all known jocks (or Program Directors or General Managers) that had amazing skills, but didn’t keep working at getting better. Back in the Dark Ages when I first worked in Dallas for radio pioneer Gordon McLendon, we had a guy who did weekends and occasional all-nights named Nick Alexander. Nick was the low man on the KNUS totem pole. (That staff had more people inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame than any other.)

We did group aircheck sessions regularly, where all the jocks listened to a tape, and gave their observations—some pointing out good things, and some pretty blunt assessments of what didn’t work. Nick got beaten up pretty badly in a couple of those sessions, but he took the whippings like a man. He worked hard to become a better air talent, and eventually became a fine jock, then went on to become an extremely successful Voice Actor, heard on hundreds and hundreds of commercials, and making about ten times more money than I will ever make.

…and it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. He deserved every break he got, because he understood what Industriousness and Alertness were all about.

I’m sure Coach Wooden would have liked him.

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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 Coaching Tip #145 – Einstein lesson

Albert Einstein said, “You can’t solve a problem by the same thinking that produced it.”

I wish everyone in radio – particularly Program Directors and General Managers – had that written on his or her desk.

You have to think through things with a “What if….?” mentality. What if a competing station changes to our format tomorrow? What if my morning show takes a job somewhere else?  What if our Imaging that we think is so great isn’t of any real Benefit to the listener? What if the only thing I can grab for lunch is the seven-year old Zagnut in the candy machine?

Thinking “what if?” is a good start toward warding off future problems, or coming up with a fresh idea.

Like “What if I ignored the PPM weeklies for just a moment, and tried something new just to see if it flies?” or What if I brought someone aboard to help my air talent get better, instead of just assuming that we don’t need it?”

I have a feeling that if Einstein were still alive today and listening to radio, he might say “It’s not just ‘think outside the box,’ it’s ‘throw the stupid box away.'”

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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 Coaching Tip #144: A Series of Little Plays

In a recent tip, I stressed being visual in what you do on the air.

Here’s something that will help you get your arms around that. Think of your show as “a series of little plays” every day. My whole career was based on this, because it kept the show relatable and human. This “warts and all” approach takes away the posturing and bravado many deejays cling to, and there’s a residual bonus, too. Little stories you tell, if done the right way, get great phone callers with their own “takes” on what you’ve talked about. So now your show is more interactive, and becomes what I’ve referred to often as “a visit-driven” show, instead of a “bit-driven” or “agenda-driven” show.

When you reach the stage where your listener tunes in to visit with you, now you’ve got something tangible, something that no “55 minute music hour” or “12 in a row” claim across the street can make a dent in. And because you’re not competing with another station to see who can be the funniest, necessarily, you occupy a different space in your listener’s mind. You’re a FRIEND who happens to be visited by turning on the radio. Believe me, it works.

NOTE: There are specific techniques to use in sharing the little episodes of your life, one of which is to NEVER start into something by talking about yourself FIRST. For more on this, just call me.

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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 Coaching Tip #143 – The Conscious, Unconscious, and Subconscious

In becoming a great Talent (and certainly in coaching talent), it’s important to understand just how the mind works. If you don’t, you can spend years working on things that can’t actually be accomplished.

You rehearse consciously.
But you perform unconsciously.

The mistake people make by not rehearsing (at least mentally, if not actually physically) is that you can’t be consistently great if you’re just winging it all the time. Watch NBA players. A guy works on his free throws or jump shot consciously, so when it’s time to take that shot under pressure, with the game on the line, it happens Unconsciously. The last thing they want to do is think. In the millisecond it takes for a conscious thought to pass from the brain to a nerve or a muscle, the timing and rhythm are disrupted. And the odds of making the shot get worse.

So let’s bring it back to on-air performance. I’m sure someone reading this is thinking “So where’s the opening for spontaneity? Where does the spur-of-the-moment inspiration come from?”

Well, magic moments happen subconsciously, when you’re so in sync – so confident and SURE of what you’re doing that you don’t HAVE to think consciously – that’s when that great line or that perfect reaction flashes into your brain. The magic isn’t likely to EVER happen on a consistent basis if you haven’t put the work in first.

You have enough talent, I promise you. You CAN be great. You just have to understand how to put the pieces together.

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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.