Tommy Kramer Tip #95 — A tip from Kareem

A lot of the stuff I coach comes from other sources—great actors, great musicians, great athletes.

One of the people I’ve looked up to (no pun intended) for a long time has been basketball’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In his college career at UCLA, his coach was the legendary John Wooden, and later with the “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers, Kareem played for the ultra-intense Pat Riley. Their imprints on Abdul-Jabbar are obvious, and here’s something that “the Big Fella” said recently that you might want to take to heart:

“Complacency sits right in there with Confidence, so you’ve got to get rid of the complacency and work on being confident because you’re prepared, and not just because you think you’re good.”

Good ratings, a nice salary, growing accustomed to being recognized—all of these things can create complacency. So NEVER open the mic without being prepared. As Kareem said, Confidence comes from knowing you’re ready. If you’re not, someone who is prepared every break may be working against you. The easiest way to beat the competition is to just outwork them.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #94 — Local, Personal, or Both

This might seem obvious, but listen to stations around you and you’ll realize how few people have been coached to do it.
Sure, you’ve heard that we want to be local—if possible. Of course, syndicated shows can’t really connect that way.
And the really good Consultants and Talent Coaches are always trying to get jocks to be more personal. (Although teaching someone exactly how to do that is a different matter.)

But these shouldn’t be thought of as mere suggestions. I contend that every Content break you ever do should have a degree of Local and/or Personal in it. And when you think about it, Personal is the MOST local, because it doesn’t depend on street names or buildings. It lives in the heart.

There should always be some ingredient of what you think about the subject or what you feel about it. That’s what creates a definable human being—a neighbor, as opposed to just another voice giving out data on the air.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #93 — The 3-second rule

You might need some help with this one from your PD if you work at a station that thinks it’s good radio to backsell more than one song, or to talk about a song that played before the one you’re talking out of.

I’m sure you’ve heard of “the 3-second rule” that a lot of people use when they drop food on the floor—that if you pick it up within 3 seconds, it’s still okay to eat it. (I call this the “how to get ptomaine poisoning” rule.)

Let’s borrow that and make our own version of the 3-second rule. My buddy Randy Brown, when he was a great PD in Dallas, says that often back then, he’d have a friend or date in the car with the radio on, and when a jock’s break finished and they went into a stopset, Randy would ask his passenger “What was the last song that played?” NO ONE ever remembered. And that was the song that had JUST FINISHED PLAYING, not one from two or three songs ago.

“But I’ve got a ‘bit’ I want to do about the song before last.”
Tough. Either just let it go, or save it for another time, when it makes sense to do it.

“But that song three songs ago ties into my promoting a station event with that artist.”
Then your PD should allow you to move it, so you’re not, in effect, saying “the group that did the song you didn’t hear eight minutes ago is coming to town soon.”

I’ve said this before: Time moves in only one direction, from now…this moment…forward. This is the definition of True Momentum, and a huge key to sounding logical and organic.

Live by the 3-second rule, or die by it. Your choice.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #92 – Demo “do and don’t” list

You can’t be your best if you aren’t on the air. Let me tell you a story.

I got an aircheck some months ago from a female talent who had recently been let go from a rock station in a major market, and she wanted me to give it a listen and see if it gave her a good chance to be hired as she searched for the next job.

It didn’t. It started with a “here is my aircheck” narration, which just meant that it took even more time to get to her work. And as for the work itself, even though there were a couple of good things on it, the demo seemed like she went out of her way to be “attitudinal” and included a couple of pretty coarse bits. Not exactly the way to make the best impression.

Also, her resume was “padded” with things like a paragraph with the heading “fulfillment of work week.” (Whatever that means. My eyes were glazing over as I read it.) Now I know this young woman, and she really is a good talent, but what was on her demo was unlikely to get her the results she wanted.

So here’s a short “do and don’t” list for your demo:

(1) Start with your best stuff. Don’t make me wait for it. I’ve seen way too many PD’s listen to a demo for about 40 seconds, and if something doesn’t grab them, they just toss it (or delete it).

(2) List your last three jobs on your resume, no more. I don’t care where you interned, when your duties included “scheduling of guests for Public Affairs interview show.” If I want more info, I’ll ask for it when I call you.

(3) Don’t try to shock me, impress me with some celebrity interview, or do some generic “topic and phone call” bit that everyone has heard before. What any really good PD is looking for is what you do that nobody else does. And remember that attitude is not a substitute for Content.

(4) This is really important. The PD has to get someone else to sign off on hiring you. Make it easy. No PD is going to tell his GM or National PD “Yes, she only wears beekeepers’ outfits and army boots, and she has Tourette’s Syndrome, so we’ll need a seven-second delay, but I think she’d be terrific on middays.”

Seriously, all you want to do is show your talent, your heart, and your work ethic.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #91 – Be the guy who would SAY that

I don’t know whether this is true or not, but the story goes that when the great actor Marlon Brando was doing his first movie role, after an early scene, the Director brought up a couple of concerns. He was having a hard time getting a full-on shot of Brando because Marlon didn’t mug for the camera like a lot of actors in that era, and (as we all know) Brando mumbled. Supposedly, Brando replied by asking him if he had a camera operator, to which the Director said yes. Then Brando asked “And you have a ‘boom’ guy—the one who can move the mike?” The Director answered that he did, and Brando said “Well, tell them to move ‘em. I’m just bein’ the guy.”

He was just “being the guy”—the guy who would actually SAY whatever the dialogue was.

If you’ll embrace this simple concept, you’ll become much more natural and believable than ever before. Whether it’s personality Content, a station event you’re supposed to plug, a commercial, or the weather forecast, sift everything through the “be the guy who would say that” filter.
Example: No real person meets a friend for lunch and says to him, “A recent study says that 29% of Americans are buying red cars this year.” But he might say “Lots of red cars on the roads lately. I never noticed until I bought one. Now I see them everywhere.”

The “real guy” read is everywhere in the voice acting world right now. Big-voiced “announcers” are so 1970.

You always want to use down to earth, authentic language. Real words, not “print” language. If you have something to read that’s written poorly, rewrite it. If you think you’ll get in trouble for it, ask permission. No good PD will mind your not sounding stiff or implausible.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #90 – IF is the Magic Word

In the words of the great Constantin Stanislavski, the father of ‘method’ acting, “IF is the magic word that makes all things plausible.”

When you think “If I were in this situation…” you see yourself IN the scene, and start imagining how you’d feel and what you’d do. This changes your view of it from simple reporter to participant—a whole different ‘camera angle’.

And “If” has a great secondary use, too—replacing those phony-sounding questions that air talents constantly ask.
“Would you like to win tickets to Brad Paisley?” OF COURSE I would, Burpey the Love Spoon. Just tell me how and when.

But saying “If you’d like to win tickets to see Brad Paisley, you’ll have a chance at 7:45” makes you more concise, and it’s a better call to action when you take out the fake ‘rhetorical question’ dance.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #89 – Make the Caller the same size

Actor Bill Murray talked recently in an interview about living in Paris for a while, and going to see a series of silent films. And how even in a movie with no words spoken, he clearly understood the plot and could feel for the characters. I think radio at its best is the other end of the seesaw. Anything we do on the air – without pictures – should be able to stand on its own merit, too, and engage people.

He also talked about how the most important thing he learned in Second City, the famous improv factory in Chicago, was to not try to be larger than the other person in the scene. Murray learned to give the other person what they needed to just settle down and be the part they were playing—to “make the other person the same size,” instead of mugging for the camera or trying to dominate the scene.

Besides guests or co-hosts, this also applies directly to phone callers. We’ve all heard “Make the caller the star.” Well, that sounds good, but a lot of talents just aren’t willing to give the caller what he or she needs. And sometimes you can give too much, and it runs off the rails because callers are real people, not trained personalities or entertainers.

So a better thought might be to just make the caller the same size as you, to take out the pressure and competition for “the moment”. The caller will either make it on his own, or there will be a place that you can save it. And remember, unlike improv, we can edit the phone call before the listener ever hears it.

Look, radio is more than just saying words or selling your “brand” (which is only a name if there’s no Value in it). Shoot for higher than that. Be someone, but also be willing to share the sandbox.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #88 – Weeding out ‘left brain’ stuff

We all know it’s about sharing stories on the air, if you want your show (and your station) to be more than just information and ‘plain vanilla’ breaks.

One key is to watch getting too ‘left brain’ and filling a story with so many stats, numbers, percentages and facts that it bogs down the momentum.
I constantly hear air talents referring to studies, polls, and surveys, followed by a slew of statistics. Those things live in the left side of the brain—the analytical, organizational, “accountant” side. You know, the boring side.

We want to live in the right side of the brain, the home of passion, empathy, dreams, and art.
So purposely reduce the amount of numbers and percentages. You can also frame them a different way. Instead of “60 percent of people look at a person’s waistline first,” say “Look at five people around you. Three of them stared at your stomach when they first met you.”
Yes, those are still numbers, but they’re more visual that way, and you pull me INTO it, rather than just talking about it analytically, from a distance.

There are specific ways to handle Time Lines, Weather forecasts, and Contest verbiage, too. (Call me if you need help.) You’ll be amazed at how fast being more ‘right brain’ will build a bond with your listener. Even if you’re talking about the same thing everyone else is, you’ll sound different if it’s more about colors, shapes, and feelings than it is about measurements and numbers.

Think about this: Even the poem that starts with “How do I love thee; let me count the ways…” has no numbers in it.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #87 – Be Great by being Good

Sports great Dan Patrick told a story on the Golf Channel’s wonderful “Feherty” show about doing the Olympics a few years ago. Patrick had a wealth of experience, but it was his first shot at the Olympics, and to his surprise, he was very nervous about it. Much to his delight, he found that he’d be paired in the nightly updates with Al Michaels, the consummate pro who had effortlessly switched from play-by-play man to Newsman during the 1989 World Series when an earthquake hit San Francisco. Patrick shared his nervousness with Michaels, and Al told him, “Look, I know you want to be great at this. But just be good, and you’ll be great by being good.”

I hear jocks every week that sound like they’re trying so hard to be great that the pressure of it just melts them down. Just recently, I told someone struggling with this “Simply pull it back a little, and stop caring so much about how you’re being perceived. If it doesn’t sound like something you’d say to me over lunch together, it’s not going to connect anyway, so let go of trying to hit a home run every time the mike opens, and just hit a single.”

This is what’s wrong with baseball now, by the way. There are so many batters trying to hit a home run every time up, and while it might result in a few more homers and runs batted in, it also usually translates to a mediocre batting average and WAY too many strikeouts. If I could coach them, I’d say “Just hit 3,000 singles and you’ll make the Hall of Fame.”

The truth is that if you’re just trying to be really good every time the mike opens, ‘great’ will happen once in a while.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #86 – Learn To Breathe

One of the main differences between disc jockeys and voice actors is that a lot of disc jockeys don’t now how to breathe.

Every day, you hear jocks rushingthroughlinesasfastastheycanwithoutevertakingabreathatall…then HAVING to take a big, gasping breath because they didn’t pause where they should have paused. A lot of this comes from Program Directors not making it a priority to sound conversational. Or it can be that what you’re supposed to read is just too much to say over a song intro or when you stop down. And as I dealt with in an earlier tip, it can be that your “internal clock” is lying to you, saying that you’re taking too long, so you start talking at ‘warp speed’ when you don’t really need to.

If you think about it, radio lends itself to being stationary, but talking fast. And radio Production tends to be cut sitting down at a console, often doing one line at a time.

But in the voice-acting world, many (if not most) talents stand up, and don’t wear headphones unless they have to sync up with something.

So take the first step. Beginning today, resolve to LET yourself pause (just slightly) between thoughts, so you recapture the natural rhythm of someone in real conversation, instead of the breathless, machine gun delivery of a disc jockey speaking with his “radio voice”.

The more real you sound, the better you’re going to be on the air, and the more opportunities you’ll have to do other things as your career moves forward.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.