Tommy Kramer Tip #228 – Lessons from Leta

On Friday, October 13th 2017, Leta Hopwood passed away, two months to the day after her 92nd birthday.

Hopwood was her maiden name. She was my mother.
She taught me to read when I was three years old. (By the time I entered 1st grade, I was reading at 7th grade level.)

She taught me to sing harmony when I was nine, as we drove from Shreveport, Louisiana to Colorado Springs after my dad was drafted into the Army. (I later sang in a very popular band, and have sung on dozens of jingles that you might have heard.)

She worked as a legal secretary when I was young, probably only making $400-$500 per month during that era, but still managed to save back $10 a week for me to take guitar lessons. (I’ve played guitar on quite a few records, and dozens of jingles.)

And she taught me about Jesus, and how even if you’re perfect, there will be someone who doesn’t particularly like you or agree with your opinions. And she taught me how to get over being hurt by that, and to forgive them, regardless of how they felt.

But most importantly, she taught me that your personal feelings are more powerful than your opinions, and that no matter what you think, your feelings are almost always evident – and they should be.

When you go on the air today, if all you do is quote somebody else’s thoughts, read liners, or be “nice” and “easy to listen to”, you’re not living up to what Leta would think was your full potential.

But more importantly, you’re not really giving of yourself, and you’re not really making any personal impact on the listener.

Leta had an impact on everyone she ever met. And if you ever work with me, her teachings will impact your life, too.

And I believe she’d be pleased with that as part of her legacy.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #227 – Millennial Overspeak, and Why you should Avoid it

Millennial Overspeak is a new dialect. Not every single person in that age group uses it, of course, but it’s an easy (albeit cheap shot) reference for unnecessary glitz, so it’s become a hard-and-fast impression.

Phrases such as “I’m SO going to do that,” or describing something as “Unbelievably, spectacularly good” is overkill. And like everything served up too often, you actually LOSE impact. So the words you’re choosing to make something “bigger” or more “dramatic” usually just make whatever you’re talking about come across as pompous, overstated, or simply trying too hard. These are qualities that push the listener away, rather than bring him or her closer to you.

Let’s try to make our words count. “He was dead” doesn’t need an adverb or adjective. “He was SO dead” doesn’t make it more expressive; it just makes you sound like you have to expand everything in order to feel important. Eww.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #226 – What Listeners Value Most

Listeners, even if they’re not consciously thinking about it, value their TIME over anything else.

That’s the challenge, and why you really need to work at getting better, smoother, subtler, more animated when necessary, a great voice actor, a friend – the one they look FORWARD to being with.

Ask yourself whether there are “dead spots” in your show, or breaks where you kind of put it on autopilot. If you’re wasting the listener’s time on any sort of consistent basis, he or she is going to stop giving it 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
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #225 – How to Zoom in on the Difference between Openness and Transparency

We hear a lot these days about being “transparent” on the air, and I get what the spirit of that is. But being totally transparent can be too close to the bone.

I always use the term “being open.”

Being open is different, and better. If you’re unsure where the line is between openness and transparency, just remember this: Nobody goes to a party to watch a guy fight with his wife. You’re in the Entertainment business. Some things SHOULDN’T be revealed.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #224 – The Personality Challenge

Get a load of this…my friend Jerry Reynolds, who does “The Car Pro Show” in over 40 markets now, told me that he listens to WBAP in Dallas every morning. When he gets to work, he turns on their app, and listens to the show on his phone as he walks into the building. Once in his office, he plugs his phone into his computer (so the battery won’t run down too much), and continues to listen through his speakers until the show is over.

Now all the statistical evidence today would tell you that this is very untypical….

But I’ll bet it’s not. I’ll bet it never was. People find their favorite personalities and they become friends; companions in their lives. With whatever available time they have, they listen. It’s just that simple.

A brief aside: the guy Jerry was talking about is Hal Jay. He’s one of the most gifted air talents I’ve ever heard, and he’s been that way for decades. The station went from Country to NEWS-TALK, and still kept the same morning show – and never missed a beat! Hats off to you, Hal.

I can’t remember exactly when stations first decided that you didn’t need to keep pumping out personality past 9 AM, because “Everybody’s in the office; it’s wasted energy.”
But it wasn’t long before it became “Let’s go ahead and put it on autopilot at 8 AM, because everybody goes into work earlier now.”

This is the wrong way to think. Not only does this make for boring, plastic radio; it’s also cheating on your talent, and on your ability to keep getting better by firing a few more ‘Content bullets’.

I came up in the era when the midday guy (or girl) was great – entertaining, having fun, and not just checking their email while three more songs segued, then a blithering, overproduced “Imaging” piece snarled something out over a bunch of Star Wars sound effects.

If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse – because someone who read this is getting better while you sit on your duff.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #223 – Varying your Resets

The other day, for about the gazillionth time, I heard a jock who had a phone call thing going use the exact same story he had told to start the whole thing off as he went into a call.

In our session the next day, I told him, “I don’t get why you’d do this. We just heard that story a few minutes ago.”

His thinking was that if someone just tuned in, they needed a reset to understand the call about it.

I agree – but you should use a DIFFERENT “entry” every time you revisit a subject or play a phone call in response to it.

This is why I preach “camera angles” to everyone I coach. You have to be able to see things from different perspectives to keep a subject fresh.
Otherwise, it’s just “That again?” Click.

The secret to Time Spent Listening isn’t some left-brain “clock” exercise, and it’s certainly not in constantly teasing every single thing you’re going to do. It’s about being WORTH THE LISTENER’S TIME whenever you open the mic. Not being redundant is a good first step. 😄

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #222 – Stage versus Film, and which one you should emulate

A subject came up in a session recently that I’ve written about before, but want to pursue a little further in an effort to help you find your vocal “pocket”.

A very talented jock I’ve worked with for a few months told a good story on the air about how after you marry, you find out what things you and your spouse see differently. In this case, his wife had ordered takeout food, and to his surprise, there was an extra pork shop that he didn’t expect. So he put it in the refrigerator to have for lunch the next day.

However, his wife can’t stand having leftovers in the fridge, so she threw it out!
Seeing this, he became indignant, fished it out of the top layer of the trashcan (yes, like George Costanza in that “Seinfeld” episode with the chocolate éclair), and then he put it back in the fridge.

Here’s where it went sideways, when he overacted the finish, declaring “OF COURSE I’m gonna eat it,” then following that up with a way over-the-top “Now, in order to WIN this argument, I actually have to EAT a pork chop that was THROWN AWAY!”

Too emphatic, too loud, and he lost the reality of the story as a result. Here’s what I told him…

I thought the story was something that everyone can identify with, but the ending was LOUD and a little overly strident. You want to watch overacting, and simply ‘give yourself’ to the words like a film actor, as opposed to a stage actor. Stage actors are concerned with the people in the last row being able to hear the lines, and their movements and gestures are usually a little exaggerated. But film actors — who often have a camera literally just a foot or two away, and have the audience much closer to them because of the big screen they’re on — play it “not so large”, letting inflection and a more real and more nuanced vocal approach pull the audience in.

This is absolutely essential to becoming a truly great talent.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #221 – Another Seinfeld Content Tip

Cruising around You Tube yesterday, I saw an interview with Jerry Seinfeld by Norm MacDonald.

Norm brought up a hypothetical scene: Two people go to a bowling alley and….what happens next?

If you’ve seen Seinfeld much at all, you know about his ‘internal radar’ as to what makes something funny – or not. So he interrupted MacDonald at that point and said “Why are they in the bowling alley?”
He went on to dismiss the “future plot development” idea that (and I’m paraphrasing here) “if you’re doing the scene because that’s where he meets this person who becomes a significant figure in his life, that’s not gonna work.” The answer to ‘why are they there?’ has to be funny IN ITSELF, not just as a tool for some future plot development.

This is a really important thing that goes directly to Purpose, and not just leading the listener down some garden path.

Coincidentally, I had a session yesterday with a female talent who brought up the factoid that “we all spend ten minutes a day looking for stuff that we’ve misplaced,” and then went on to tell a story about her husband being so used to her losing her phone that he instantly replied “Babe, it’s right here” when she mentioned that she didn’t know where she had left it.

But see, that doesn’t answer the fundamental question that Seinfeld alludes to – why are we there, in that scenario? WHY are you talking about it?
For radio purposes, something has to be entertaining in itself, right off the bat, in order to further the show in a non-random way and to make your Content relevant.

This is why just launching into a story about yourself isn’t necessarily a slam-dunk when it comes to scoring score points with the listener. If you’re working hard at trying to be “transparent” and to “tell stories” (things we hear all the time, but usually get no instructions as to exactly HOW to do that), remember that if the only reason you bring something up is to “fill the page” with something, or to talk about yourself, that’s not enough. Dig deeper. There’s another FOUNDATIONAL level – the one that guided Seinfeld’s career – that needs to be considered.

If this seems too nebulous, too obvious, or too introspective…well, sorry. But radio is in a dangerous place right now where “items” and “stories” that don’t resonate with the listener have replaced actual sharing and bonding. You can’t just do “bits”. I can get those off You Tube.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #220: Dead Streaming

Here’s a question that takes some actual hands-on experience to answer: Is your live streaming even worth listening to?

As someone who has to tape streaming audio often (because of different time zones) in order to do coaching sessions, I can tell you that most live streaming is dead in the water. Constant cutting out, horribly over-modulated audio (or a stream that’s so low I need a hearing aid to listen to it), too many steps to finally get the audio up, incessant “introductory ads” that we have to sit through before – finally – hearing the station…they’re all symptomatic of just assuming because you buy into a streaming service, your audio is being carried the right way.

And the weird thing is, we promote this ‘feature’ all the time, often without ever checking it out ourselves.

So today – now, while you’re thinking of it – get on your computer, iPad, or smart phone and check your live stream for an hour or so. You may be shocked at how poor it sounds…or you could really pleased with it – until it inexplicably just shuts off after a few minutes. (Aaaarrrrgh.)

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #219: The Listener is NOT Stupid

It’s my mission to make you the most interesting and entertaining person your listener ever hears. I want you to have a job you love to go into each day, for you to have a successful career, and for you to have a happy life as a result.

But once in a while, as part of the process, I have to deal with things that may not be all rainbows and pixie dust, in an effort to get you to be the best version of yourself on the air. Here’s one of the potholes…

A lot of radio people apparently think the Listener is stupid. Some examples:

“Remember, that’s Saturday, August 19th” – after you JUST SAID THAT a few seconds ago. Beating it into the listener’s head with a mallet isn’t really a good plan.

“Get a bumper sticker for your car.” (As opposed to what? A bumper sticker for my microwave?)

“7:12, twelve minutes after seven.” (GAD. I thought we’d put this chestnut to rest a LONG time ago. But…apparently not.)

“It’s Wednesday…” (Thanks. I’ve been in a coma, and was hoping someone would tell me what day it is.) “Happy Tuesday” (something I heard on the air just yesterday) is the same kind of thing – ridiculous, because no one ever says that in real life.

I spend countless hours coaching people in how to avoid being redundant and repetitive on the air – because as long as we treat listeners like they’re stupid, we make OURSELVES sound stupid.

In actual, everyday conversations, telling a person something more than once or saying the obvious is just boring. (Or even worse, it can sound like nagging.)

When you say words that don’t matter, YOU don’t matter. So it’s important to train yourself to say something once – really well – then move on.
About the only exception I can think of would be giving the phone number a couple of times for a contest or soliciting calls about a subject, because people may not get it the first time.

But here’s one thing you should definitely remember: EVERY listener is smart enough to push a button and find something else to listen to.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.