Tommy Kramer Tip #98 – Friendships are formed by the exchange of Opinions

The whole point of being on the air is to get people to actually come to know you, instead of your just being a voice giving information, or a promotional machine. Content that connects with the listener each day is obviously important, but there’s a ‘secret ingredient’ in every truly great air talent I’ve ever heard: being perceived as a friend.
And friendships are formed by the exchange of opinions.

In real life, if I don’t know how you feel about something or how you’d react to a certain situation, I may like you, but we’re not close.
Friendships grow as you learn more about someone, what that person thinks and feels.

…and friends may not always agree with each other. Honestly, that doesn’t matter, as long as you’re not just slapping the listener’s values in the face. I have a couple of dear friends—guys I’d give a kidney to—that I’ve argued with for years. We each have our opinions, and express them. Sometimes they’re the same, sometimes not, but we’re just trying to get to the complete thought. “Winning” the argument isn’t something we even think about.
(Note: For on-air purposes, we’re not trying to start arguments; we’re just trying to not be invisible audio wallpaper.)

The listener needs to know what you think. Your opinion, to compare to his/hers…maybe even adopt your thought as their own.

Hmmm…reading this over again, I hope my two best friends don’t both need a kidney at the same time.

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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 #97 – Trying too hard

There’s a fine line between giving your best effort and trying too hard.

Oddly enough, I find that many Talents have a lot of trouble talking about things on the air that they feel strongly about. Often it seems like the more they care about something, the longer it takes to say. Now I’m certainly not against putting your heart on the air; we want that. But Emotion has to be channeled, or it just becomes “blah, blah, blah” to the Listener. Think of how many Pledge Drives you’ve watched on PBS or heard on Listener-supported radio where it sounds like they just CAN’T shut up.

So here are three guidelines to get you into the groove:
(1) Start with a “headline,” a ONE-line setup to get into the subject.
(2) Make ONE point.
(3) Wrap it up and move on.

Brevity is the most welcome thing about greatness. Look at the TV shows “Modern Family” or “The Big Bang Theory” as great examples of how humorous or even heartfelt perspectives are delivered in short, tightly-worded dialogue. Every line, right to the heart of the bulls-eye. That’s how you have a long run in prime time.

When you try too hard, the results are worse.

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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 #96 – Teasing vs. Promoting ahead

“Tease it, then do it.” We’ve all heard this for far too long.

First of all, there’s a big difference between Teasing and Promoting. The fact is, most teases are meaningless. The next time you ponder whether or not to tease something, think about this: what if I don’t like what you’re teasing? Then, Elvis has left the building.
Plus, we don’t tease things in real life, so why do it on the air? If we were having dinner together, you’d think it was nuts if I said “my wife Kathy will say something, right after she finishes buttering that roll.”

And here’s a huge factor—you never want to tease Content, just something that you’re going to talk about. “I’ll tell you about the cancerous tumor my aunt has, comin’ up” is just not going to make anyone listen. If you want your show to sound real and conversational, you should just bring something up, so it doesn’t sound calculated. (Although you can keep the tumor thing to yourself, please.)

Add in the fact that if you oversell something, it’s likely to fail to live up to expectations, and it’s easy to see why you should put less pressure on yourself and just let things flow. Look, I don’t want to know everything you’re going to do in advance. Surprise me once in a while.

Promoting is different. However, there’s a very short list of what I believe is worth promoting: [1] Contests, [2] when I can find out more about a station promotion that I might like to be part of, or [3] when a special guest will be on. Very little else, if anything, matters to the listener. We all know that most plugs for stuff on the website don’t really make many people go to it. At most stations I work with, You Tube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all way more important than the station’s website.

Radio stations keep trying to manipulate or monopolize the listener’s time against his/her will. But the listener is in charge, and growing more used to the “on demand” part of life every day. When you only promote things that actually matter to the listener, believe me, you’ll stand out in the crowd.

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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 #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.