Tommy Kramer Tip #254 – Think With Your Heart

A lot of shows struggle with getting any really viable phone call feedback from listeners. They tap into a subject, maybe offer an opinion, do a solicitation for feedback, give the phone number, then…nothing. Waves of silence. No phone lines lighting up. Or if there is a call, it’s pretty much the same type of call they got last time (often from the same tiny pool of callers) with pretty much the same type of comment they always get. The safe, predictable, no-new-ground-broken feedback loop.

Here’s one way you might be able to change that: think with your heart. Analytical subjects with “left brain” solicitations tend to lie there, flat as a pancake.

But when an EMOTION is at the center of the subject – and especially when you express an emotion instead of just an analytical opinion – people react differently. (Both callers and people who don’t call, but actually start listening more closely.)

This is based on an acting tip. When you focus on the Emotion that the scene is trying to convey, a blown line doesn’t hurt the flow. When you’re married to the words, a blown line causes an awkward pause that the audience can feel.

This is why I often ask “What emotion is this break about?” Because without emotion, there’s very little chance of connection. And CONNECTING with the listener IS the job.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #253 – Your Show as a Demo Tape

Whatever you do well, congratulations on that. I mean that sincerely. The good things that you do each day make a great impression.

Similarly, when you say things more than once (as radio continues to do, trying to beat a thought into the listener’s head), or you do “the moral of the story” obligatory recap at the end of something, or say radio clichés (like “on your Monday morning,” “Hump day”), or do something silly and outdated (like “The Mindbender Question of the Day” or “This Day in History”), those make an impression, too. As my friend and partner Alan Mason says, “Everything counts.”

So, weed the garden regularly. Listen to your own show at least once a week. Add new ideas all the time. Consistency = Good. Predictability = Bad.

Think of your show as a demo tape. Because to the listener, it actually IS.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #252 – Hire STARS

Way too often, radio stations settle for hiring B or even C-level air talent, because they think they can’t afford better, or that an A-level talent will be “difficult” or just too expensive.

The reality, of course, is that when you hire a STAR, it changes the whole culture of a station.

Whenever you hire a racehorse, the other horses think “Why am I hitched to this plow?” Hiring a major league talent serves as a beacon for the other members of the staff, and makes them start trying things that lead to more and more “memorable moments” – and that’s what stations need to reach a new level of performance and establish a “learning and performance” vibe that runs through the hallways, spreads to every other department (particularly Imaging and Production), and infuses the Sales staff and management with a brighter outlook every single day.

Hire stars, or people who can BECOME stars with coaching and direction. When you settle for less, you’re putting a cap on what you can become. Plus, when you already have stars onboard, other stars want to come work for you.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #251 – Talking to Your Best Friend

Something happens when the mic goes on. Most people assume a delivery that’s either “giving information” or “making an announcement” or “presenting” something to the listener.

…as if the listener is some distant stranger who has this break arrive like an unwanted, slick, glossy ad for life insurance – for your pet goldfish.

But the great talents all know that no matter how important or significant a thought is, you still want to say it like you’d say it to your best friend, over a cup of coffee, like he or she is just 2 or 3 feet away (not 15).

By trying to sound more “important”, you become less important. By simply sharing a thought in a normal tone of voice (and normal volume level), you imply that “Hey, we’re buddies. Let me tell you something.”

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #250 – One Bad Apple

Chemistry is everything.

In a team show, one person not dedicated to making his or her partner better will ruin the show. In a solo show, a weak news person, traffic person, or weather person will be a giant flat tire in the mix. Don’t settle for that. One bad apple spoils the whole barrel.

Pursue EXCELLENCE. I’d rather train someone how to do it well than settle for an experienced, but mediocre person who isn’t giving it his or her best effort.

If you have a traffic reporter who’s just giving an accident report, remind that person of how people live, what they’re tuning in to hear, and how to relay that information concisely, with personality. We’ve heard enough traffic updates that Siri could do better.

If you have a weather person (and yes, this ESPECIALLY includes TV weather people on radio) who’s just about wordy, rambling forecasts with vague temperature ranges, or talking about next weekend’s weather on Monday, remind them that all I want as a listener is (1) the high today, (2) the low tonight, and (3) whether we’ll get rain or snow. NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.

To be a great radio station, you can’t have weaknesses. There are lots of people who’d love to learn. Find them, and phase out the people who don’t. Believe me, it’ll be worth it.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #249 – Board Work: The Lost Art

Being a truly great talent also means being (or at least, having) a truly great board op. Many (maybe I should say “most”) people on the air today don’t even realize it.

It’s somewhat of a lost art now, but my generation of air talents were groomed to run the board PERFECTLY. We prided ourselves on precise segues, excellent and consistent levels, and hitting the next song or sound bite within a Content break at exactly the right time, after a brief, concisely focused intro. At stations where I worked, it was mandatory. If you couldn’t run a tight, flawless board, you couldn’t work there.

The proliferation of voice trackers today hasn’t helped. Whether they can hear the music themselves, or someone at the station is inserting the voice tracks, there’s very little (if any) thought given to quality control. You hear a song end (or the jock start talking too soon), then, somewhere after that, another song begins as they lurch forward. No momentum. None. Stop, start, stop, start – the OPPOSITE of seamless forward flow. Total lack of any sense of timing.

The good news is that this current state of affairs gives you a huge opportunity to take a somewhat subconscious but extremely tangible advantage over your competitors. There’s a reason to use it. Great movie directors (James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, etc.) know that the editing and sound engineering is an enormous part of their success. So I have to wonder why radio has largely forgotten about this area. Sadly, the reason is usually that no one is even thinking about it.

Yes, the computer runs the show a lot of the time now, but you can program in perfect cue tones, etc. It doesn’t take long.

Most radio today is so sloppy, my generation laughs at it. Your generation of listeners doesn’t laugh. They simply hit another button, or turn it off entirely and check their Facebook pages or watch something on Netflix. That’s why ratings are largely in the dumpster now for so many stations. No standard of excellence. So it just comes down to who has the best Content. That’ll always be a huge factor, but at-work listening, in particular, can be increased dramatically with better flow. If you don’t get what I’m talking about, well, that’s kind of sad. But you can actually DO something about it – if you want to learn.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #248 – More Crayons

I talk a lot about “crayons” – meaning, that just like in elementary school, learning how to use each crayon results in a different picture. In radio, “more crayons” is about finding more variations on a theme.

The two most typical endings are to say something funny, or to weigh in with a somber “summary” or “conclusion” to something. These are fine — essential, actually — but if they’re the only two crayons you color with, they’ll get pretty predictable.

My process is to strip everything away, until a talent begins again with the little “eight crayon” box that we got in first grade, then learns how each can be used.
Eventually, you move to the 16-crayon box, then the 32, then the beautiful 64-crayon box with the sharpener in the side.

The purpose of this analogy is to remember the essential storytelling ingredients, then add other things to avoid being predictable.

You want to be consistent, but sameness is a different thing – and one to be avoided. It’s a fine line, but this is why every talent needs coaching. No one is just born with the innate ability to craft information and stories into something cohesive that doesn’t waste the listener’s time. We have to work at it. There are far too many shows that are basically just the same things every day, always using the same crayons. Don’t let your show be one of them.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #247 – The Pause

Recently, I had a session with a very good talent who struggles occasionally at the very beginning of a break. I played her a couple of breaks where the hemming and hawing was noticeable; she just couldn’t get any real traction in getting started.

Here’s a possible cause — the tendency to think that every second has to be filled with words. Nothing could be farther from the truth. JFK, Martin Luther King, and dozens of actors known for their timing realized that sometimes a pause to “gather” your next thought is THE most powerful moment.

Example:
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” is not the same as “Ask not….what your country can do for you. (Another pause) Ask what you can do for your country.”

When the anxiety is taken away, and you come to trust that conversations need pauses, the tendency to just add more words, or over-explain, will dissipate.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #246 – Content: The 2 Lanes to Travel

Of all the things I get asked about, the search for Content comes up far more often than anything else. First of all, you have to look for it, but it’s really all around you. Prep sheets are great for lining bird cages, but real Content can easily be distilled into two lanes:

1. What’s already on the listener’s mind – TOP of mind, not just something he/she “has a passing interest in” – filtered THROUGH your observations, experiences, and opinions.

2. Things the listener may NEED to know, but might not have heard about yet.

Anything that you have to “reach” for, you should automatically reject. Let everyone ELSE do trivial, typical, or obscure stuff, while you make great contact every at-bat. (Obligatory baseball reference is for my partner John Frost. Go Yankees.)

With the natural flow of stuff that you have to promote (station stuff, events, web features, etc.) and Contests, that’s really all you need. The creative “difference” factors don’t lie in finding “off the beaten path” things to talk about; they’re in HOW you weigh in on and share the things the listener cares most about.

This makes your prep process SO easy.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #245 – What You Can Do in Six Seconds

The other day, I was having to teach someone how to talk over a song intro. This is a modern phenomenon, apparently, because most people on the radio today never heard the Drake Format or the “Q” Format that revolutionized radio in the late sixties and early seventies.

Before those, jocks just talked whenever and wherever they wanted to, so you heard a song end, the jock blather for a few seconds (or longer), and then start another song, talking up to the vocal.

Bill Drake changed that. Jocks fit the song intro, instead of starting early. Momentum increased exponentially.
The Q stations (KCBQ in San Diego first, others later) took it another step further. But jocks tended to lose contact with the pace of the song, doing every break in a high-powered delivery.
Stations like KNUS in Dallas, Y95 in Miami and others took it beyond that, maintaining the momentum, but also introducing a sensitivity to the pace and “vibe” of the song and matching it with the delivery.

Enough with the history lesson. Jocks today grew up hearing a song end, the talent talking for much too long, then another song starting. Momentum ceased to exist under the guise of “respecting the music,” primarily an Album Rock approach. Stop – Start – Stop – Start. The definition of NO true momentum.

So back to the recent session. I told the man/woman team “start the next song, THEN talk” every other song or every third song, with Imaging pieces (fully produced, no “dry voice” at the end that stopped the momentum in its tracks) between the other songs within a music ‘sweep’.

The female partner said, “What if the song only has about a six-second intro? What can we do except just give the name of the station and introduce the song?”

Here’s what you can do:
You can sound ENGAGED with the music, like YOU’RE listening to it, too. You can give an opinion about the song or the artist.
You can promote something coming up. You can avoid sounding like a robot, trying to get this over with as soon as possible.
And you can learn the value of words, how to edit yourself, and that you can reveal an Emotion instead of just giving information.

Then you might not sound like just “a voice saying words”. And you’ll have flexibility, instead of just trying to jam something in. And most importantly, you’ll sound like you’re sharing the experience, in the moment, WITH me (the listener). You know, like friends.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.