About tommykramer

Tommy Kramer has spent over 35 years in radio as an on-air talent, Programmer, and Talent Coach, and has worked with over 300 stations in all formats, specializing in coaching morning team shows, but also working with entire staffs. In addition, he works with many premium voice actors that you hear every day on Imaging, Radio and TV commercials, and Hollywood Movie Trailers. Tommy was elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2003. Call Tommy @ 214-632-3090 (iPhone), or email coachtommykramer@gmail.com

Tommy Kramer Tip #233 – What Did I Learn About You Today, and Why Does it Matter?

Here’s part of a post-Halloween coaching session recap with a morning team I work with in Austin, Texas…

Steve and Amy,

Well, look at what we learned about you in Tuesday’s show…

You’re aware of what’s going on, and you have hearts (coverage of the New York City tragedy).

Amy has managed to rationalize not wanting to go out in the cold to ‘Trick or Treat’ with her kids as THEIR decision. (And Steve called her on it.)

Steve’s son considers “Mr. Blue” – a character that is apparently only about wearing blue clothing – to an acceptable Trick or Treat costume. (But he ended up wearing a Coke bottle costume instead. Not really sure if that’s better.)

Yes, Houston’s being in the World Series is great for the morale of the city, etc. — but to Amy, it’s all about a stolen base meaning she gets a free taco.

This is what engaging shows are made of.

Every person on the air should ask himself/herself two questions:

What did the listener learn about me today?
And why does it matter?

If you just did a show where I didn’t learn anything about you, it was a wasted opportunity. And it matters because if I don’t learn about you, we’re not friends. It’s about the common ground between you and me. If we don’t have any, there’s no real point in listening to you.

I can put every song you play into my iPhone. I have the Weather Channel app. News is everywhere, at the push of a button. And my car has built-in navigation with turn-by-turn instructions.
Yes, the music, News, Weather, and Traffic are part of a good station. But that isn’t enough. However, YOU…ARE…enough – if you REVEAL. The broadcast world is full of nameless, personality-less voices. No one remembers who they are.

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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 #232 – The Main Ingredient

In August of 1972, a group named The Main Ingredient released a hit single called “Everybody Plays the Fool”. (The lead singer, by the way, was Cuba Gooding, Sr. – yes, the actor’s father.)

None of that has anything to do with this week’s tip.

Last time, we talked about really starting to gain understanding and control of your inflection, so you lose the “disc jockey” sound and simply become the one voice in the room people just want to listen to.

Here’s another step.

What all great air talents and great voice actors have in common is that they’re INTERESTING.

If you’re still early in your career and aren’t being offered the opportunities you want, it’s not going to get better if you just work on your voice. You have to make yourself the best CANDIDATE for the job. In radio, or in the voice acting arena, the most successful and longest-running careers inevitably go to the voices that we find the most intriguing. The ear finds them like it finds a catchy tune. And just like in the musical world, there’s no one sound that’s the standard.

Instead of working on vocal gyrations, work on being INTERESTING. That’s how careers are made.

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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 #231 – The Three-Word Inflection Lesson

There comes a time in every career when you have to stop being a polished reader of words or some sort of veneer, and just become yourself. That “self” may be a somewhat invented persona like Larry David’s on “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, or it may as revealing of who you really are as possible, given the format.

But you need voice acting chops to accomplish this. Here’s a three-word exercise that’ll help you both on the air and in commercial voiceover work:

Really

Really

Really

You can’t just say this word the same way every time, because it can mean interest (“really?”), surprise (“really!”) or suspicion bordering on dry near-dismissal (“really…”).

Once each of those inflections sounds totally honest, totally NOT contrived or “acted” or “projected” beyond what would be the right way to say it in THAT moment – well, you’ve learned something.

Step 2 is to get someone you trust to tell you the absolute truth, and ask that person to listen to it. (And no, you might NOT know yet what you sound like to everyone else…until you do. It takes time.)

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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 #230 – Literally putting a Different Twist on the News

You hear this every day, if you listen long enough: The same stories, with almost, or nearly almost the exact same wording every newscast. This is a quick way to not stand out at all.

One of radio’s greatest pioneers, Gordon McLendon, even though he primarily did Top 40 (which he and Kansas City’s Todd Storz INVENTED), was known for hiring and training incredibly talented News staffs. I had the great pleasure of working with two of them, at KNUS in Dallas (which helped change the landscape of FM radio in the early seventies) and KILT, longtime Top 40 giant in Houston.

Both news staffs were incredible – chock full of amazing writers with riveting deliveries, every bit as much “personalities” as the disc jockeys were. And each of them learned on Day One the McLendon Rule: Rewrite every story for every newscast.

Yes, the basic facts were the same. But the entries INTO stories that repeated were always just a little different, and what was left out of one newscast would be in another one, so rather than dull repetition, those tiny differences made the listener’s brain receive it as NEW information.

This principle was later documented in a study at Cal Tech, where they found that just repeating something led to boredom, but even the slightest changes fired new synapses in the brain. Gordon McLendon had no such research. He simply felt it was the right thing to do.

This is largely an overlooked area of radio news segments, but when you do it, you lift yourself above all your competition. And it’s easy, requiring minimal effort.

Have you listened to your news lately? Maybe a better question is “Has your audience paid any attention to it?”

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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 #229 — Read a Little, Say a Lot

A morning show host I work with recently found cause to read a poem on the air. While he meant well, it really stalled out the momentum of the show, and basically just sounded less personal. Here’s the right technique to use:

Paraphrase it, using your own words to frame the subject, then only directly quote a very SHORT quote or passage from whatever it is you’re bringing to the table – whether it’s a poem, like in this case, or an article about something.

My longstanding rule is “Only people with cataracts want to be read to,” but it’s more than just that. Anybody can read something; it’s the easiest and safest thing to do from a talent standpoint, because you can hide behind someone else’s words, not have to work very hard to fill the time, and dodge accountability for whatever the Content is.

But that’s not what we’re here for.

When you just read something verbatim in its entirety, the listener doesn’t learn anything about you, except for what your inflection might reveal. However, even that is limited, because if you do take a different tone from how it’s written, you can seem at cross purposes with the subject matter – in effect, impeaching your own source of information.

You’re FORCED to humanize it more when you read less of it. And that helps the listener bond with you. I often tell talent to “crack your chest open and show us what’s in there,” because in the long run, that’s what becoming a star is all about.

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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 #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.