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 Coaching Tip #267 – KNOW Your Voice

Most air talents assume that if you’re on the air, you must have a good voice. But in reality, about half the people on the air in every format I hear have taken that for granted, and stunted their growth.

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some pretty impressive voice actors that you hear on national commercials, station Imaging, and movie trailers every day. And universally, the ones who are the most successful have really studied what makes them unique, and how to fully use the vocal tools at hand.

Here’s what I mean…the other day, I was listening to a female air talent who literally said everything in what would be about a 4-note range if I played the pitch of each word on a piano. I also heard a male air talent the same week who talks so fast, you wonder if he just drank 17 cups of coffee before he got on the air. Then there’s the “growler” that does the station imaging on the Classic Rock station here in Shreveport. Every word that ends a sentence is exactly the same pitch, and he always goes DOWN in pitch at the end. He thinks he’s making an impact, and he’s right – I want to hit him in the forehead with a mallet every time he speaks.

The female voice has unique challenges, too. Being generally more limited in range and volume than the male voice, it’s easy to sound whiny or strident.

The male voice – especially if it’s a “big” voice, can easily sound either mad or tired.

KNOW your voice. Learn your dynamics. Hone your skills. Learn what to avoid. Master varied approaches. Become a competent voice actor. It may sound rudimentary, but if your voice isn’t appealing, it won’t matter what you say.

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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 Coaching Tip #266 – Throw Me Into the Pool

If you’re having trouble getting into Content, well, don’t feel like the Lone Ranger. Every air talent either struggles with this at some point, or worse, doesn’t know yet that they’re struggling with it. : (

There’s lots of coaching available on this, including my own. We’ve all heard the “Headline first, then tell the rest of the story” thing, for example. And there’s tons of stuff about how to construct a story, how to physically lay out a story in just bullet points, etc., and what a great ending should be.

But here’s the problem: You don’t really know until you know. Human beings may become aware of things and intellectually understand them through reading and talking with people about them, but in the long run, we really only learn through experience – trial and error.

So let me try and help you with the single most important step in doing any sort of Content on the air – the way it starts. My friend Brian Yeager sent a break to me the other day in the aftermath of the 4th of July that began this way:

“I’m not proud of what I did, but…I mean, you know what it’s like. The folks that are up all night after the 4th of July blowin’ off the leftover fireworks…I mean, that’s what it was last night at my house. I recorded a little bit of it; you’ve gotta hear this…”
Then he went on to play the sounds of loud fireworks exploding and his daughter’s chihuahua being completely freaked out by them – and his letting the dog go, which chased off the guy doing the fireworks, complete with our hearing “get this dog off me!” It was really imaginative, and the use of sound made it three dimensional and ultra-visual.

He asked me what I thought before he aired it, and I texted back:
“Good, but the beginning is just about you (the first sentence was “I’m not proud of what I did”) and it kind of lurches along for a few seconds. Just start with “Here’s what happened last night,” and hit the sound effects. From there on, it’s fine.”

Like a lot of people, he just couldn’t get “traction” for a few seconds. (And fyi, one of my basic rules is to not start with “I – me – my” stuff – which is just you talking about you – and instead, either start with the Subject first, then tell your story, or start with the Listener first, then tell your story.)

So the key challenge here is to stop wasting words in overly elaborate setups, and get on into the Subject as concisely as you can.

It’s kind of like swimming lessons. In an episode of “The Big Bang Theory,” Sheldon Cooper says he learned to swim by watching videos online. But of course, that’s not swimming. He’d learn more quickly if somebody just threw him into the pool.

And a lot of the time, that’s what works best on the air, too. Just throw the listener into the pool – put the listener IN the story, then move on. Try it. You’ll save a lot of time, and as we now know, you really only have a few seconds to connect with the listener. Be expedient.

The first version of Brian’s break was 1:06 long. The version he did on the air, with the slimmed down intro, was only 55 seconds. ELEVEN full seconds cut out, and the break was actually better for it.

Here it is:

By the way, Brian is remarkable in that he’s not even a regular on-air talent. He’s the general manager of the station, and was just filling in on morning drive!

– – – – – – –
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 Coaching Tip #265 – Prep Tip: The 3 Questions

Here’s one of my primary tips for show prep, The 3 Questions. If you’ve read my “5 Subjects” tip, you already know the five categories of Content that will ALWAYS work (besides the obvious “station things” that will always be in the mix, like promoting events or features, etc.). But “The 5 Subjects” should be filtered through these three questions before you put them on the air:

1. Why is it on? “Because it’ll be funny” is NOT the answer. “Because I want to talk about it” is a truly terrible answer. Be sure about this — something should be on because either {A} the listener already has it on her/his mind, or {B} because the listener NEEDS to know about it, but may not have heard about it yet. Yes, there are other things, things that “grow out of the show”, which is the 5th item in the “5 Subjects” tip, but let’s keep our eye on the things that make you relevant first.

2. Where am I going with it? If you’ve read any of my stuff before, you know this is all about your unique “camera angle” on a given subject, and that you want to have a unique “destination” for what you do, not just settle for a typical ending that ANYONE could do.

3. What does it mean to my listener, right here, today? This is partly about being local, of course – and great local beats great syndicated almost every time. However, I’ve also worked with many syndicated shows and networks, so in those cases, it’s impossible to be local. So the bottom line is that what you’ve DONE with that subject has to RESONATE with the listener. Simply “covering” something isn’t enough. You have to connect with the listener; there has to be substance to it – even if it’s funny. In a nutshell, it’s about creating “memorable moments” – because the show with the most memorable moments will inevitably win.

Give some thought to upgrading your prep if you haven’t considered these three questions. Because someone else will if you won’t.

– – – – – – –
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 Coaching Tip #264 – Don’t “Present it”; just Do It

Dan Ingram died a few days ago. If you’re not familiar with him, suffice it to say that to a ton of people, he was the Michael Jordan of radio. Primarily known for his work in New York on WABC and WCBS, maybe this Wikipedia quote says it best:

Ingram was one of the most highly regarded DJs from his era. He was noted for his quick wit and ability to convey a humorous or satiric idea with quick pacing and an economy of words, a skill which rendered him uniquely suited to, and successful within, modern personality-driven music radio.

Yes, the style was a little different then, but he was FUN, and you never knew what he’d say next. So with Dan Ingram in mind…
Here’s the difference between being just a “disc jockey” and being a truly viable Talent on the air. When you have a story to tell or something to share, don’t “present it” to me; just DO it. Like a friend talking to another friend.

When you get “larger than life” in your delivery, you lose reality. And especially in today’s social media dominated world, with standup comics that are all about real life, reality shows all over TV, etc., that’s the one thing you don’t want to lose.

Yes, there are exceptions. And some music staging or sound effects can add the show biz aspects – but even then, they should be subtle, and not just some percussion track beating along under your break. But by and large, when people from the “That’s what SHE said” school of humor – playing it too broadly – or Talk show hosts that get exaggeratedly loud and abrasive as just part of their acts, with no real reason to be that way – assault our intelligence with that baloney, we ain’t buyin’.

And the good news is, you don’t have to be Dan Ingram. But you do have to be YOU – the best, most believable version of you. So relax and drop the B. S. Entertain me. Be my companion. Sure worked for Ingram.

– – – – – – –
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 Coaching Tip #263 – Be A Good Disc Jockey, Too

A lot of air talents are not even aware of talent coaching. They have aircheck sessions with the PD – maybe – and that’s about it. I don’t know every talent coach working these days, but most of the ones I do know concentrate on Content – the search for it, the storytelling skill set, how to dig inside yourself and reveal things that (hopefully) the listener can identify with.
And that’s fine. That’s the “big picture stuff”, and it matters. If you’re fortunate enough to work with a Valerie Geller or Randy Lane, for instance, there’s no doubt that you will get better, and understand a lot of things you probably never “got” before.

But there’s something else that plays a huge factor in being the Full Package, and that’s simply being a good disc jockey. Sad to say, with the advent of voice tracking, the computer running everything, long stopsets that lull you into not staying as sharp as when we had to run everything manually, sloppy cue tones…well, let’s just say that compared to the heyday of the Top 40 Wars, things are sometimes just not very sharp right now.

It matters that your delivery matches the pace of the song you’re talking over or coming out of. Or the emotional vibe of the song. Or both.
It matters that you learn to trust saying things once, really well, then moving forward – without spelling everything out to the listener and repeating everything you say, treating the listener like a 3-year old.
It matters that you put things in real, conversational wording, rather than just reading “print language” off a computer screen. And there are literally dozens of other things that I coach – but the point is that it REALLY matters that you develop your voice acting skills to sound sincere and like you’re here in my car with me, right this second, listening to the song with me.

Of COURSE you want to come across as a good companion in the car; a good neighbor; hopefully a person the listener considers to be a good friend. But you have to START with being a good, skilled disc jockey.

– – – – – – –
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 Coaching Tip #262 — The Main Difference between Facebook and Radio

With all the conversations going on in radio circles about the uses of social media, there’s a giant, Grand Canyon-sized difference being overlooked. Let’s just use Facebook as the best example, simply because it’s the most-utilized social media platform.

As of this writing, there are about 225 million people in the United States using Facebook.

But there are over 323 million people in this country, and well over 90% of them listen to radio for a significant amount of time every single day. So radio has somewhere between sixty-five to ninety million more people using it every single day than Facebook does.

I’ve talked a lot about how random postings on Facebook don’t make for compelling radio Content; quite the opposite, usually. And this is why: because they’re used in totally different ways.

Facebook is where people go to kill time.
But radio is where people go for companionship.
A Facebook “conversation” can’t possibly compete on a regular basis with an air talent, right here, right now, in this moment, saying something relevant to me. It can’t give me the weather (like the other day, when I heard a midday jock say “It just started raining a couple of minutes ago…”), it can’t update me on where the traffic is bottled up, it can’t comment on a song I’m listening to, or share something about the artist as the song starts. And Facebook, by its very design, can’t possibly have the same one-on-one feeling in the car that good radio has.

Don’t be fooled by all the naysayers that insist radio is dead, and social media is everything. Neither one of those is true. They may SOUND true, but they’re simply not. They’re incomplete thoughts, based on a dismissive attitude toward the best tried-and-true social medium in the world – RADIO.

It’s fine to use social media as additional ways to make contact with the listener, but that’s all they are. For the foreseeable future, nothing’s going to replace radio. That said, your challenge is to do something worth listening to when you open the mic.

– – – – – – –
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 Coaching Tip #261 – The Little Things Matter More than the Big Things

No matter how many songs in a row you play or “commercial-free zones” your station may promote, radio is still at its core about the CONNECTION between you and the Listener.

A great Consultant can help you map out a Strategy, but the essence of Coaching is about how many ways there are to carry out that strategy. And when it comes to engaging the listener, and making that person want to listen longer or more often, sometimes the little things matter more than the big things.

Here’s an example, from morning team Tom & Ana on Contemporary Christian station Spirit 105.3 in Seattle:

Yesterday, Ana talked about the story of the woman named Nicole McGuinness, who was on a TV show, HGTV’s “Beachfront Bargain Hunt”. (You may have seen this story, too.) A doctor, Erich Voigt, noticed a lump on her neck, and commented about it on his Facebook page. Another person saw the posting and advised him to contact the show’s producers, which he did, and then told Ms. McGuinness by email that she should get it checked.

It turned out that she has thyroid cancer, and thanks to Dr. Voigt, she’s now getting treatment for it.

Great story. But then Tom weighed in, with “Thank God for high-definition TV, where a doctor could SPOT this!”

That little comment, a different ‘camera angle’ that told every listener something about Tom, is what CONNECTION is made of. And it said more than any liner, or having a contest winner, could ever say. It was personal, and it was powerful – one of those things that supposedly anyone COULD have observed, but HE DID.

Well done, Tom.

What did you do today, or this week at least, that showed your heart, your concern, and a less obvious take on something that touched your listener?

When it comes to “Stationality” (the great term that Lee Abrams came up with years ago), the big things matter – but often, the little things matter more.

– – – – – – –
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 Coaching Tip #260 – Why Your So-Called Positioning Phrase Doesn’t Work

“The Best Variety at Work…”
“(City)’s Best Music…”
“We Play More Music…”
“The Home of the Fifty-Minute Music Hour…”

We’ve all heard these.

None of them – not one – is true.

So why are you using them?

In a world surrounded by B. S., why are you adding to the junk pile of words thrown together like they fell out of a bowl of Alpha Bits and made what sounds like a sentence?

What do any of these say about the Values of your radio station? Or your city? Or anything, really, that’s meaningful to your audience?

Let’s take a close look…

“Best variety at work” – do you play “I Am the Walrus” by the Beatles? Do you play the “Flying” theme from E. T. by John Williams? Do you play Keith Urban, Pit Bull, Mercy Me, the Grateful Dead, Rihanna, Frank Sinatra, Cream, Mark Knopfler, Phil Collins, and Vince Gill? My iPhone does. Looks like IT’S got a better variety.
Oh, and “best variety at work” doesn’t even register at 2am when I’M NOT AT WORK.

“Houston’s Best Music” – really, now, do we even need to discuss that? Re-read the last paragraph.

“More Music,” “Fewer Interruptions”, and “Fifty-Minute Music Hours” just tell me (1) that you play more music than some other station (but NOT more than Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music), (2) you’re actually INTERRUPTING the flow of music to tell me that you have fewer interruptions, and (3) I’m gonna have to pay through the nose with some ungodly long commercial cluster after you give me a 55-minute massage – and you only do that a few hours a day, anyway.

Oh, and I heard a younger-demo Christian station that plays hip-hop, aggressive music that mentions Jesus say “Hits, Hip-Hop, and Hope” the other day. Hits? Really? Hope? Well that part’s right. I was hoping that I didn’t have to hear anymore of its music.

Listen, please…
I would recommend that you use your energy to simply say the name of the station, so people can become familiar with it (in diary markets) and know what station to tune into (in PPM markets) so the device will register that.

Your NAME is your Brand. The things you do are your ingredients. Your AIR TALENT should be the main ingredient in connecting with the listener. I can get the music anywhere. This is why I’m a Talent Coach; so there will be people on the air that reflect the things your listener cares about, and seem like friends – that cool friend that you always like being around.

Stop wasting people’s time trying to tell them what you’d like them to think about you.

When radio gets more honest, doesn’t try to tell people what to think, and becomes a viable place to visit, get information, and be entertained by, it does well. All the slogans and Positioning statements in the world are just noise.

– – – – – – –
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 Coaching Tip #259 – The Death of the Big Voice, and Why

“He’s got such a great voice.”

We used to hear that a lot, but today, it’s virtually meaningless. In L. A. and New York, the big voices are doing tractor pull spots and horror movie spots, and you still hear the network TV guys doing that big, mighty “announcement” thing some, but be honest – doesn’t it just sound kind of cheesy?

The voice that gets the most work today is the midrange voice with great inflection. But even then, it’s not the old-school radio “emphatic” read; it’s more, as the great voice acting coach Marice Tobias says, “noticing” a word.

And as more and more jocks realize what today’s radio is all about, the big-voiced jock or Imaging guy sounds like a dinosaur. Here’s why: Radio is about Companionship. That friend in the car who’s just fun to be with; the one who makes everyone laugh. The one you want to invite to your backyard barbecue because he or she is good company, someone your guests will like.

No one stands up and ‘announces’ “Pass the ketchup, PLEASE.”
So if you’re a PD, rethink how your Imaging voice comes across. An INTERESTING voice is better than just a big one.

And as an air talent, let go of the big voice thing, even if you’re blessed with one, and just talk. Stop trying to make an impression and start trying to simply CONNECT with the listener.

– – – – – – –
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 Coaching Tip #258 – The Power of ONE Word

One word can change everything. If you’re going to be a truly good Talent, you have to actually think about the words that are coming out of your mouth. I work with people all the time on this.

For example, I heard this the other day:
“I want to hear from you RIGHT NOW. Can you think of a song that’s got something about automobiles in it?”

No. And even if I could, why should I call you? What’s in it for me?

You can’t treat listeners like employees. They’re not here to do your bidding. You’re here to do theirs, actually.

There’s a palpable difference between “Stop by Safeway and get your coupon” (which sounds like an order) and “Stop by Safeway to get your coupon” (which is you explaining an opportunity).

I can hear the feedback now – “boy, that’s really nitpicking.” Yep. You’re right. And that “nit” is the PPM device, showing that I just got tired of being ordered around, and switched to another station with a more inviting tone.

Here’s another, easier to understand example, from my former morning show partner in Dallas, Rick “The Beamer” Robertson, a true wordsmith. Recently, I moved back from Hawaii to my hometown, Shreveport, Louisiana. Rick didn’t know we had moved back, and sent me this text, after hearing about the volcanic activity close to where I used to live:

“I saw there was an erection in your neighborhood. Are you safe?”

Then he sent, “…an eruption.”

No, it wasn’t a typo. He just understands the power of ONE WORD, and made me and my wife laugh out loud.

– – – – – – –
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.