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 #207 – The Difference Between an Aircheck Session and a Coaching Session

In the last tip, I spoke about a magic key to getting to the top level as a talent – the ability to edit yourself even as you’re speaking.

What I purposely didn’t say is that in over 20 years of coaching somewhere around 1700 air talents, I’ve never seen anyone who was just “born” with this. It always requires coaching or mentoring in some form.

So let’s deal with the elephant in the room: most air talents detest going into an aircheck session with the PD. Period.
And that’s because there’s a big difference between “critique” and “coaching”.

There is no such thing as “constructive criticism”. That’s just criticism.
Unlike an aircheck session, which seems to always be about finding something wrong, coaching is about three main things:

1. Shoring up weaknesses and losing bad habits. (The Fundamentals.)

2. Finding what each talent’s biggest strengths are. (They may not know.)

3. Gradually stripping AWAY the things a talent doesn’t do well, so that eventually, ALL YOU DO IS WHAT YOU’RE REALLY GOOD AT.

You want to be Michael Jordan playing basketball, not Michael Jordan playing baseball. A good coach would have told him to stick with what he did best and add a couple more years to his legacy, instead of becoming just a source of amusement playing a game he wasn’t good at.

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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 #206 – A Sure Sign That You’re Doing It Right

There’s this dual process that goes on in every great talent’s head…

Part 1 is being right here, right in THIS MOMENT, as it pertains to Performing.

Part 2 is being right here, right in this moment, as it pertains to EDITING – “How would I edit this? Is this the right place to get out?”

That part – the part of you that, even as you’re doing the break, is weighing and measuring “how much is too much?” – is the sense you want to develop.

You can always tell when something really worked on the air: it doesn’t need any editing to make a promo out of it.

THAT’S when you know you’ve struck gold.

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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 #203 – Think Like a Baseball Pitcher

Last week, I did a “refresher” tip about the two most important basic ingredients – sounding real, and making sure you’re ALWAYS talking about something that’s relevant to the Listener’s life.

This time around, I want to deal with formatic basics, using a specific example: repeating things in the same ORDER over and over again.

I hear this all the time – the jock opens up with the name of the station, the artist, then the song title. Next break, name of the station, artist, then title – just like the last break. (This can happen with anything. Always giving a time check or your name last, repeatedly saying “Good morning” break after break, etc.)

So here’s the deal: You want to think like a baseball pitcher. Never throw exactly the same pitch twice in a row. Even if a pitcher has a 100-mile-an-hour fastball, about the second or third time he throws it at the same velocity in the same location, a major league batter is gonna send it toward the general area of Jupiter.

I DO believe that you should always say the name of the station first – it puts the “label” right out front, and you might as well get in the practice you’ll need to tell Echo or Siri to play it from now on, anyway – but even then, your inflection and pace should differ every time. (A great way to accomplish this is to simply match the tempo or emotional vibe of the song you’re talking over or coming out of. From there, you can change gears if you need to, but this will start you off right in the pocket.) Then you add to that PURPOSELY switching around the order of things, or just the NUMBER of things you do, and you’ve got it.

In the bigger picture, every time you fall into habits – which will automatically take away at least a small element of surprise – you’re just treading water. Brain mapping technology shows that even just a TINY difference makes it received as NEW information. That’s what makes the brain NOTICE it, instead of becoming numb 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 #202 – The 2 Biggest “Basics”

In Sports, there’s a thing called “paralysis by analysis”. It refers to your mind getting too cluttered to allow you to perform well.

In radio, whether you’re a new talent trying to find your way, or a veteran talent trying to update your skills to stay viable, it’s really easy to get too many thoughts in your head. (In my coaching, each session almost always boils down to just one main thing, then MAYBE one other little thought to just let percolate until the next time we talk. But no more than that.)

So let’s give you a shot in the arm today by getting back to the two biggest “basics”….

1. The strength of your Content will determine how relevant you are.
If what you’re talking about isn’t something that’s relevant to my life and interests, then as a listener, I’m not going to pay much attention to what you have to say. As a matter of fact, I may just hit the button and move on to something else, not even remembering who you are or what station I just heard.

2. Your coming across as a real person instead of just “a disc jockey” will determine how engaging you are.
“Personality” isn’t usually about inventing some false front or alter ego. It’s about selecting the best VERSION of yourself to put on the air, so hopefully, I’ll want to come back and hear you again, or listen longer. This involves some upper level voice acting skills and quite a few specific techniques. It rarely ever just comes naturally.

If you really cultivate these two most important basic areas, your ceiling is unlimited.

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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 #201 – What TV can learn from Radio, and vice-versa

You would think that TV and Radio are like brothers or cousins, each putting out their product with an all-encompassing view of what the experience is like from the viewer’s or listener’s perspective.

And you would be wrong.

In reality, TV doesn’t care enough (if at all) about SOUND. In my experience of coaching many television air talents, it’s pretty much all about what it LOOKS like. The end result is usually a bunch of talking heads reading words from teleprompters that real people would never say in an actual conversation. (“The alleged suspect was apprehended” instead of “they caught the guy.”) But the time they could use to rewrite it gets spent on their hair and makeup.

Radio, for the most part, doesn’t care enough about the PICTURES it’s creating. Sure, the best talents are all about “word pictures”, but way too often nowadays, in the era of voice-trackers that don’t even live in the market the station is in, they just put a “smile” in their delivery and read things. Ick.

If TV personalities thought more about the WORDS they’re saying, they’d be more three-dimensional. And if radio personalities thought more about creating a PICTURE in the listener’s mind instead of just giving information, they’d draw that listener closer every single day.

Just because you’re ON doesn’t mean that people are actually paying attention to you. You EARN that. Or not. 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
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #199 – Too “up” isn’t Real

I’ve been working with a morning show recently that only has one “gear”. The male partner is “Ron Radio”, talking to the listener like she’s 20 feet away (when, in reality, the listener is just a couple of feet away, in the car). The female partner, who’s new to radio, has what I guess a lot of people would call a “bubbly” personality. And, of course, she’s unnaturally loud, too – following his lead.

The problem here is that their too loud, “way too up” approach doesn’t quite sound real. And if you’re ALWAYS “up”, then when something really bad happens that you need to comment on – another school or mall shooting, or God forbid, another plane flies into a building – chances are good that it’s going to sound either sort of bi-polar, or insincere.

I cringe when I hear a PD tell a talent to “have more energy” or to “smile” when they talk. This inevitably results in an almost “terminally giddy” sound, and you’ve got nowhere to GO from there.

You need lots of vocal and emotional “gears” so you can make smooth, believable transitions between different types of subject matter. The minute I hear someone who’s too loud or too “up”, we start working IMMEDIATELY on fleshing out vocal approaches that convey all sorts of different emotions. We already have too many “announcers”, and at least one too many Kathy Lee Gifford.

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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 #195: Laughter, the Best – or Worst – Medicine

There used to be a thing in Reader’s Digest called “Laughter, the Best Medicine.”

But often, at least to someone my age (I was a kid then), it was lame.

Think about this, as it applies to radio.

Genuine, “can’t help it” laughter IS great “medicine”.
But laughter that comes across as some sort of “default setting” reflex, or that icky “trying to MAKE me think it’s funny” laughter is POISON.

People can tell when it’s real. Go ahead and argue if you want, but it’s true.
I tell people to try NOT to laugh, so when you do, it’ll be genuine “snot bubble” laughter.

George Carlin once said the goal in school was to make the guy next to him at the lunch table laugh so hard that he snorted an entire cheese sandwich up his nose.

Listen to some audio of your show and ask yourself this: “Did the laughter sound real?”
(Hint: If you really need to ask that, it didn’t.)

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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 #175 – Is Your Show Actually FUN?

As more and more research flows in, one thing is clear: One of the main reasons people become fans of a show is “It’s fun!”

Now besides the fact that “fun” and “funny” are not the exact same thing, the takeaway should be making a really focused assessment of what you do each day, and holding your feet to the fire on whether or not it’s actually fun for the LISTENER, not just you.

An old friend contacted me last week to start working with his midday talent, but in the process of bringing each other up to speed on our lives, he mentioned that his morning show still does “The Impossible Question” trivia thing. He said, “It’s a lot of fun, and people really like it.”

Well…no, not really. Trivia – unless you really frame it in a way that’s fun – is not inherently fun or even interesting in itself. (Of all the contests you can do on the air, trivia tests the worst BY FAR. The reason is simple. It’s not 1972 anymore. With the 24/7 News cycle and the internet, trivia doesn’t pack much punch anymore. If I Google “trivia” – which I just did – 178 MILLION websites come up. So it’s certainly not unique or hard to find anymore. Plus, I can just ask Siri and have the answer in under 5 seconds.)

The Secret Sound? Well, okay, IF you do it right. A series of “No, that’s not right, but thanks for trying” breaks on the air burn a hole in the listener’s brain after a very short while.

That great thing you do where your little kid, who can barely talk, is on the air…is that fun? Are you sure?

So I guess what it boils down to is asking yourself, “Is this show actually fun?” Be honest. Tweak whatever needs it; throw away what can’t be improved.

The listener WILL find fun somewhere. You have to make yourself the best choice for that.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #170 – Learn from Mike Nichols, Part 1

Mike Nichols was one of the most talented people ever. Grammy Award-winning improv comedian with his partner, Elaine May. NINE time Tony winner for directing on Broadway, Academy Award winning Director (The Graduate), and on and on.

One of the plays Nichols directed was Neil Simon’s most brilliant work, “The Odd Couple”. If you know the play (or the movie), you know that some of the funniest scenes are Oscar Madison’s poker nights, with great character actors playing each part. But in rehearsal, it wasn’t working. So Nichols huddled up with the actors and told them, “Lines delivered as ‘punch lines’ don’t work. It has to sound ACCIDENTAL to work.”

In radio, it’s the same, even when it’s not about being funny. In something as simple as bringing up a subject, just one sentence – even just one phrase – can make the difference between sounding like you’re just sharing something, as opposed to “presenting” or “announcing” it. (Or even worse, just reading something. Eww.)

If you haven’t mastered this “accidental” sound yet (and about 90% of air talents haven’t), get some help. We’ve all heard enough “heeeerrre comes a punch line!” people on the air.
Radio’s still a great way to make a living, and there’s no time limit. You can do it ‘til you drop dead at the microphone – IF you know what you’re doing.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.