Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #268 – We’re Creatures of Habit, and that’s not good

We all fall into habits, and one I’ve heard a LOT recently is an air talent rattling off the “basics” (name of the station, artist, maybe the song title, the time), then saying his or her name LAST as you “gird your loins” (or gather yourself) to do Content.

The problem with this (besides being lazy) is that the listener learns to recognize this on a subconscious level, so you’re – by definition – NOT doing the unexpected.

Look, we can have a conversation that flows naturally, or we can serve up an agenda of a habitual group of words. This choice is crucial.

And if it sounds in any way like you’re just in “autopilot” mode at the beginning of a break, that sameness from break to break does the opposite of piquing someone’s interest in what follows.

There’s a deeper view of this, too. Except for saying the name of the station the first thing out of your mouth (which I believe is essential – that “branding” thing), all the other elements should vary from break to break. Sameness breeds boredom. Mixing things up just a bit makes what you’re saying be more readily received by the listener (on an unconscious level) as NEW information. It’s science, and it’s the way God made us. So get off your duff and work at this; it will actually make a difference. Radio is doing a great job right now of holding a gun to its head and saying “Stand back or I’ll shoot.” We need every little advantage we can get.

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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 #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.

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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 #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.

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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 #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.)

– – – – – – –
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.

– – – – – – –
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.