Tommy Kramer Tip #234 – Reveal…not Reveal with an Agenda

In the last tip, I talked about learning something about you each day, and how essential that “reveal” is to becoming a three-dimensional personality to the listener. Here’s a deeper look at it:

You should reveal something about yourself EVERY day, but not with an agenda.

Last week, on an automotive Talk show I coach in Houston, the female cohost said, “Ask Mike your question, ‘cause if you ask me, I’ll just say ‘Pick the fast one, in black.’” That changed her from being just the “announcer” of the show to a Personality – in ONE LINE.

That’s the kind of reveal that works best, because it seemingly just slipped out as you were talking. And that’s the key: It has to sound accidental or incidental – NATURAL to share, not just you bringing up a subject so you can sound off on it.

When something revealing just plops out in the course of the conversation, that’s when people actually NOTICE what was just said.

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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 #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 #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.

Tommy Kramer Tip #220: Dead Streaming

Here’s a question that takes some actual hands-on experience to answer: Is your live streaming even worth listening to?

As someone who has to tape streaming audio often (because of different time zones) in order to do coaching sessions, I can tell you that most live streaming is dead in the water. Constant cutting out, horribly over-modulated audio (or a stream that’s so low I need a hearing aid to listen to it), too many steps to finally get the audio up, incessant “introductory ads” that we have to sit through before – finally – hearing the station…they’re all symptomatic of just assuming because you buy into a streaming service, your audio is being carried the right way.

And the weird thing is, we promote this ‘feature’ all the time, often without ever checking it out ourselves.

So today – now, while you’re thinking of it – get on your computer, iPad, or smart phone and check your live stream for an hour or so. You may be shocked at how poor it sounds…or you could really pleased with it – until it inexplicably just shuts off after a few minutes. (Aaaarrrrgh.)

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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 #218 – The Real Nature of Personality

“Personality” is one of those words that’s used constantly, but is vague in its meaning.

I had a session with a veteran talent recently in which the issue was his talking about things on the air, but without any real investment into making it something other than just bullet points being read to the listener.

So I reminded him to just keep on relaxing into it, and to “color” those things (a local Civil War photography show, a regional agricultural “festival”) with personal comments and ‘takes’ on what those EXPERIENCES – not just events on a page – might be like.

Here’s how I summarized it:
Even just a small “aside” like you said today about the rain in the forecast, “We need it for the cherry tomatoes,” brings the listener a step closer to you.

“Personality” isn’t just about being funny; it’s about how personally the listener gets to know 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 #214 – How birds see the world: a tip inspired by Gary Larson

Gary Larson, creator of “The Far Side” cartoon series, is someone I really admire. Do your art, sell fifty million copies of the book “collections” of it, then abruptly retire at 45 years old to reap the benefits of your genius. Well done, Mr. Larson. We treasure you.

“How birds see the world” is one of his most famous drawings. I reprint it here with no permission granted to do so; I don’t own it (and would really rather not get sued over it, please):

Honestly, I think that’s the way a lot of stations – and certainly a lot of the people I hear on the air – see the listeners sometimes: a “receptacle” for what we drop on them. (We even REFER to people as “the target listener.”)

But what you SHOULD do is value the listener’s time and attention span like a Scuba diver values the air in his tanks.

The Code:

Don’t just read something; put it in your own words.
Don’t refer to me in a “collective” way. I’m not “all of you” or “the listeners”.
Don’t assume that just because you think something’s interesting or funny, the listener will automatically think that, too.

Do keep things brief. Resist the temptation to tie everything up with a neat bow around it at the end. Usually it’s unnecessary.
Do promote what needs promoting, but keep in mind that constant “teasing” feels manipulative and sounds cloying.
Do aim at the “target Listener”, but don’t rule ANYONE out.

Make great radio – every day, in every way you can think of.

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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 #213 – Celebrate Your Quirkiness

Okay, today – after we celebrated our freedom with July 4th cookouts, ball games, fireworks, etc. – let’s add one more step: Celebrate Your Quirkiness.

I’m not talking about inventing some bit for on-air. I’m talking about using the things that define you – the things that are sort of private.

In one of my earliest tips, “The 5 Subjects”, I outline [1] Jobs stuff/wallet/economy; [2] the Entertainment world; [3] Relationships, [4] “The Buzz” – THE thing that everyone’s talking about today (which could come under one of the other categories); and [5] Things that ‘grow out of the show’. That 5th one is the one that’s the most difficult to define for people, because it’s completely organic. THAT’S what this week’s tip is about. Two examples:

1. Brant Hansen is a brilliant mind, and is definitely different from anyone else I’ve ever coached in the Contemporary Christian format. This format has been traditionally seen as lacking much genuine personality, but Brant and a few others have been pioneers in turning that around. Once, when we were still getting to know each other, it came up that I play guitar. Brant mentioned that he plays the accordion. I then told him an ancient joke – “what’s the difference between a snake lying dead in the middle of the road and an accordion player lying dead in the middle of the road? The snake was probably on his way to a gig.”

It wasn’t long before Brant started playing his accordion on the air, as part of a contest. Cute, odd, but HIS.

2. Howard Clark was one of the greats, part of the original KFRC staff in San Francisco when consultant Bill Drake’s Top 40 stations ruled the earth. Late in his career, Howard came back home to work in my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, and had a profound impact on me. One day, I was listening to “Hired” (as he called himself on occasion) and a song ended, then a recorded announcement by the huge-voiced Charlie Van Dyke came on and said, “And now, Howard Clark looks at the weather…”

Then you heard Howard’s chair squeak, a few steps taken across a floor, a door open, then Howard walking waaaaaaay down a lonnnnng hallway, the back door opening (a creaking screen door that hadn’t been oiled since 1957), then Howard’s voice muttering “Mmm hmm……….yep……..”

….and then you heard the back door creak shut, Howard walking the 50 steps back down the hallway, the Control Room door closing, we heard a few more steps, then his chair squeaked, then Charlie Van Dyke’s voice said, “This has been ‘Howard Clark looks at the weather’…” Then a station jingle played, and a song started.

No forecast. No temperatures “at the airport.” Just that little moment.

I still think of these two things, years later.
What have you done that’s quirky – that’s really you, and ONLY you – for your listeners to remember?

DO SOMETHING. Maybe someone will notice you. You can’t get Arbitron diaries or PPM devices without people.

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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 #211 – Seinfeld’s Three Rules of Living

There’s an HBO Special called “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast”.
It’s about people 90 years of age or more that are still vibrant and productive, featuring Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, TV Producer Norman Lear, and many others – and, with occasional comments, Jerry Seinfeld.

At one point late in the special, Jerry lays out his “3 Rules of Living”. They are:

1. Bust your ass. Whatever you do, work as hard as you can. Give it everything you’ve got.

2. Pay attention. Notice the things around you all the time. Appreciate them all the time.

3. Fall in love. Not just romantic love. Love your parking space. Love your sandwich. Seinfeld tells about having breakfast with George Burns once, and Burns said “This may be the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had in my life.” In his mid-nineties, Burns still had the desire to see something worth relishing every day.

Now ask yourself these questions:
Do you work hard every day? In this era of the computer running everything (usually pretty sloppily), it’s easy to get lazy. Do you just pluck items off some prep sheet to quack about instead of getting out and discovering things that your listener is talking about? Do you rely on callers to “do the show for you?” (Someone said that to me at a convention one year. I wanted to scream.) The “topics and phone calls” thing can wear really thin really fast, and dominates way too much radio time that could be spent on something more immediate and impactful. You could….what do they call it?…oh yeah, you could DO a SHOW.

Do you pay attention to what’s around you? In my on-air days, I often drove into work using a different route, or just turning a block or two sooner or later than normal, so I could see stuff like which store was opening (or closing), what kind of roadwork was starting (and when), etc.

Are you in love with your job? Do you have a real appreciation for the listener’s time? I hear a lot of shows that virtually dismiss the precious ‘one on one’ connection all the time, by talking to “listeners” or “those of you” or even worse, “all the people listening out there.” Do you still, in 2017, not realize that people have LOTS of other options? If you don’t care about what you’re doing, why should they?

There’s a reason that Seinfeld is definitely on the Mount Rushmore of Comedians – and it’s not just that he can think up jokes. Adopt his “3 Rules” and you’ll have a better career and a better life.

– – – – – – –
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 #208 — The Most Important Ingredient in Putting More Callers on the Air

Note: This tip is written specifically for music stations. But the “quality control” goal should be in every Talk show, too.

It’s not a “bad” idea per se to supplement the Content that you create with a phone call or two from listeners. But it’s not an automatic “must have” ingredient, either. And it can become a “crutch” pretty easily.

Here’s the most important ingredient in putting them on the air:

NO “B” or “C”-level calls allowed. None. Only “A”-level callers with something that actually contributes a thought that moves the subject forward, gives it a different slant, or provides some sort of “resolution” should make it onto the air. The minute you accept less, you dive head first into the generic “topics and phone calls” pool that already has too many people in it.

I’ve done and coached shows that hardly ever ran calls, and I’ve done and coached shows that were – at times – very phone call intensive. But the “A”-level rule always applies. Great radio is made up of COMPELLING moments. If a call doesn’t provide that, it doesn’t deserve being aired.

This leads back to something I say a lot: Do a SHOW. It may seem counterintuitive, but when you don’t NEED calls, that’s when you not only get more of them, but you get better ones, too.

Getting great phone callers isn’t an accident. It’s a plan. In a future tip, I’ll give you another peek into how that works.

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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.