Tommy Kramer Tip #216 — Jump-starting getting to the Next Level

Okay, so you’ve got all the obvious skills as an air talent. But the reason people hire me is that the obvious skills aren’t the ones that actually engage people emotionally.

People who’ve worked with me know that I teach a lot of radio techniques by NOT using radio as an example. (And I’m also fortunate to work with several extremely successful voice actors that you hear every day on national commercials and movie trailers.)

So to be a better air talent, or to try and transition to the voice acting world, here’s a simple first step:
Watch great movies, and soak up WHY the great actors ARE the greats. Here are several movies to watch that I recommend:

The Maltese Falcon.
Humphrey Bogart, Sidney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre — all three completely different from each other, all just great vocal studies. Yes, it’s an old black-and-white movie, but it’s a dialogue and acting clinic.

Anything with Tom Hanks or Harrison Ford.
Hard to beat these two. These guys just embody the “everyman” image, but can also play heroic parts. I’d pay to watch Hanks read a parking ticket.

Lonesome Dove.
The best mini-series ever on TV, with the great Robert Duvall in one of his two favorite performances ever, and the wonderful Tommy Lee Jones.

Mama Mia.
Yes, the ABBA movie. With Meryl Streep, an acting (and voice acting) class herself, and other standout performances from the entire cast, especially the three male stars. If you sneer at it just because it’s ABBA stuff, well, get over it.

The Godfather.
If you don’t like the violence or subject matter, okay, but you should watch something with Marlon Brando. He understood better than anybody the power of delivering a line softly, rather than being loud.

Anything written by Aaron Sorkin.
The West Wing, The Newsroom, The American President (if only we had one like Michael Douglas in this movie), Moneyball, The Social Network, etc. Sorkin is, in my opinion, the best screenwriter on earth. He really gets “emotional investment” (an acting term that I preach all the time).

Have fun watching, and LEARN.

– – – – – – –
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.

– – – – – – –
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 #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.

– – – – – – –
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 #189 – Short, Longer, Longest

You should be able to do three versions of anything you need to promote: Short, longer, and longest.

Examples:

[5 seconds]
“KBUT 94.9 window stickers are free at any Tom Thumb grocery store…”

[10 seconds]
“KBUT 94.9 stickers on your window or bumper look great, tell people what kind of music you like, and can win you cash! Pick yours up today FREE at any Tom Thumb store.”

[20 seconds]
“KBUT 94.9 bumper stickers look great and they’re free—and just like duct tape, if you put enough of them on your car, you can actually cover up a broken window or a big dent. And the number on each one is what we use to give out cash and prizes—like maybe even a NEW car! So get your sticker today at any Tom Thumb grocery store, then listen for your number to be called out on the air.”

Now you probably already know that the shortest version is the hardest one to do. But at any length, CLARITY is the key. You can always add more word pictures, if more length will work. But if you can’t do the super-short versions, you’re not great yet.

– – – – – – –
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 #182 – When Repetition becomes Irritation

The whole concept of “reach and frequency” is one of the benchmarks of all advertising, not just radio. But since we don’t have artwork or a camera to tell part of the story, we have to be mindful of what our words are actually saying.

Yes, the listener needs to hear something a few times for it to penetrate the world he/she lives in, like a contest, a promotion, or a feature you run.

But when it comes to “regular” Content and your vocabulary, you really don’t want to sound repetitive at all. In real life conversations, using the same words, expressions, or “camera angles” over and over again is an indicator of laziness, lack of imagination, and lack of respect for the person you’re talking to.

Those things you “always say” are the ENEMY of communication.

I used to coach a morning show in Dallas with a host who made a little whistling noise every time he played “The Joker” by the Steve Miller Band. (You know, that place at the end where there’s a little “slide” guitar thing that sounds like a whistle.) Whenever that song came up, I really hoped that he WOULDN’T do the whistle – but he always did. Aaarrrggh.

So, if the question is “when does something become stale?” then the answer may as short as “the second time I hear it.” This is NOT something you should ever want the listener to think about.

– – – – – – –
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 #180 – Technique versus Style

In coaching, the typical fear is always that you, as a talent, might actually have to change some things in order to become more fully fleshed out. Technique is a part of it, and there are many Program Directors who are very good at teaching the various techniques that work best in any given format. I’ve got my own set (what a lot of people have called “The Kramer Rules”) that form that firmament, the solid rock foundation a talent builds on.

Caution: Techniques that don’t grow out of a specific Strategy are just flotsam floating by. Strategy dictates Techniques, not the other way around.

And then you have Style, which is what we work on the most. Many air talents think they already have a certain style, but it’s really just a mish-mash of techniques wrapped around an Attitude.

So I believe the way to look at it is yes, you want to learn the right techniques – and which ones are outdated, or just wrong from the word “go”. But how you DO those techniques are where your true Style comes from.

Example: The brilliant Mike Fisher, a truly great writer and fine air talent, was part of the staff at my last PD gig, a Talk station in Dallas. Early on, we went over certain techniques to handle callers – no “hi, how ya doin’ today?” stuff (no one cares), ONE point from each caller, no phony “and Jess has something to say…” antiquated “entry lines” into a call, etc.

And Mike did well, but he put his own twist on it with this phone call solicitation: “Get in, get on, and be good,” followed by giving the phone number.

That statement, that “set of rules” for his callers to follow, defined his Style. No b. s. was going to be tolerated, no filibusters, no boring analysis. Get in, get on, and be good. The pressure was on the CALLER, not Mike.

Brilliant.

– – – – – – –
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 #179 – Lee Abrams, Being Positive, Board Work

On the day I’m writing this tip, I just heard from my buddy Mancow Muller in Chicago. He’s not just an outstanding talent, but he also lives a very interesting life, seemingly knows everyone, and always has great stories to tell.

Tonight he’s having dinner with The Moody Blues (I love them), and radio genius Lee Abrams.

Lee and I go back to 1973 in Chicago, later worked in Cleveland together, and have stayed friends all this time. If you’re not familiar with Lee, just Google him. His accomplishments are amazing, but the things I remember most about being around Lee are (1) he was encouraging, but still mindful of what a talent needed to do to get to a higher level, and (2) he always, always, always, worded everything in positive language.

“Don’t miss this one” became “Make sure to see this one,” for instance. Our weather forecasts didn’t say “partly cloudy.” We said “partly sunny” or (even better) “some sunshine,” etc.

This carried forward into the hallways, too. There were no negative thoughts in a coaching session with Lee – ever.
For example, once, in Chicago, Lee wrote a post-aircheck session recap to the wonderful Gary Gears. Lee assured him that he was going to be the most popular afternoon drive jock in the country, praised all the gifts that Gary brought to the table, etc. Then at the bottom, Lee added:
P. S. Of course, learning to run the board is a prerequisite.

Hilarious.

I miss that time with Lee, and wonder how many stations now even THINK about things like whether something is worded as a positive or a negative, and whether board work even MATTERS.

The radio is full of sloppy, uncaring, slamming-things-on-top-of-one-another board work everywhere now. It’s tempting to fall back on the easiest excuse: “It’s because the computer runs everything.” But remember, your listeners hear this, too.

So let me channel Lee Abrams now and put it this way: We can CHANGE that.

– – – – – – –
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 #164 – Information and Details = Ugh

The words “information” and “details” are poisonous words. You should try to avoid them.

If you’re a regular follower of my tips, you know that “left brain” thoughts or words don’t really click with the listener as much as “right brain” stuff.

For the uninitiated, the left brain is about order, reason, math, numbers, percentages. The right brain is where emotion, art, creativity and allegiance all live.

When you say something like “Find the details on our website” or “Go to my Facebook page for more information,” what people HEAR is “There’s a bunch of crap in a really tiny font that you can go read.”

What you SHOULD say is something like “Find out more on my Facebook page” or “Everything you need to know is at khip.com” instead.

You’re talking to a PERSON, not a robot getting information.

ALWAYS live in the right brain. “A juicy steak” is better than just “a 14-ounce rib-eye.” You want to paint PICTURES with words, not numbers or lists.

– – – – – – –
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 #162 – The Two Rules about ONE

In the last tip, I talked about Repetition and Redundancy, two things that can wreck a show.
(It also hurts Imaging and commercials, by the way. Imaging doesn’t need to say “Magic 102.9/102.9” with that second time repeated or slightly overlapped. Ugh. And I’m sure we’ve all wanted to unload a double-barreled shotgun at the TV when we heard a phone number given for the thirteenth time in one of those “Call right now!” spots.)

Anyway, the last tip ended with this:

Repetition HURTS breaks. Redundancy KILLS them.
Radio — at least GREAT radio — is always about how concisely you can get things said. A good rule of thumb is “say things ONCE.” What you leave UNSAID is just as important as what you say.

Now let’s add two more rules to that:

1. Make ONE point.
2. Give ONE example.
When you do more, it’s tedious, and makes breaks SOUND longer than they actually are. And remember, trying to be thorough is the enemy of editing.

There’s a LOT more to this…but as John Lennon said when a reporter shouted out “Sing something for us!” during the Beatles’ first U. S. press conference, “We have to have money first.”

– – – – – – –
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.