Tommy Kramer Tip #240 – The Last Episode Before the Last Episode

At the end of the Fall 2017 network television season, we saw something unprecedented. The reason you may not have noticed it is that it didn’t work – at all.

“The last episode before the gripping season finale…” was the “trailer” at the end of the NEXT TO LAST episode of at least two series that I regularly watch.

Think about this. “The last episode before the last episode.” Where does the madness end with these stupid network hype machines? “The last episode before the stirring final three episodes” is probably being written into promos right now…by idiots, who’ve bought into the notion that everything needs to be ‘bigger’ and more impressive before anyone will notice it.

But that’s fundamentally wrong, because when we feel overhyped, there’s an oily residue to it that actually makes us resent it. (Or we just ignore it as “white noise” and go on about our business.)

Look at the copy you’re reading today. If it’s full of over-modifiers like “fantastic”, “awesome”, “amazing”, etc. then you should ARBITRARILY take out all but ONE adjective, so it’ll sound more genuine. Otherwise, the things people hear in your promos, commercials, or Imaging are like Jiffy Pop – just full of hot air.

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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 #239 – Learn from The Andy Griffith Show

I keep hearing things being READ to me in EXAGGERATED tones: “THANK you for ALL you’ve DONE!”

Thinking about how to help people mature and get past this point, I happened to have an old Andy Griffith Show on while I worked the other day. It was an early episode, from the first season, and Andy himself was REALLY exaggerated, using a loud, cornpone delivery that made him sound like a cartoon character.

But Griffith himself said later in his life that he found it difficult to watch those episodes, when he was still basically just doing his country bumpkin character from “No Time For Sergeants”, his first Broadway play (and later, his first movie). That was kind of the style then; everything was overplayed. And Andy thought he needed to stay in ‘vocal overdrive’ to be the comedy center of the show. But soon after that first season, he realized that Don Knotts (as deputy Barney Fife) was going to be the funny one, and Andy should be the straight man.
From that point on, Andy settled down and got more conversational and realistic. And magic happened. Not only did the show zoom to the top of the ratings, but Andy had found the more plausible delivery that lasted through his “Matlock” days and several movies.

Listen to some audio from your show today. Ask yourself whether you sound like the listener’s friend, or like someone who’s way ‘over the top’ and trying too hard. If it’s the latter, just stop.

You’ll realize your greatest success when you stop trying to BE somebody, and just interact with the listener like you’re talking to a friend.

The days of the loud, high-energy disc jockey are gone.

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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 #238 – The Coaching Process: Step 3 of 3

In the previous two tips, we went over Step 1 – weeding the garden of bad or outdated habits, and really seeing into what an actual Strategy is, rather than just a bunch of Tactics thrown at the wall to see what sticks – and Step 2, which is a crucial building block of developing both Timing and Trust, in what you do on the air and in shaping the knack of pulling people closer to you.

Those are huge, and take some time to believe in, because there are plenty of people who THINK they’re coaches that actually know nothing about starting from scratch and creating an entity that has a real chance to get huge ratings.

Step 3 of my coaching process is the most fun, the longest lasting, and the most imaginative: It’s all about the Art – the “how high can you fly?” quest that all great talents have.

This is where coaching is most important. Michael Jordan had a coach. Phil Jackson took His Airness from just a great player to a Champion. Jack Nicholson has had the same dialogue coach for decades. Tom Brady without Bill Belichick would be Aaron Rogers – great stats, but only one championship, not five.

Here’s how Step 3 works: I strip every “crutch” away. Every little habit that doesn’t serve a purpose or wastes the listener’s time, every additional step that slows down a show’s momentum, every unnecessary word possible, every semi-lame bit you still cling to that’s just there because you haven’t come up with anything better. That leaves ONLY WHAT YOU DO BEST. And we work on making that sound so simple, so easy, that people just gravitate to it because it sounds like you’re having so much fun doing it.

After that “A” side, we work on a “B” side, just like an old vinyl record had, because one-trick ponies eventually lose their appeal.

There are people I’ve worked with for decades. Some have changed formats, some have gone into voice acting careers, some have become the big fish in a small pond, some have become a big fish in a huge pond, but they all have one thing in common: They’re still curious about getting better, seeing more, developing new techniques.

You CAN do it yourself, without a coach. But you can do it much faster WITH a coach. If you fear the coaching process, what you’re really doing is arbitrarily lowering your ceiling on how good you can get.

It’s easy to throw around big, well-known names that I’ve worked with, but there are literally hundreds of people I’ve coached that you’ve probably never heard of that are even more successful, but chose to remain in smaller markets and OWN them. Whichever path you choose, a coach’s job is to help you realize your dreams. If that’s not what’s happening, then you’ve got the wrong coach.

No coach is more talented than his players. But no great player got there by himself.

– – – – – – –
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 #237 – The Coaching Process: Step 2 of 3

Last week, I let you in on the first step of my coaching process – which is primarily a “weeding the garden” period of stripping away outdated habits, and learning how Strategy is different from Tactics. (Tactics should grow out of the Strategy you’ve chosen for the station and for the show; not the other way around.)

The second step is where the real issues come to the surface: Developing Timing and Trust.

Both solo acts and team shows are all about timing. Stay with something too long, and you’re just another jock that can’t just shut up. Beating subjects into the ground, always searching for one more funny line, etc. just makes you the guest at the party who won’t leave. As Paul Simon wrote, “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor,” and I’m always amazed at how one or two phone calls will serve as the gauge by which a talent measures his image or performance.

But the vast majority of people never get a PPM device or fill out a diary. Just like going to a restaurant and getting poor service or subpar food, most people don’t take the time to comment to management or on Yelp; they just never go back to that restaurant. This is where Trust comes in. You have to choose what to stand for, what you will do and what you won’t do, and then develop the right timing in getting it on the air in a way that’s digestible.

This is where I work with people more as voice actors than disc jockeys or talk show hosts, because while “Content is King” is still quoted, the reality is that PERFORMANCE is King. Without performance ‘chops’, even the best and most relevant Content will fall flat. And while I do want you to stay top of mind, if you’re a great personality, people will listen, no matter what you do. There’s no one set mold for what makes a great air talent, but having a listenership that trusts you with their time every day is something the great ones have, and the ones that aren’t great yet don’t have.

While I help shape and coach the performance of “bits”, they’re not what you ARE, they’re just things you DO. The shows with my fingerprints on them are always “visit-driven”, not bit-driven. So the trust that we work on in the sessions with each other is very much the same as the level of trust you want from your listener.

A lot of air talents, especially in the Talk arena, think having great guests draws people to them, but that’s only a surface-level ingredient. Los Angeles great Phil Hendrie is proof: his “guests” are usually HIM (playing characters) and he’s absolutely riveting.

My buddy Mancow Muller in Chicago is another great example. He’s run the gamut from “shock jock” to Political commentary, radio to TV, author….and never missed a beat. Always interesting, always keeping things MOVING.

Wally, of The Wally Show on Contemporary Christian network WAY-FM out of Nashville, is a great example of both timing and trust – both in his on-air performance and in our coaching relationship. No one makes me laugh like Wally, and he’s an “idea fountain”.

Next week, Step 3.

– – – – – – –
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 #236 – The Coaching Process: Step 1 of 3

Recently, a station manager brought me aboard to work with a new air talent that had just come to the station. Even though the new guy done a couple of sessions with me a year or two ago, he’s still afraid of being coached. The boss told me the guy’s exact words were that “He doesn’t want someone coming along trying to make him sound like everyone else.”

Well, first of all, that’s not what I do. Yes, I have some basic principles that have been proven to work over the course of coaching over 350 stations in all formats. But a lot of times, a talent will harbor this fear of making changes simply because (1) he didn’t work with a good coach, (2) he thinks he knows all he needs to know, and/or (3) he associates the “bits” he does with BEING his identity.

So in case you’re approached with working with a talent coach (and there are only about three that deserve to be called that), I’m going to lay out my 3 Steps of coaching over the course of the next few tips.

Step 1:
Correcting bad habits, and “weeding the garden”.

A lot of things that people are taught nowadays are wrong, because the person telling them they’re good heard the copy of the copy of the copy of the original, and have no idea what the Strategy behind certain techniques actually was at the point of origin. For example, I heard dozens of stations try to copy KVIL in Dallas when morning man Ron Chapman was King of the Hill, but what worked for KVIL wouldn’t work anywhere else, because they were aimed at a specific target audience unique to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.

So we start with what Strategy is, as opposed to just Tactics. And as a natural offshoot of that, I remove all the typical deejay “crutches” that most talents don’t even realize they have, like always saying “the basics” in the same order, doing the ridiculous double time checks, ending with your name or the station’s name into commercials, always starting Content breaks by talking about yourself first, etc. etc. etc.

This takes a while, just like an actor with a briefcase full of great reviews from when he played Hamlet at the “Grazing Trough Dinner Theater” needs a little time to put that stuff aside when he gets into the Actors Studio.

Step 2 next week.

– – – – – – –
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 #227 – Millennial Overspeak, and Why you should Avoid it

Millennial Overspeak is a new dialect. Not every single person in that age group uses it, of course, but it’s an easy (albeit cheap shot) reference for unnecessary glitz, so it’s become a hard-and-fast impression.

Phrases such as “I’m SO going to do that,” or describing something as “Unbelievably, spectacularly good” is overkill. And like everything served up too often, you actually LOSE impact. So the words you’re choosing to make something “bigger” or more “dramatic” usually just make whatever you’re talking about come across as pompous, overstated, or simply trying too hard. These are qualities that push the listener away, rather than bring him or her closer to you.

Let’s try to make our words count. “He was dead” doesn’t need an adverb or adjective. “He was SO dead” doesn’t make it more expressive; it just makes you sound like you have to expand everything in order to feel important. Eww.

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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 #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.

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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.