Tommy Kramer Tip #122 – Say my name, say my name

Time for a little “basics” check. How good are you at saying the name of the station? There are a lot of different factors that play into this supposedly simple thing…

First of all, you should say them first—the first thing out of your mouth when you start a break. Not just “somewhere in there”. There’s a reason the Jif label is on the outside of the jar. They don’t put it inside with the peanut butter.
When you say “That’s ‘Thinking Out Loud’ by Ed Sheeran on 92.9 KSLL” that’s about Ed Sheeran, who’s on 1200 stations, one of which happens to be yours.
But when you say “92.9 KSLL and Ed Sheeran with ‘Thinking Out Loud,’” it’s YOUR song. You own it, and that’s the kind of music that YOU play.
Ownership MATTERS.

Yes, I’ve heard PD’s say “but it sounds more conversational to just drop them in at random.” But branding isn’t about being “conversational”. It’s about branding. (Which, by the way, is why you shouldn’t just segue two songs back-to-back without a short produced piece or a jingle between them that gives your name. You’re just throwing away a branding opportunity. PPM will never measure someone who doesn’t tune you in a second time because they don’t remember who you are.)

But let’s move on to the performance itself—the art of saying the station’s name. Here are just a few of the techniques I coach:

1. As a voice actor, you have to be able to deliver it in multiple ways, with several different inflections and variations in timing. It’s easy to just toss the name out like a robot, which always sounds like you’re just trying to get it done with so you can get on to the more “important” stuff. (I’ve actually edited together every time a talent says the station’s name in an hour so he or she could hear the bad habits that have set in — same tone of voice every time, same inflection, always going down in pitch at the end—there are tons of them.)

2. Matching the pace of the song. (Fast song, uptempo delivery. Slow song, slower delivery.)

3. Matching the emotional “vibe” of the song. (Sad song, more somber tone. Happy song, more upbeat delivery.)

4. Starting on the same NOTE the song is on. (The great Marice Tobias also teaches this.)

…and there’s more, but in John Lennon’s words, “I have to have money first.”

Suffice it to say that unless you’re good at saying the name of the station—the first thing you should master—chances are that people won’t remember you, and ratings won’t be as high as they could be. I’ve seen Arbitron entries for stations that don’t exist anymore, and air talents that have been DEAD for two years. That’s the power of good branding.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #121 – The Beau Weaver Tips

Beau Weaver was simply the best radio jock I ever heard, period.

Now he’s now a very successful voice actor based out of Los Angeles, and still one of my closest friends. We first met and worked together as babies several hundred years ago, when Gordon McLendon hired us as part of the staff at KNUS 99, the station that put FM on the map in Dallas.

We were all very young, and constantly running thoughts and techniques by each other, trying to find ourselves as jocks and Production talents. The other day, Beau reminded me of how he’d often play me a spot or promo that he’d done, and I’d keep repeating two things to him: “Don’t use your voice, and don’t try.”

Those are still the two starting places, either for young talent, or for old pros trying to update their sound to still be valid in the 21st century. Let me explain why…

Don’t use your voice.
When you “use” your voice, it sounds phony. The broadcasting world is still far too stocked with people on the air who just LOVE their own voices, and “puke” too much or shout at the listener in an effort to sound “big” or to “impress” them. (Are you listening, Kenny Albert? I’m not 40 feet away. There’s no reason to scream at me.)
Just talk.

Don’t “try”.
It’s not that you don’t want to give it a professional effort. Of course you do, but when you try too hard, you sound strident. That doesn’t bring anyone closer to you; it pushes them away. You pull people toward you by really understanding your “instrument”. Study great actors, and you see the value of LESS volume, less projection. For instance, Tom Hanks doesn’t have what radio people would call a great voice, but he can make you cry. Here’s another great example: Matt Damon at the end of “Saving Private Ryan” at that graveside, turning to his wife and softly saying, “Tell me I’m a good man.” It gets me every time.

Until you fully realize all the techniques available to you that can sway people, you’re just going to be one more voice in a sea of voices, quacking away on the air every day. (And good luck trying to be a voice actor. I’ve been to auditions where they’ve asked “Anyone in radio?” and when some people raised their hands, they were told “Thank you; you can leave.” They never even got a CHANCE to read, because the last thing anyone wants for a national spot is the “deejay” delivery.)

If you’re not in touch with this yet, you need a coach.

Oh, and go to www.spokenword.com to hear Beau Weaver’s work. Whatever he doesn’t have, you don’t need.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #114 – Time versus Timing

It’s not the time it takes to do a break, it’s the TIMING.

Many times in a coaching session, I’ve criticized a break, and the talent has said something like “but it was only a minute and ten seconds long.” But as we all know, the actual “stopwatch” time of a break means very little.

I get the feeling that if most jocks were doing Hamlet, they’d say “To be or not to be that is the question” instead of “To be, or not to be. That is the question.”

When you rush, or run sentences together, it makes the listener feel antsy.

Often, the way to get on course in your air work is to simply think of how real life conversation unfolds. If someone is just a little hurried when he talks to you, it smacks of an agenda. Or even worse, like he’s just trying to get the conversation over with. Discomfort is the emotional takeaway.

Real people breathe, and pause between thoughts. I’m willing to bet that in real life, you breathe, too.

So beginning today, try to slow down just a little bit. Pause when there would be a comma or a period if what you’re saying were written out. It’ll only cost you a second or two of total time to sound much more real and engaged in what you’re saying. It’s a conversation with the listener, not a speed-reading course.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #104 – Hearing/Listening

I‘ve heard jocks complain that they didn’t get any calls or emails or Facebook posts when it was expected. This seems odd to me, like a playwright complaining that the audience in the theater didn’t get a joke.

It’s easy to just say “they heard, but they didn’t listen,” but that’s
the wrong end of the binoculars, because it’s about your agenda. We should be considering the possibility that “they were listening, but they didn’t hear,” because that puts the responsibility where it really belongs—on us. If the message isn’t getting across, then we need to do a better job of getting it across.

Besides the fact that people are busy and have lives, I think there’s always a reason why someone doesn’t really hear something. Assuming out front that what you’re talking about is on target, then you have to consider that (1) maybe it’s just not clear, or (2) that the way you did it just wasn’t as compelling as it could have been.

When you put maximum effort into the precise wording and emotional investment you’ll need to make someone actually pay attention, you’ll be far more likely to get the results you want. (Vocabulary is crucial.)
If you don’t really want to dive into it that deeply, you can still be pretty good—but you can’t be great.

Treat every time you open the mike like your career depends on it, because it actually kinda does.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #101 – Articulate the Popular Rage

There’s a great line from the movie “Network” where old-line newsman Howard Beale (Academy Award winner Peter Finch) is told by his new show developer (Faye Dunnaway) to “articulate the popular rage.”

Now this movie, written by Pulitzer-prize winner Paddy Cheyevski—was made in 1977, so “rage” was at its core. You may remember Beale’s famous scene where he urged people to shout out their windows “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!”

The thought of ‘articulating the popular rage’ is still valid—although I would modify it to be “Articulate the Popular Emotion.” Rage is only one emotion, and you don’t want to be a one-trick pony. But the idea is to be the voice of what your listener is thinking. Joy, sadness, grief, silliness, disbelief, patriotism, skepticism, being thankful—all these (and more) make up the palate from which you can verbally “paint” the Content of the show.

Never settle for something that’s not based on an Emotion.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #91 – Be the guy who would SAY that

I don’t know whether this is true or not, but the story goes that when the great actor Marlon Brando was doing his first movie role, after an early scene, the Director brought up a couple of concerns. He was having a hard time getting a full-on shot of Brando because Marlon didn’t mug for the camera like a lot of actors in that era, and (as we all know) Brando mumbled. Supposedly, Brando replied by asking him if he had a camera operator, to which the Director said yes. Then Brando asked “And you have a ‘boom’ guy—the one who can move the mike?” The Director answered that he did, and Brando said “Well, tell them to move ‘em. I’m just bein’ the guy.”

He was just “being the guy”—the guy who would actually SAY whatever the dialogue was.

If you’ll embrace this simple concept, you’ll become much more natural and believable than ever before. Whether it’s personality Content, a station event you’re supposed to plug, a commercial, or the weather forecast, sift everything through the “be the guy who would say that” filter.
Example: No real person meets a friend for lunch and says to him, “A recent study says that 29% of Americans are buying red cars this year.” But he might say “Lots of red cars on the roads lately. I never noticed until I bought one. Now I see them everywhere.”

The “real guy” read is everywhere in the voice acting world right now. Big-voiced “announcers” are so 1970.

You always want to use down to earth, authentic language. Real words, not “print” language. If you have something to read that’s written poorly, rewrite it. If you think you’ll get in trouble for it, ask permission. No good PD will mind your not sounding stiff or implausible.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #86 – Learn To Breathe

One of the main differences between disc jockeys and voice actors is that a lot of disc jockeys don’t now how to breathe.

Every day, you hear jocks rushingthroughlinesasfastastheycanwithoutevertakingabreathatall…then HAVING to take a big, gasping breath because they didn’t pause where they should have paused. A lot of this comes from Program Directors not making it a priority to sound conversational. Or it can be that what you’re supposed to read is just too much to say over a song intro or when you stop down. And as I dealt with in an earlier tip, it can be that your “internal clock” is lying to you, saying that you’re taking too long, so you start talking at ‘warp speed’ when you don’t really need to.

If you think about it, radio lends itself to being stationary, but talking fast. And radio Production tends to be cut sitting down at a console, often doing one line at a time.

But in the voice-acting world, many (if not most) talents stand up, and don’t wear headphones unless they have to sync up with something.

So take the first step. Beginning today, resolve to LET yourself pause (just slightly) between thoughts, so you recapture the natural rhythm of someone in real conversation, instead of the breathless, machine gun delivery of a disc jockey speaking with his “radio voice”.

The more real you sound, the better you’re going to be on the air, and the more opportunities you’ll have to do other things as your career moves forward.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #83 – Your Internal Clock

Every day, I hear air talent trying to do Content that’s good, but the delivery is too hurried. Or jocks will try to cram too much into a song intro, and while it does fit the time frame, it doesn’t sound real or engaging because the inflection is lost. It’s not just in music radio, though. It happens in all formats, including Talk and Sports.

Obviously, bad training (or lack of training) can cause this, but there’s more to it than that.
Here’s one of the most overlooked factors:

Everyone has an internal clock.
And often, your internal clock lies to you.
You can see this outside the radio world with a simple experiment: walk up to someone, put a microphone in front of him, and tell him that he has 30 seconds to speak. Some people will take their time, sounding very real and relaxed—but talk for 50 or 60 seconds; nowhere close to 30. Other people will rush as fast as they can, and even though they have 30 seconds, they’ll race to match their internal clock, then stop after 15 or 20, gasping for air.

Great voice actors learn what real time is, rather than perceived time. Tell my friend Beau Weaver, for instance, that you need a piece of copy to be read in 26 seconds, and he’ll nail it almost every time in the first take. But unless you’ve developed that uncanny timing that a great voice actor has, you’re going to have to work on it.

The cure is a simple one: rehearse. And rehearse OUT LOUD, because it always takes longer when you enunciate clearly and inflect words audibly instead of silently. Start with real-life Content first (books, articles, etc.) and try to stop after 10 seconds, then 30, then 60. Then take that to what you do on the air. In a short time, the difference will be dramatic, and you’ll have more “command presence” as a result. Plus, as with many things I coach, it’s like life after sex. Once you’ve done it, you can never go back to the perspective you had before it.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2014 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #78 – Replacing “Announcing” and “Presenting”

A good portion of today’s radio listeners—and just about all of the next generation of listeners—want their audio media to adopt the style of social media. Well, that’s not exactly possible. For one thing, radio is still the biggest social media phenomenon in history. Bigger than Facebook, bigger than Twitter, more social than TV or movies. If you need proof, think about this: there are millions of people who don’t have Facebook or Instagram or Twitter accounts, but there is no one who hasn’t listened to radio. You don’t have to read it, you don’t have to post anything, and there’s just “like” (it’s on) or “unlike” (turn it off). It’s simple and pure, IF you sound like right now instead of like 1994.

So here’s how you still sound valid without coming across like children to your core demo, or like old geezers with bad hairpieces to your younger listeners:

Instead of announcing, just think about sharing.
Instead of presenting, try inviting.

Stop ‘selling’ things on the air. No one is buying.

You can either be my friend, riding in the car with me (or at my desk at work), or you can be the audio equivalent of pop-up ads on a website. Choose wisely. The clock is ticking. If you need help, well…I assume that’s why you’re reading this. There are people here that you can call. If you’ve never worked with a great consultant or a truly focused talent coach, you’re just driving a car with no air conditioning and manual windows. I think you deserve better than that.

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Tommy Kramer
Radio Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2014 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #35 – The Challenges of having a BIG Voice

Hundreds of years ago, when I first got into radio, the easiest way to get hired was to have a BIG, DEEP voice. The guy with the biggest set of “pipes” was always the one most in demand. He got the best jobs for the most money, advanced up the ladder quickest, and got tons of voice work to make outside income.

As radio got more real sounding, those guys were simply described as “pukers.” And today, there are distinct negatives associated with the old-school big “radio” voice. Having worked with hundreds of “big pipes” guys over the years (and several Voice Actors that you hear everyday on national spots and movie trailers), some new conclusions have emerged.

In today’s radio, especially in female-targeted formats, big huge voices can easily come across as either tired or angry. So if you’ve got one of those giant voices, work on staying in the upper half of your vocal range all the time. Try to avoid “bottoming out” or the “growly” sound. Having a nice voice is a great gift, but in the modern era, it’s about resonance, not depth, like a great guitar. We’re not out to scare small children here.

Your “radio voice” doesn’t impress anyone except other disc jockeys. Get over it, and just talk to the listener like you would over lunch together.

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Tommy Kramer
Radio Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2013 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.