Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #575: How the Jack Benny Format Applies to Radio Today

If you’ve never heard it (or seen his TV show on some classic channel), the Jack Benny Show was groundbreaking in its day. And it still has a basic formula that I assure you WILL work today: he made everyone else the star.

Whether it was his announcer, his wife, a singer, a guest, or any other cast member, Benny was quite willing to take a back seat. He never minded being the butt of a joke, overshadowed by another comedian, or made to look like a fool.

The result? People LOVED HIM. Yes, him. They liked the other cast members, too, but people felt sympathy for – or empathy with – him.

I can’t stress how important this was in my own career, and how many people I’ve coached to use this technique. It always works.

Put your ego aside.

The more you willingly give the spotlight to someone else, the more people will like you.

One caution: In a team show environment, remember that the “side people” can’t completely take over the show. The headliner still has to shine, too.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2024 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #574: The Best Phone Call Tip

Music format or Talk format – it doesn’t matter. There’s a real art to creating a phone call “culture” – which I’ve written some about before. But the actual taking of a phone call (or airing one live) can often be messed up in the first few seconds.

Here’s how to avoid that, in two easy steps:

  1. Greet (or bring on) the caller.
  2. Then SHUT UP.

From that beginning, you can then move on to wherever the call needs to go.

Here’s why I recommend this – most phone calls go awry when I can’t hear what the caller is saying. Two people talking at the same time (or one being buried by the phone interface) is unlistenable.

Note: I strongly urge shows in music formats to always tape and edit phone calls before they get on the air.

For Talk formats, live calls are even more likely to suffer when there’s talkover. Be Patient. A second or two of dead air won’t matter if the call is good.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2024 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #573: The Road to Brevity

Brevity is the most useful skill you can develop.

Sadly, instead of brevity, we often get bloviating. So let me help you with what I recently wrote in a coaching session recap…

Thinking “How few words can I use to say this?” is the road to brevity. As you police yourself to get rid of repetition and edit yourself better, your longer breaks will actually stand out more, as a result. (Funny how that works.)

Making a point – ONE point – succinctly is hard for some air talents, but one salient point is all the listener is going to remember, so why not make it the only point?
Your show will then unfold in segments, “episodes” that you’re sharing with the Listener today. Each “scene” a part of the whole. A new movie each day, made up of what you, in your life, share with the listener’s life.

All the other Content is comprised of what you have to do – promoting things the station is doing, contests, etc.

If you want to make it easy for yourself, this is how. And it’s easy!

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2024 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #572: The Barbecue Test

Here’s a quick way to measure or grade your on-air performance: Is what you’re saying something you’d say at a backyard barbecue to a person you just met?

If it’s not, then why are you saying it?

“Too inside” is a disease. You potentially have a new person tuning in for the first time right now. What are you going to say to welcome that person in? And more importantly, what will you say that compels that person to stick around today, or come back tomorrow?

The simplest, shortest break you do may the one that catches that listener’s attention; that makes him or her think, “This person is like me.”

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2024 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #571: In the Mood

Moods matter. Some shows I’ve heard recently have one – but ONLY one.

We’re humans. We have moods – all sorts of different ones, each day. So, the challenge for you is to not just plaster on a veneer every day, but to have a definable mood to each show.

Tip: Reflect the mood around you – what you feel at home, or when you stop at a store for coffee, or at the place where you work. Feed off that. Let it guide you to be in step with the Listener.

When I sense that you feel what I’m feeling, we bond. And as I always say, we’re not paid by the word; we’re paid by the connection.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2024 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #570: All That Matters is What Matters

Here’s a quick check of your Content: I believe that all that matters is what matters.

If you’re just doing “fluff” bits, even if something creates a chuckle, it’s not necessarily gonna make someone come back tomorrow. But that person probably will if you’re the best at talking about what matters to him or her.

Don’t misunderstand me – this doesn’t mean that you have to be “news-ish” or boringly serious all the time. That would go against everything I believe in. If you can make people laugh, that’s a great skill. I’m just saying that if you’re funny about what matters to the listener – the situation that he or she can identify with – not just a Subject that just fell out of the sky, you’ll be much better.

This was a hard lesson for me to learn in my own on-air career. But the great Lee Abrams, my Program Director in both Chicago and Cleveland, said to me one day, “Tommy, you can’t try to be funny every break.” That was a key building block in what I became, and in what I coach today.

EVERY mood is welcome – as long as it matters. And being truly Entertaining certainly isn’t just about punch lines.

Focus. What is your listener waiting to hear your ‘take’ on today?

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2024 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #569: Conquering the “One Speed” Thing

“Ear fatigue” can be caused by many different things. I want to refocus on one that I’m hearing way too much – the “one set speed” delivery. It doesn’t seem to matter if the song is “having a stroke” fast or “worm crawling” slow, the air talent is at one speed all the time. No variation. It’s boring. That person is a time filler, rather than a true personality.

(To be fair, this is often the result of a P. D. talking about “momentum”, which is a different thing, and isn’t dependent on speed.)

Anyway, in music formats, the cure to the “one speed” disease is really easy: Your delivery should match the Pace, or the Mood, of the song you’re talking over or coming out of. (Ideally, you’d do both.)

And for my Talk radio friends and clients – you should also watch falling into one set speed. Different subjects require different deliveries. They have a best pace or vibe, too.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2024 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #568: The “Me Too” thing for Radio

Years ago, when I was riding my Brontosaurus to work, I was paired with a partner named Rick “The Beamer” Robertson to do a morning team show in Dallas. I drove there from Louisiana to talk to the P. D. about the gig, and met Rick for the first time when he arrived about a half-hour later. The first thing he did was to stick out his to shake, and say, “Hi, I’m Rick, your mail-order bride.”
I knew we were going to get along.

The station, sadly, wasn’t that great, but we worked hard to have a great morning show, and did well. It was a lot of fun.

But here’s where you get something to think about…

There was a galvanizing moment a couple of weeks into the job, when Rick and I had breakfast together after the show. (We did this regularly, and it’s something I recommend.) We were going over some stuff that worked well that morning, and Rick pointed out that when I talked about something personal, we got a lot of “Me, too” reactions. (And those listeners’ stories.)

Beamer was laugh-out-loud hilarious, but more performative. Over the next few weeks, we used his lightning-fast wit and a couple of performance bits, but we made a point of diving into his personal life quite a bit.

Frankly, he didn’t like this at first, but I explained it to him this way:

(1) My family and friends all knew that if they didn’t want something on the air, they shouldn’t let me know about it. Everything, every day, was fair game for Content on the air.

(2) The show couldn’t be just about us. It needed to be about ALL of us. To get people to reveal things about themselves, we talked about what we felt.

It worked really well for him, and brought out things in Rick that made him more familiar and three-dimensional.

That’s the lesson: The reaction that you want is “Me, too. That’s how I feel.”

Note: there’s a trick to this. If you just come across as always talking about yourself, that’s not good. So how do you avoid that, but still share? Specific techniques that, once you master them, lead easily to a “reveal” is a big part of my coaching. If you read these tips regularly, you’ll spot the Easter eggs.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2024 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #567: A Lesson from Bobby Flay

“Beat Bobby Flay” is one of my wife’s favorite TV shows, and watching it the other night, a thought struck me.

The format is that two chefs compete with each other to see who then goes up against Bobby Flay. Then Flay has to make that chef’s standout dish, and it’s amazing how many times Bobby wins. (Then again, he is an Iron Chef. He was the first American chef to compete in the original Iron Chef competition in Japan, and he defeated the great Masaharu Morimoto – not an easy thing to do.)

Anyway, the interesting part came in the first round, when it was a hard decision to pick which chef would go forward to face Bobby. The person who lost, as he was exiting, said that he didn’t look at like he failed. He said, “It’s not failure; it’s learning.”

This is a thing I constantly use in coaching when I have to correct something, or point out a fundamental error. WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES. But what you LEARN from a mistake determines how well your career will go.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2024 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #566: Speaking Well = Success and Respect

Okay, this tip is for radio and TV talent, but it’s also kind of for life in general.

I wholly believe that if you want to be successful – and be respected – the key is speaking well. This will get you ahead in almost any profession, but I believe it especially applies to radio and TV.

In my work with hundreds of on-air talents, and particularly with the TV personalities I’ve coached, we stress two essential ingredients:

1. You should have a wide and expansive vocabulary. Falling back on stock phrases over and over again just makes you sound like you can’t think of another way to say something. And clichés are called clichés for a reason. Today’s cool new phrase is tomorrow’s “Okay, boomer” dismissal.

2. You should also have (or develop) the ability to choose just the right words ‘in the moment’ as you’re talking. Prep is one thing, but being live under fire is another.

No matter what profession you work in, but especially in any media format, there’s no advantage to sounding undereducated. Like NFL Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson said, “The next time I draft a dumb player, hit me over the head with a hammer.”

That’s not what you want them to feel about you.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2024 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.