About tommykramer

Tommy Kramer has spent over 35 years in radio as an on-air talent, Programmer, and Talent Coach, and has worked with over 300 stations in all formats, specializing in coaching morning team shows, but also working with entire staffs. In addition, he works with many premium voice actors that you hear every day on Imaging, Radio and TV commercials, and Hollywood Movie Trailers. Tommy was elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2003. Call Tommy @ 214-632-3090 (iPhone), or email coachtommykramer@gmail.com

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #495: The Value of Nonsense

Here’s a question for you: When’s the last time you did something nonsensical on the air?

I love radio, but most stations I hear nowadays are SO BORING. A bunch of people reading crap off a computer screen. Where’s the creativity in that?

Howard Clark, one of my first and greatest mentors, used to build in goofiness to his show. Howard would quote the lyrics of a song, for instance, like “I never felt more like singin’ the blues” – over a completely different song!

Howard once came out of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” with “…the amazing Funkel brothers, Simon and Gar…”

After starting a song on the wrong speed (back when we used turntables to play records), Howard would simply say, “Every move…carefully planned” as he slowly reset the speed.

Howard personified that ingredient of my never quite knowing what he would say when the mic opened. A reason to listen more closely. And people did.

SURPRISE someone today. Surprise yourself. Take a chance. Jump into the pool without checking to see if there’s any water. People will notice.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #494: Listening to Yourself

It’s absolutely stunning to see how few people listen to their own air work.

Back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, we had “skimmer” cassettes that started recording when the mic went on, and then stopped recording when the mic went off. It was a ‘given’ that I’d take the cassette of that day’s show and listen to it as I drove home from work.

It’s even easier now. You can do it on your phone by just logging into the system.
But very few people do. More than once, I’ve asked someone how often they listen to their show, and all I get at first is a blank stare. Some people NEVER listen to themselves! And as a result, ancient, boring habits remain on the air, the spirit of “How could I have done this better?” doesn’t even exist, and the talent stands still in terms of development.

It’s why I use audio in almost every session, because if you won’t listen to your show without being prompted to do so, I make sure that you hear what I believe you need to hear – both things that need work (or need to be jettisoned entirely) and things that are really good. (Pointing out what you do best is a huge part of my coaching process.)

So, after reading this, some questions:
Is this tip going to make anything different?
Or are you just going to keep on believing that everything’s okay? (Your PD may feel differently.)
And finally, if you don’t care enough to listen to yourself, why should anyone else?

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #493: A Simple Guide to Connecting with the Listener

Each coaching session I do gets a short written recap afterward. I keep it simple, and often include an example from that person’s air work.

Recently, a talent talked about the dreary weather forecast, and noted that it made some people crabby. Then she paused…and added, “Okay, it makes me crabby.”

I sent this in her recap:

Very nice, Sarah. 👏

Opening up and sharing your quirks and foibles will always work. Even if people don’t feel the same way you do, they’ll weigh your feelings against theirs, and that in itself is connection.

Feel free to keep that up.

Hopefully this tip will serve two purposes: (1) it shows how easy it is to pull someone a step closer to you when you’re on the air, and (2) it should take away any fear you have of coaching. That small, but highly connective moment might have gone unnoticed. But to me, it’s the germ of the whole purpose of being on the air – to CONNECT with the Listener.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #492: How to Bake a Story

The promise was that this tip would be about how to put a story together. But my wife watches a lot of cooking shows, so that’s why it has that title.

Here’s how you do it…three steps to lay out.

1. Here’s a person in a situation. YOU decide which person’s “camera angle” you want to use. Is it the guy in the car wreck who’s pinned in his car? Or is it the person who pulls him from it? Is it you?

2. This is what happened, based on that point of view. Be visual, not too info or statistic-driven.

3. This is what that FELT like. Again, you can put yourself in whichever person’s shoes you want. It’s the Emotion that frames what you’ll say.

Stories don’t have to be long, either. Some of the best ones are very brief. True example:
The other day, my wife checked the Weather Channel app on her phone and said “The highest chance of rain we have is five percent.”

I said, “Ever?”

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #491: Where Stories Are Born

In the last tip, I wrote about getting away from Information and concentrating on Storytelling. That tip and this one grew out of an email conversation my associate John Frost and I had with the PD of a station we both work with. Let me share it with you…

It’s kind of like John Lennon wrote in “With a Little Help From My Friends” — “What do you see when you turn out the light?” was his question. For our purposes, it’s simply, “What do you see?”

When we’re in the grocery store, watching someone pick out a tomato with one hand while she holds her child’s stroller with the other. Or just staring out the window, and we see a leaf fall that signals the season changing. Or getting an email or text from an old friend you haven’t heard from in a long time. What catches our attention is the starting place. That’s where a story is born. Baseball great Yogi Berra said it best: “You can observe a lot by watching.”

I believe, and I’m sure Frost agrees, that telling stories is the most important ingredient in radio.
The next tip will be about how to put a story together.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #490: Information is Not a Story

Information and Stories are totally different. Yes, we use information in the telling of a story, but in coaching talent on storytelling, I’ve often found that they often do one or more of these three things:

(1) overshoot, trying to dress up so-called stories from Facebook or the internet that the listener may not care about at all,
(2) choose “stories” that are too full of factoids and details, or
(3) invent not-quite-plausible scenarios as a way to get in a line they thought of and were determined to use.

So here’s the deal:

Everything you and the listener have in common has a story behind it, and new stories get added to that memory pile every day – if you’re smart enough to capitalize on them.

“Just the facts, ma’am” is a police report. What happened, and the emotion(s) generated by that = a story.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #489: The Invisible Mic

This tip was birthed by a comment from Randy Fox of KSBJ in Houston. (If you’re not familiar with them, suffice it to say that it’s easily one of the Top 3 stations in the Contemporary Christion Music format, with a huge, devoted audience.)

During a recent session, Randy pinpointed a real strength of Morgan Smith, who does afternoons, saying “She makes the microphone invisible.”

What a nice compliment. That intimacy, where it just feels like a friend is talking to you, is – to me – essential, if you want to be a great talent.

Share something, sure, and if you’re excited, show that. But don’t try to be “bigger” or louder than a normal, animated conversation. Make the mic disappear.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #488: The Biggest, but Simplest Content Thought

Let’s make this easy, and get to the real core of how to be a terrific air talent.

Your job is to share what you see about, and what you feel about the things you have in common with the listener.

Everything else is just nuts and bolts. If you don’t have the ability to zero in on what matters most to the listener, then you need to run, not walk, to your PD and find out who your target listener is.

When you can visualize what’s going on in the listener’s life, you can be relevant and worth listening to. If you can’t, and just talk about what interests you, then you’re a disposable commodity, not a “must listen” talent. Even worse is the real “show about nothing” (Seinfeld’s show wasn’t really that; it was a show about what that generation was like in the 1990s.) When you’re just talking about “click bait” stuff you see online or on social media, you’re just another drone.

If you settle for that, you’re turning your back on what will make you stand out. And you’re helping to make radio boring.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #487: Jokes Aren’t Funny

Radio has changed quite a bit over the last 20 years. Social media, instant access to information through your cell phone, nine thousand channels and video streaming sources have changed subject matter and how it’s delivered.

But radio is still capable of being the most personal medium there is. However, if I had to choose one thing to tell you, it would be “Jokes aren’t funny anymore.”

It’s hard to try to be funny when comedy is so readily available. Turn on the TV and you can almost always find Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond, Modern Family…and the list goes on forever. There are clips of every comic ever born on You Tube, too.

So, don’t do “jokes”. Do LIFE. What makes people laugh is always just what they can see themselves doing, or someone they know. People are just flat out funny – whether they mean to be or not. Once in Dallas when rain was pouring down, my morning show partner Rick “The Beamer” Robertson and I used “Singin’ in the Rain” instead of the Weather jingle bed to do the forecast over, and at the end, we broke into song.

A few minutes later, his mother called, and said, “Rick, you’re funny, honey; you really are…but let Tommy do the singing!”

Rick reacted like an eight-year old, “Aww, mom…”

Now THAT was funny.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #486: The Phone Rings

To a degree, acting is part of what we do. I talk a lot about this in coaching sessions, and give an example of a bad actor versus a good actor:

The bad actor “shades” toward the desk as he talks, knowing that the phone is going to ring.
The good actor just says what he has to say, and the stupid phone interrupts him.

When you’re on the radio, the “visual” is created by the listener. But what you say and the way you sound paints the picture, too. Be more than just “a voice saying words” or reading something off a computer screen. Give me something genuine.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.