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 #318 – Where You NEVER Want to Go

In essence, the air talent’s job is to take us somewhere…a journey, from beginning to end. One break at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time.

As you do, either you leave a mental “imprint” on the listener, or you just go by unnoticed, a mosquito making a noise in the background.

While there have been tons of books written about this, one thought, originally from the great acting coach Stella Adler, and used to perfection by my friend Valerie Geller in the Talk radio world, sums it all up: Never be boring.

Stella Adler put it this way:
“You can’t be boring. Life is boring. The weather is boring. Actors must not be boring.”

There’s an easy way to avoid being boring. Simply ask yourself this: “What do I have to offer that won’t be ‘typical’?” Because THAT is what will set you apart from almost everyone else across the dial.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #317 – Storytelling: It’s all about the Ending

“Telling stories” is the mantra nowadays. And to a degree, that’s good. But…

The story has to actually be interesting. And there should be some definable Emotion at its core.

It also shouldn’t be too long. People are in the car. They’re not going to stay in the car because your story is so wonderful. They have things to do, meetings to attend, a job to show up on time for. And when the drive ends, listening to you ends.

And here’s the biggest factor – I spent all this time listening to your story, then the ending of it left me flat. We hear way too much of this nowadays, because storytelling is an ART, not just an exercise. Most people’s stories are boring, or longwinded, or repetitive, or have a “dud” ending, or try to “tie everything up with a neat bow around it” – or all of those things.

So the best way to really start developing the art of telling stories is to remember that IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ENDING.

My friend John Frost’s youngest daughter, when she first started telling stories to her friends, learned this from John, so she developed the habit of no matter what the story was, ending it with “…and then I found five dollars.”

At 9 or 10 years old, she had the magic ingredient – the Ending had a “twist” that the listener didn’t see coming.

Not all stories should end with something that dramatic or funny. Some stories just need a “resolution” – but even then, air talents often try to make it too “big” and miss the point. All you need is just a conclusion based on observance, or a “reveal” of some sort, not some massive “the moral of the story is…” type of thought, or “overview” of some principle.

Here’s how you hone this skill: Whatever you’re going to talk about, think of how it’ll end FIRST. Write it down, if you need to. Once you know where you’re going, you’ll travel in more of a straight line, and it’ll guide the “arc” of the story and shape the language that you’ll use. It’s SO simple, but like many things I coach, it’s deceptively simple. It takes vision, and it takes discipline. But those are what you OWE the listener. No one wants to hear an overly long story with an ending that’s a letdown.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #316 – The Difference Between You and Us

An extremely well-known morning show host once said about his team show, “We just have a conversation. The listeners just eavesdrop.”

I know that’s what he honestly believed, but it’s an incomplete thought. However, since they were quite successful, a lot of people thought that was right. Here’s why it’s not:

There’s a huge difference between a “You”-centered show and an “Us-centered” show. If it’s ONLY about you, it’s just not as strong as it could be. A show about you AND me (the listener) is a much more powerful goal.

What happened was his show actually was about the listener, too, but since the members of the team were entertaining (and having a good time), they got very “in the room” and talked about themselves both first and most. The result is that the fans they already have love it, but non-fans have no “port of entry” to BECOME fans. To a new listener, it can easily seem too “inside”. So as successful as they are, they’re not as successful as they could be.

Think about this: one day, there’s going to be another school shooting. Or (God forbid), there might be another plane flying into a building. Or wildfires are going to break out all over the state. Or a flood, or a tornado…

Then you’d BETTER be about Us, because none of your “in the control room” stuff is going to mean anything.

However, if you’re in the HABIT of thinking “us” all the time, those drastic or terrible events aren’t going to be a big shift in your show’s paradigm. You will have already developed the skills to know how to easily deal with something that affects ALL of us.

Great shows make everything sound easy. They don’t just talk about themselves. And they always picture the listener right next to them, and include her (or him) in the conversation, even though the listener isn’t saying anything at the moment.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tp #315 – More on the “You Second” Technique

If you want to make contact with the listener instantly, you don’t talk about yourself first.

For some reason, this concept that I’ve been teaching for over twenty years gives people problems. Because in real life, it’s natural to talk to a friend by starting with yourself (“I saw this movie the other night…”), we assume that this is the way radio conversations should begin.

But that’s not very effective, because (1) often – most of the time, actually – the reaction is “So? What does that have to do with Me?” And (2) real-life conversations are face-to-face. Radio isn’t.

We all know that person that constantly talks about himself (or herself). That’s the one we tend to avoid at a party.

So what I’ve coached over the years is to either start with the Subject first, or start by referencing the Listener first in some way, THEN weigh in with your “take” on it, or tell your story.

Simple. But also a little counterintuitive. People simply don’t HEAR themselves doing it wrong. So let me try to help with a couple of examples:

The other day, I heard a personality kick off a break by saying, “We were driving home yesterday, and we went past the corner of Grand Avenue and Thomas; they’re doing some road construction there now.”

First it’s all about you, and then, instead of telling me what happened, you add “left brain” facts. These “cars on the train” are in the wrong order.

Subject first:
“They’re doing some construction work at Grand Avenue and Thomas. We went past it yesterday driving home…” Now the story can continue seamlessly, since “the data” has already been given. Putting yourself in as the second “slide” in the projector makes it easy to just roll on.

Listener first:
“You’ve probably seen the mess at Grand Avenue and Thomas. We drove past it yesterday on the way home…”

See how easy it is? My ears (as a listener) perk up because I’ve been referenced. Then, with no clutter, the break flows right into your perspective.

This is just basic sentence structure stuff, really.
Remember, you’re not paid by the joke. You’re not paid by the word. You’re paid by the CONNECTION.
This “You second” thing will help you connect IMMEDIATELY. Your story still gets told, but without that constant little “I am the center of universe” vibe.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #314 – How to Make Interviews and Phone Calls Not Suck

It’s not exactly a news flash that most recorded interviews and phone calls are pretty much a big yawn. Here’s why:

Pressed for time, it’s easy to let things slide. With an artist interview, a lot of people think they’re sacrosanct – you shouldn’t edit them too severely, because the artist is deigning to speak to you from the mountain top.

But of course, the truth is that most musical artists are mediocre to terrible interviews, going through the motions because the label told them they need to do them, and they don’t know anything about radio. So they speak to “the fans” or “the people out there” or “you guys” – plural terms that, by definition, can’t come across as one-on-one – or they treat the listeners like they’re just faceless members of a teeming throng that’s only there to fawn over them and buy tickets to the show. They don’t mean to come across like this; they just haven’t been taught anything. So we get the “Hello, Cleveland!” mentality. (I’m not Cleveland. I’m just me.)

Phone calls, for some reason, aren’t held to high standards by most jocks either. Most on-air people think that everything needs to be “self-contained” in the call, when in reality, you can say something LIVE, you know, then just use a short excerpt from the call that adds more. Rinse and repeat, using only the best sound bites from the call.

Artist interview clips, like phone calls, are just the raw materials. The finished product is only present after you’ve taken out redundancies, and made everything concise. And in my experience of working with hundreds of stations and somewhere around 1700 individual air talents, only about 3% of them take the time to do the editing required to make an interview or listener call MEMORABLE.

Edit. Then edit again. Rearrange portions of the audio if you need to, so it makes sense and flows forward. It only takes a couple of minutes to turn “average” into “excellent”. HONE YOUR CRAFT. It’ll make a huge difference.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #313 – Two Ways to be a Talent “Investigator”

In the last tip, I wrote about baseball pitcher David Cone, who said, “I always believed pitchers need to be searchers, mound ‘investigators’ who determine the best pitch to throw, and the best way to throw it. Then (be able to) do that again and again.”

The first way to become an “investigator” is to get coaching. But if your Program Director isn’t very good at coaching (and sadly, some aren’t), or the station can’t or won’t spend money to get a qualified Talent Coach, there are still two things you can do on your own:

1. Listen to other air talent. The Ticket in Dallas has the best morning show and the best afternoon show I’ve ever heard in Sports radio, for example. For an incredible openness and real savvy in how to use social media to make things from the show go viral, listen to my friend Johnjay Van Es on the Johnjay and Rich Show in Phoenix (and other markets). If you can get audio from the past, listen to the legends from the Drake format days (Dave Diamond on KFRC in San Francisco, Robert W. Morgan from KHJ in Los Angeles, Hudson & Harrigan from KILT in Houston, Jeff and Jer on B100 in San Diego, Dan Ingram on WCBS in New York, and the great Ron Chapman from his days on KVIL in Dallas.

See what they do, what strengths they have (or had), what you can take from them and use.

2. Listen regularly to YOUR show. Pretend it’s someone else, and think “Would I stay with this?” “Is there anything new here, or is it just the same basic show I heard yesterday or last week?”

At least once a week, you should listen to yourself. Try to pick up on repetitious phrases, lags in momentum, and most importantly, whether or not you would compel a new listener to come back for more.

In the old days, we used to use cassette tapes to record each day’s show, which I would always take to listen in the car on my way home. Now it’s even easier with a computer or mobile device to log into the system and hear what you did. But that’s only an advantage if you USE it.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #312 – A Lesson From David Cone

If you don’t know who David Cone is, listen to this…

In 1956, Don Larsen pitched the only perfect game in World Series history. That’s 27 batters up, 27 batters down. 9 innings of no hits, no walks, no one getting on by virtue of an error. In the 140 years of Major League Baseball, there have only been 23 perfect games. And only Larsen did it in the World Series.

On July 18th, 1999, it was “Yogi Berra Day” at Yankee Stadium in New York. Their legendary catcher, Berra, showed up for the game and caught the ceremonial first pitch before the game FROM Don Larsen. (Berra was his catcher in the World Series perfect game.) Then the game started, and David Cone, with Larsen and Berra watching, threw a perfect game!

In his new book, “Full Count”, Cone talks about what it takes to become a topnotch major league pitcher:

“I always believed pitchers need to be searchers, mound ‘investigators’ who determine the best pitch to throw, and the best way to throw it. Then (be able to) do that again and again.”

That pretty much describes every great air talent I’ve ever heard or coached, regardless of format. But the question is, “Does it describe you?”

If you’re not trying to get better, you’ll get worse. If you’re not trying to police, then change, bad habits, you’ll sound out of date in no time.

There are two sure-fire ways to go about being an “investigator” on your own, which I’ll outline in the next tip.

If you can’t do it on your own, you need coaching. But this “radio is so over” stuff is c**p. Radio is still vital, entertaining, compelling, and “can’t miss” listening every day, when it’s done right.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #311 – Why Your Imaging is Boring People to Death

Normally, these tips are just to help air talent get better. But it’s getting difficult for people to improve quickly when they only get to talk every third song or so. So if you’re a PD, maybe this is something to consider: Your Imaging is boring people to death.

“The Greatest Hits from the 19th, 20th, and 21st Centuries…on KBRP 99…”

1. No one cares.

2. You just missed an opportunity to have an actual human being who works on the air CONNECT with the listener. It’s amazing what just a simple song intro can do, if the jock is “in the pocket” matching the pace and/or emotional vibe of the song. Plus, maybe he or she could say something meaningful in that time, instead of hearing more carvings from the blarney stone every other song (or even more often, in some dayparts).

“But we want to get the brand out there…”

It is. To the point of exhaustion. Plus, unless your brand is tied to a Reality – a person who sounds like somebody I’d like to know, visiting with me in the car – it’s just another commercial for you. (This is one of the factors in why people say radio plays too many commercials.)

First, try to make your Imaging brief, and fresh-sounding. But then the next step is to let the talent talk more frequently, and push them to do something worth listening to when they do. That’s how great staffs are built.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #310 – Why You Want To Talk To ONE Person

Every time I hear an air talent talk to a “plurality” with words like “folks,” “ladies,” “all of you” (or “some of you”), etc. I want to call them up and do a coaching session right NOW on why this is ineffective.

Maybe you can best understand it through Bob Dylan’s acceptance speech when he received the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature. In part, he said “As a performer, I’ve played for 50,000 people and I’ve played for 50 people, and I can tell you that it is harder to play for 50 people. 50,000 people have a singular persona; not so with 50. (With fifty) they can perceive things more clearly. Your honesty and how it relates to the depth of your talent is tried.” He added, “The fact that the Nobel committee is so small is not lost on me.”

The smaller the target, the more clear the perception, the more you can reveal. “Hello, Cleveland” doesn’t address anyone in particular.

When I worked at a female-targeted station, I just talked to my wife. When I worked a male-targeted station, I talked to my cousin Ricky, who was like a brother to me.

Put a picture of someone who personifies your target listener in the Control Room where you can’t miss it – like taping it to a chair in front of you.

Now….reveal.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #309 – Jump Into The Pool

The other day, during a session, we were talking about what to do for Mother’s Day. I mentioned having my mother do my show one Mother’s Day years ago, and the talent I was working with said, “I could bring my daughter on with me…which she would hate.”

I replied, “And that – her being resistant to it – would be something EVERY listener could identify with.”

Continuing, I suggested that she act out – complete with sound effects – her dragging her daughter into the room. Like…with a chain, scraping across the floor. Dripping with reluctance.

So here’s the lesson: Don’t be afraid to make things theatrical. The more you create that “theater of the mind” thing, where the listener can PICTURE it, the better.

Unlike real life, JUMP INTO THE POOL.
DON’T look to see if there’s any water in it first.
Because all people are going to remember is that you jumped.

Note: My friend Ron Chapman, legendary Dallas morning man, once jumped out of an airplane on the air. THAT was GREAT radio.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.