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 #274 – Everybody Cares

Over decades of radio, including working with literally hundreds of stations in all different formats, I’ve found that there’s one thing every truly great station has, and the ones that aren’t great don’t have: Everybody cares.

In a station where everybody cares, no sloppy Production is done (or left for someone else to do), attention to detail is a “given”, and bad or uncooperative attitudes are simply not tolerated. You find high-profile, high-level talent, but no prima donnas. Everyone is clear on what the Strategy of the station is, and that strategy is carried out on every level, from the person answering the phones to the General Manager.

That may sound pretty obvious, but if it’s so “obvious”, why don’t more stations have it?

Here’s the deciding factor: if even ONE person DOESN’T care, that poison gas will eventually affect the whole staff.
Example: a person who voice tracks a show when he or she could have done it live leads to another jock, who puts in MORE effort, feeling unappreciated – especially if the one with a better work ethic is making less money. And then the dominoes start to fall. Resentment sets in, grudges are held, communication stops – and in the communication BUSINESS, that’s a killer.

I walk into stations sometimes where you can’t HEAR the station at all. No audio coming from speakers in the hallways, deathly quiet offices, no “buzz” about what’s happening on the air. This drives me crazy. If YOU don’t care enough to listen to your own station, why should anyone else?

Just this past week, a PD of a major market station told me that her afternoon jock had scheduled a doctor’s appointment for one of his kids DURING HIS AIR SHIFT – which is only THREE hours – and voice-tracked his show that day. This should not be tolerated. Those three hours should be blocked out as untouchable by anything else.
So that station is doomed. Dead Man Walking.
Disclaimer: Yes, I realize that there are exceptions, and I’m not urging you to violate HR concerns. Your kid woke up sick, and that was the only time you could get him in to see the doctor, or a single parent scenario not giving you any options. But this wasn’t one of those instances. This was just someone electing – with other options available – to knock out his show when there was alarming weather coming in and Traffic complications that it would cause, and he should have been on live.

So from a coaching standpoint, here’s the bottom line: simply CARE. Infuse the other air talents around you to care – about their performance on the air, their Production, their interest in comparing notes and listening to each other and always trying to get better. And make that your default setting, with NO exceptions.

Because in the end, winners and losers are often decided by who cares the most.

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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 Coaching Tip #273 – That’s How Dogs Live

If you have a dog, you know this to be true: most dogs lie around waiting for something to happen, then – and usually ONLY then – they get up off their duffs and JOIN you. Dogs are eager to participate, but they’re not usually self-starters. My best friend’s two dogs lie around on the bed until one of us goes into the kitchen, or outside, then they LEAP off the bed, ready to join in on the sandwich I’m making, or if I go outside, run out the door with me to do whatever they think I want to do (which apparently is bark at squirrels).

Waiting for something to happen, then joining in. That describes a lot of air talents today, content to just do the basics, promote something, say some nebulous “glad to be a part of your day” language, then go back to looking at their Facebook pages while the song plays. But that’s how dogs live.

Pick a subject, think up an angle on it that’s personally revealing and entertaining, then open the mic and DO SOMETHING.

A talent who’s just spewing out the artist’s name and the song title, or doing some generic liner, is pretty much just a waste of time. Honestly, I’d rather you just play the sound effect of a dog barking. That would be more entertaining.

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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 Coaching Tip #272 – Don’t Try To Make It “More”

I’m really saying this a lot in sessions these days: “Do something today that you haven’t done before.”

My friend Don Godman is one of the people I hit with that thought recently. And the first attempt he sent me was really quite good, except for one fatal flaw:

Coming out of the weather guy doing the forecast, Don said, “It’s really hot – 99 – and it’s supposed to be even hotter…”
Then we heard the sound of a refrigerator door opening and the unmistakable ‘hum’ of it, as he added “In fact, I’m just gonna do the rest of the show from this freezer. Awww…that feels so good…”

Really cute. It caught the ear, surprised us, and his inflection was perfect. So GO! Right there!

But no; he continued with “Very nice. You know I think I may be suffering from something called Post-Traumatic Thinking of Heat Overreacting,” and then went hopping down that bunny trail for another sentence that led to a more obvious, theoretically “bigger” ending.

But that never works. You can never have another moment of ‘discovery’ as powerful as the first one. Had he stopped with that delicious “Awww…that feels so good” thing and the little chuckle in his voice that ‘flavored’ it, then he’d have done the perfect break.

The lesson is simply “Don’t try to make it ‘more’.” Less is more. And more is too much.

The reason those scenes in movies that we all remember are so great is that, unlike real-life conversations, they’re EDITED.

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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 Coaching Tip #271 – If You Can’t Do a Short Break, You Can’t Do a Long Break

As we continue to hear the buzz word “stories”, it seems to me that people are talking more, but not necessarily being all that interesting. Every movie is edited. Every book is edited (usually multiple times). Highlights are watched more than actual games. Top 10 lists are the vogue, not Top 100 lists. Stand-up comics start with a good 10 minutes, not a 90-minute HBO special.

The cardinal sin in radio is wasting people’s time. And from a coaching standpoint, believe this: if you can’t do a short break, you can’t do a long break. Most people tend to wander around, stagger into “related” thoughts that can easily take us off the main road into the forest somewhere, and instead of taking the First Exit – the first place where there’s a “reveal” of some sort or where the subject resolves – they keep trying to top themselves or fire more bullets into a dead body.

Try this for a month: not letting any “Content” break or story take longer than 40-60 seconds. Only after you MASTER that length should you do anything longer. And even then, my rule is “Take as long as you need, but be as brief as you can.”

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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 Coaching Tip #270 – Something You Haven’t Done Before

Here’s how you jump start (or reignite) your creativity: Do something tomorrow that you haven’t done before.

I say this a lot to talents who are “pleasant” but not really creating anything memorable on their shows. And I don’t really care what that “something” is. The point is to go where you haven’t gone before; to add another arrow to your quiver.

The reply is usually “Like what?”
ANYTHING besides “same old – same old”. I don’t care if you whistle the song, or it can be just a remark or observation that stretches the boundaries of what you’ve been doing. Failure to grow creatively SHOULD result in diminished listenership. We OWE it to the listener to try and get better, expand the envelope of what he or she expects to hear, and continue to surprise. (OBSERVATION is the key. Look at the things around you, and comment on the ones that connect with your listener’s life. Simple.)

You’ll be amazed at the results. The feedback you get will be more active and connected. More synapses will start firing in your brain. Ideas beget MORE ideas.

So I say again: Do something tomorrow that you haven’t done before. It’s the only way to “stretch” and get to the next level.

Then the next day, AGAIN do something that you haven’t done before. Rinse and repeat, EVERY day until I say “Stop.” That’ll be about 30 years from now.

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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 Coaching Tip #269 – The Assembly Line Mentality: A Voice-Tracking Tip

No doubt about it, voice-tracking isn’t going away anytime soon. But it sure makes people lazy. However, there’s no reason why a voice-tracked MusicRadio show can’t sound like it’s live.

But what happens often is that a jock sits down and thinks “I’ve got to fill 28 breaks” (or whatever the number is), and plows through them as fast as possible.

So here’s a tried-and-true method for voice-tracking that makes it pretty easy to still do a viable show:

Step one is to lay out what you HAVE to do (promoting things, etc.) and slot those in. Separate them by half an hour or so, to avoid doing two “informational” breaks in a row.
Then, take a look at whatever Content you’ve brought to the table, and slot those breaks in. What you have to do first; what you WANT to do second.

Step two is vital – track ONE hour, then STOP and listen to that hour’s breaks, all in a row. If you spot a mistake that needs correcting, or a break where you weren’t at your best or just sort of “mailed it in”, recut them as needed. ONLY THEN should you move to the next hour of tracking.

This few minutes of Quality Control will perform a dual function. Not only will you make subpar breaks sparkle, and in some cases more concise (and therefore more digestible), but that little “rest stop” gives the right side of the brain a chance to “recharge” itself, so instead of going into the next hour running out of gas, you have a fresh burst of creative energy. It’s a “pit stop” to make you ready to WIN again.

Every single time you open the mic, you have a chance to connect with the listener, whether it’s just giving some information, or conveying the “presence” of your being right here beside me, listening to the song, too – or Entertaining me with some little quip or remark. If I (as a listener) think you’re just hammering out breaks with little or no caring behind them, that’s not going to draw me any closer to you…and that means you wasted opportunities to bond with me. That, my friend, would be a real shame.

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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 Coaching Tip #268 – We’re Creatures of Habit, and that’s not good

We all fall into habits, and one I’ve heard a LOT recently is an air talent rattling off the “basics” (name of the station, artist, maybe the song title, the time), then saying his or her name LAST as you “gird your loins” (or gather yourself) to do Content.

The problem with this (besides being lazy) is that the listener learns to recognize this on a subconscious level, so you’re – by definition – NOT doing the unexpected.

Look, we can have a conversation that flows naturally, or we can serve up an agenda of a habitual group of words. This choice is crucial.

And if it sounds in any way like you’re just in “autopilot” mode at the beginning of a break, that sameness from break to break does the opposite of piquing someone’s interest in what follows.

There’s a deeper view of this, too. Except for saying the name of the station the first thing out of your mouth (which I believe is essential – that “branding” thing), all the other elements should vary from break to break. Sameness breeds boredom. Mixing things up just a bit makes what you’re saying be more readily received by the listener (on an unconscious level) as NEW information. It’s science, and it’s the way God made us. So get off your duff and work at this; it will actually make a difference. Radio is doing a great job right now of holding a gun to its head and saying “Stand back or I’ll shoot.” We need every little advantage we can get.

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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 Coaching Tip #267 – KNOW Your Voice

Most air talents assume that if you’re on the air, you must have a good voice. But in reality, about half the people on the air in every format I hear have taken that for granted, and stunted their growth.

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some pretty impressive voice actors that you hear on national commercials, station Imaging, and movie trailers every day. And universally, the ones who are the most successful have really studied what makes them unique, and how to fully use the vocal tools at hand.

Here’s what I mean…the other day, I was listening to a female air talent who literally said everything in what would be about a 4-note range if I played the pitch of each word on a piano. I also heard a male air talent the same week who talks so fast, you wonder if he just drank 17 cups of coffee before he got on the air. Then there’s the “growler” that does the station imaging on the Classic Rock station here in Shreveport. Every word that ends a sentence is exactly the same pitch, and he always goes DOWN in pitch at the end. He thinks he’s making an impact, and he’s right – I want to hit him in the forehead with a mallet every time he speaks.

The female voice has unique challenges, too. Being generally more limited in range and volume than the male voice, it’s easy to sound whiny or strident.

The male voice – especially if it’s a “big” voice, can easily sound either mad or tired.

KNOW your voice. Learn your dynamics. Hone your skills. Learn what to avoid. Master varied approaches. Become a competent voice actor. It may sound rudimentary, but if your voice isn’t appealing, it won’t matter what you say.

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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 Coaching Tip #266 – Throw Me Into the Pool

If you’re having trouble getting into Content, well, don’t feel like the Lone Ranger. Every air talent either struggles with this at some point, or worse, doesn’t know yet that they’re struggling with it. : (

There’s lots of coaching available on this, including my own. We’ve all heard the “Headline first, then tell the rest of the story” thing, for example. And there’s tons of stuff about how to construct a story, how to physically lay out a story in just bullet points, etc., and what a great ending should be.

But here’s the problem: You don’t really know until you know. Human beings may become aware of things and intellectually understand them through reading and talking with people about them, but in the long run, we really only learn through experience – trial and error.

So let me try and help you with the single most important step in doing any sort of Content on the air – the way it starts. My friend Brian Yeager sent a break to me the other day in the aftermath of the 4th of July that began this way:

“I’m not proud of what I did, but…I mean, you know what it’s like. The folks that are up all night after the 4th of July blowin’ off the leftover fireworks…I mean, that’s what it was last night at my house. I recorded a little bit of it; you’ve gotta hear this…”
Then he went on to play the sounds of loud fireworks exploding and his daughter’s chihuahua being completely freaked out by them – and his letting the dog go, which chased off the guy doing the fireworks, complete with our hearing “get this dog off me!” It was really imaginative, and the use of sound made it three dimensional and ultra-visual.

He asked me what I thought before he aired it, and I texted back:
“Good, but the beginning is just about you (the first sentence was “I’m not proud of what I did”) and it kind of lurches along for a few seconds. Just start with “Here’s what happened last night,” and hit the sound effects. From there on, it’s fine.”

Like a lot of people, he just couldn’t get “traction” for a few seconds. (And fyi, one of my basic rules is to not start with “I – me – my” stuff – which is just you talking about you – and instead, either start with the Subject first, then tell your story, or start with the Listener first, then tell your story.)

So the key challenge here is to stop wasting words in overly elaborate setups, and get on into the Subject as concisely as you can.

It’s kind of like swimming lessons. In an episode of “The Big Bang Theory,” Sheldon Cooper says he learned to swim by watching videos online. But of course, that’s not swimming. He’d learn more quickly if somebody just threw him into the pool.

And a lot of the time, that’s what works best on the air, too. Just throw the listener into the pool – put the listener IN the story, then move on. Try it. You’ll save a lot of time, and as we now know, you really only have a few seconds to connect with the listener. Be expedient.

The first version of Brian’s break was 1:06 long. The version he did on the air, with the slimmed down intro, was only 55 seconds. ELEVEN full seconds cut out, and the break was actually better for it.

Here it is:

By the way, Brian is remarkable in that he’s not even a regular on-air talent. He’s the general manager of the station, and was just filling in on morning drive!

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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 Coaching Tip #265 – Prep Tip: The 3 Questions

Here’s one of my primary tips for show prep, The 3 Questions. If you’ve read my “5 Subjects” tip, you already know the five categories of Content that will ALWAYS work (besides the obvious “station things” that will always be in the mix, like promoting events or features, etc.). But “The 5 Subjects” should be filtered through these three questions before you put them on the air:

1. Why is it on? “Because it’ll be funny” is NOT the answer. “Because I want to talk about it” is a truly terrible answer. Be sure about this — something should be on because either {A} the listener already has it on her/his mind, or {B} because the listener NEEDS to know about it, but may not have heard about it yet. Yes, there are other things, things that “grow out of the show”, which is the 5th item in the “5 Subjects” tip, but let’s keep our eye on the things that make you relevant first.

2. Where am I going with it? If you’ve read any of my stuff before, you know this is all about your unique “camera angle” on a given subject, and that you want to have a unique “destination” for what you do, not just settle for a typical ending that ANYONE could do.

3. What does it mean to my listener, right here, today? This is partly about being local, of course – and great local beats great syndicated almost every time. However, I’ve also worked with many syndicated shows and networks, so in those cases, it’s impossible to be local. So the bottom line is that what you’ve DONE with that subject has to RESONATE with the listener. Simply “covering” something isn’t enough. You have to connect with the listener; there has to be substance to it – even if it’s funny. In a nutshell, it’s about creating “memorable moments” – because the show with the most memorable moments will inevitably win.

Give some thought to upgrading your prep if you haven’t considered these three questions. Because someone else will if you won’t.

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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.