Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #497: Not Sounding Like a Moron, Part 1 – The Echo

Little things matter, because the listener is continuously forming an opinion of you as he or she listens.

One overlooked deejay thing is what I call “The Echo” – where you say the title of a song the last thing out of your mouth, then the song begins by singing that title. “Why would that matter?” you may ask. Well, that could send the message to the listener that you somehow didn’t know how the song began, or maybe you forgot – otherwise, you wouldn’t have put it back-to-back with the vocal repeating what you said.

Centuries ago at KNUS in Dallas, various members of the air staff would get together casually and listen to airchecks of each other. It was good-natured; we all liked each other. When the “echo” thing came up once, I stopped the audio and said to my friend, “That kind of makes you sound like a moron.”
He replied, “I wouldn’t say that.”
I teased, “I know YOU wouldn’t say that, but…” – and we all burst into laughter. But then we all agreed that we would consciously avoid “the Echo”. It became one of dozens of “rules” we formed in order to not sound like every other ‘asleep at the wheel’ station.

We all did things a certain way. Or avoided doing certain things as a group. I truly believe that tiny threads of connection among an air staff will inevitably end up being a zillion tiny threads of connection with the listeners. A great talent or station is like that cool club you want to be a part of. That’s the way we felt, and all the members of that staff tried to instill that vibe throughout their radio careers. (Oh, and fyi, KNUS became the first FM station to be #1 in a major market.)

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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 #483: Everything You Say…

This may be an uncomfortable thought, but everything you say reveals something about you – whether you want it to or not.

If you’re in touch with the reason TO say it, you have a good chance of its being received as genuine, and digested by the listener as something worth hearing. If you’re not, and you’re just “trying to get done with it,” that will be felt by the listener, too.

I had a morning team once that insisted on prerecording every break they did into the Voxpro device they used for phone calls, and then playing it back on the air a few minutes later EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE SITTING IN THE CONTROL ROOM and could have done it live.

That, of course, is silly. I’m not knocking voice tracking, but that’s a different animal. I’m talking about being right there in the room and still choosing to be one step removed from live performance. Their excuse was, “We want it to be perfect,” which, of course, is unattainable, and made them sound just a little unnatural.
And obviously, their saying that to me revealed a lot about them, whether they meant it to or not.

Real people flub words, breathe, and don’t “announce” when they ask you to pass the salt.
As a talent, never fear stepping into the spotlight and delivering. That’s why you got into radio in the first place, because you can do that. So be you, and be right here, right now, working without a net. Even mistakes reveal something 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
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #481: What You Say vs. What I Feel

Get this: it’s not about what you say. It’s about what it makes me feel. I, the listener, will make up my mind pretty quickly about this. Information is fine, but unless I feel something about it, it’s just not relevant.

You have a choice when you open the mic. You can scatter words all over the place, but unless it fires up a pilot light inside the listener, it’s just ‘blah – blah – blah.’

If I feel entertained, that’s good. If I feel like you’re someone I might like to be friends with, that’s even better. But if I only feel like you’re using “filler” stories and material that I can’t identify with, then it’s pretty much a strikeout.

A final thought — if you’re funny, it’ll show. But if you try too hard to be thought of as funny, that’ll show, too. So if you can resist the “I want to be funny” agenda, and meld the selection of meaningful, relevant Content with a natural-sounding delivery, you have a chance to become truly great.

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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 #471: Trying Too Hard

Trying too hard – whether it’s to be funny, to really “sell” something, or to ingratiate yourself to the listener – just doesn’t work out well in the long run. Yes, we all do it when we first start out, but a developed talent realizes sooner or later that “trying” can be FELT on the other end of the radio – and it pushes the Listener away.

What you want is to sound just like you do in a normal, animated conversation with a friend. You’re not trying to impress them, or show them how smart you are. You’re just trying to share a thought. Or even just a mood.

When we “amp up” the performance, it’s just noise coming out of the radio.

Note: Some people do just naturally sound a little dead or monotone, and usually someone coaches them to have a little “sparkle” or “smile” when they open the mic. Unfortunately, this rarely works. People who speak in a monotone don’t belong on the radio. They didn’t entertain their friends in the 4th grade, and they still can’t. (Sorry to sound so harsh, but find the person everyone listens to in real life, then put THAT person on the radio.)

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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 $468: Why You Should Listen to Yourself

It stuns me how few air talents these days ever listen to their own show. Back when I was on the air (when dinosaurs ruled the earth), it was a given that the cassette “skimmer” that only recorded when the mic was on would be taken out and listened to on my drive home. At some of the stations I was part of, we’d listen to airchecks as a group, with everyone free to point out whatever they heard, good or bad.

Here’s why you should listen to yourself AT LEAST once a week:

1. You’ll pick up habits, then work on changing them so you erase “crutches” from your vocabulary.
2. You can check your timing, making sure you’re coming in at the EXACT right place – not too soon, not too late. (Every song has that perfect “last LOGICAL place to come in or start the next song.)
3. You can hear for yourself whether you sound like you actually enjoy being on the air. I’ve heard way too many music jocks that sound bored most of the time.
You can get a feel for your voice acting skills. (NOT sounding like a typical disc jockey is essential.)

And finally, you’ll have an edge over any competitor who DOESN’T listen to himself. When you’re sharp and the other guy isn’t, he’s a dead man walking, but he doesn’t realize it. If I’m searching for an air talent and hear someone who’s really making an effort to sound good every break, that’s the person I’m going to hire.

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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 #464: The Best at Your Level

Best in your class. Best in your school. Best in the city. At every level you attain, you should want to be the best at that level.

And then you want to find another level.

This is how growth happens. The minute you get satisfied and think you have nothing else to learn, you’ll STOP learning. And then you’ll become a dinosaur.

Radio is part science, part Art. Part talent, part planning, part performance. The desire to learn more is what fuels every great career. If you need help, talk with friends, listen to each other’s work, and share thoughts. Get a coach. Study acting, movies, great books.

FEED the part of you that wants to be the best at your level.

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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 #436: The Learner’s Heart

One of the benefits of doing this talent coaching thing for a long time is that you learn how to appraise talent quickly. After just a couple of coaching sessions, one thing always stands out: the person with the learner’s heart is going to get better. The person whose ego gets in the way of learning isn’t going to progress much unless that changes.

So which one are you? Are you open to suggestion, to change, to experimenting? You can still have your opinions, of course, but to have that be a closed circuit just means standing still. If nothing else, getting thoughts from a different perspective from someone you trust will make your decision-making quicker and more certain.

Lebron James has a coach. So does Tom Brady. So has every Olympic champion.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #432: MEAN Something

There’s this great scene in the old Paul Newman/Robert Redford movie “The Sting”. Redford’s character is questioning about the scam they’re pulling on the bad guy (played by Robert Shaw), and asks, “Do you think it’ll work?” Newman’s character answers, “Relax, kid. We had him twenty years ago when he decided to BE somebody.”

This has actually become a microcosm of the world we’re living in. Everyone hungers to “BE something” even if it’s just for a few seconds. A Twitter posting, a picture that gets “liked” by some social media throng.

Let’s apply this to radio. In coaching over 1700 air talents, I’ve found that it’s always a challenge when someone says he or she wants to ‘be’ somebody (to the listener). While you can certainly strive for that, that’s the shallow end of the pool. The real aim should be to MEAN something to the listener. When you’re the person who weighs in on what’s relevant in my life consistently, that emotional connection IS the point. You don’t just have ‘name value’; you have actual value.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #421: Proximity, and what it Means for you

It’s probably only natural to not want to be coached. But the air talents I’ve encountered who feel that way (at first) are usually the ones who just don’t see past trying to be funny, or think that “trending” in social media is a goal. (It’s not. Connecting with the Listener is.) And those things will come as a byproduct of your skills improving.

I’ve always seen coaching – at least the way I do it – as being like an acting coach working with actors, and most of the things I teach come from an acting or writing background, in addition to decades of radio experience. We start with the radio stuff – how to do the “basics” (giving the station’s name, artist info, time, etc.), then, when that’s really solid and varied, it’s all about the Art.

So here’s a lesson: Proximity is the decider of delivery.

Think about it. Where you “see” the listener being determines how you say something. If you see me just a couple of feet away from you in my car, that’s one thing. If you picture me as 10 feet away in an office full of noise, that’s different. Or maybe you picture me driving in traffic with my head on a swivel, trying not to get killed by some clod with his ear buds in, yakking on the phone while he eats a breakfast burrito. (You may need to talk louder.)

If you don’t know, make it up. Give yourself a proximity “setting” that fits what you’re going to talk about. All of a sudden, you’re not just another ‘voice saying words’ in the background. You’re talking to me. Every great talent – and every great station – has this ingredient.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #414: Why Coaching is a Good Idea

It’s always amazed me how some people resist coaching. Where would any great actor or any great athlete be without coaching?

They’d be in the minor leagues, or be selling shoes to make money while they did Shakespeare to 10 people in a park for free.

Critique and Coaching are not the same thing, so there is that. Some people have had the “under the microscope” experience that makes them feel like they can’t do anything right. But coaching – real coaching – is always about finding what you do best. The rest is just “weeding the garden”.

Yes, you do want to master “the basics” and understand structure and vocal technique and a hundred other things. But if you’re not trying to identify and cultivate what you do best, you’re not growing. You’re just doing the same show every day.

So if that didn’t sway you, here’s the short version: Not being boring and predictable; that’s why coaching is a good idea.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.