Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #369 – A Goal Without a Plan

Football player and coach Herm Edwards said, “A goal without a plan is nothing but a dream.”

You want to get better. We all do. But how? If you don’t have a plan, you may luck into something, but probably not. And even then, you’ll be tested. Something will come up, like a hurricane, or the Coronavirus, or the Black Lives Matter movement, and you’d better have some process in place that’ll work for you. As we’ve seen, people often blurt something out that backfires on them.

Herm Edwards can tell you the answer: Coaching.
If you can’t afford coaching, ask your PD to do regular aircheck sessions with you.
If that isn’t feasible, get together with a friend – or multiple friends – and listen to great radio. Or even better, do group aircheck listening sessions in a “safe room” environment where everyone’s thoughts are considered. (Great staffs are often the result of this.)

But don’t just assume that experience alone will transform you into a top-level Talent. Like football, like golf, like playing a musical instrument, it takes work. But ours is a creative profession, so the “work” can actually be FUN.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2020 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #364 – Be a Roomba

If you truly want to be a great air talent, be a Roomba. (Yes, the little robot vacuum cleaner.) Always be looking for “dust” – things you can do better, in radio terms. Be honest about your work. Listen to yourself like it’s someone else. What would your critique of that person be?

Team shows actually have an advantage, because everyone on the show can be on the lookout. If you trust each other and set egos aside, you can improve twice as fast!

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2020 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy. Kramer Coaching Tip #356 – Your “B” Side

You want to be KNOWN for something. Some quality – humor, relatable “just like I am” presence, unique vocabulary – SOMETHING that makes you different from everyone else.

But you don’t ONLY want to be known for one thing.

In the days of vinyl 45 rpm singles, the “A” side was why you bought it – at first. But as the Beatles proved, the “B” side was often just as good. It’s that way in everything. Harrison Ford was Han Solo, but he was also “The Fugitive”. Lebron James is a great basketball player, but what he’s given back to his hometown is what defines him as a human being.

To LAST, there has to be depth. (This is something that people in the public eye need to pay attention to. Today’s “trending” is tomorrow’s “Is he still alive?”)

Develop your main thing to the fullest. Then add another thing.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2020 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #335 – Being Entertaining

Being entertaining – which should be every air talent’s #1 goal – isn’t about punch lines. It’s about how you see the world.

George Carlin saw the world as a series of oddities worthy of comments. “A house is just a place where you keep your stuff…while you go get more stuff.”

Jerry Seinfeld sees the world analytically: “What it is with Grape Nuts? No grapes; no nuts.”

Rodney Dangerfield envisioned a life of getting no respect. “I told my dentist my teeth are turning yellow. He told me to wear a brown tie.”

My friend Jon Rivers once listened to an aircheck of a “not there yet” talent, and said “He knows not. And he knows not that he knows not.”

The great Howard Clark, back in the days of playing vinyl records, once started one on the wrong speed, and said, “Hands of a surgeon; mind of a tractor.”

How you see the world, and your place in it, creates your on-air persona. The way you see the world creates your “camera angles” and shapes your vocabulary. (This is what I work on with people more than anything else.)

The odd thing is that you more personal you get in expressing how you see the world differently than anyone else, the more people you connect with.

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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 #334 – Being Authentic

There’s a lot of buzz nowadays about “being authentic.” Some stations even state it as a concrete goal, but come nowhere near it when that mic opens. Here’s why:

Even if you think you’re being authentic, that isn’t determined by YOU. It’s determined by the Listener.

Actors stuck in soap operas, who would love to star in feature films but never get offered any, think they’re being authentic. But of course, they’re only ACTING authentic.

More accomplished actors are just being the character, imagining what they’d feel if they were that person. They’re not acting like him, they’re just “being” him. (Or her.)

Not coincidentally, almost every great actor has had at least one coach who helped him or her find “the firmament” – that place from which the real ability grows.

Ask yourself this: To your listener, are you a truly distinguishable personality, or are you just another voice saying words?

Don’t try to be perfect, and don’t be a clone. Be YOU. If you need help finding out who you are – yes, I’m serious – then get some coaching, or at the least, keep reading these tips. Because as my friend Hank Haney (golf coach extraordinaire) says, “You can’t see your own swing.”

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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 #320 – The Female Voice

The last tip was about a challenge that skews mostly male – the “big” voice. So now, let’s talk about the female voice.

There are some incredible female voice actors and air talents, but the percentage of women who actually get coaching in radio that’s specific to their voices is staggeringly small.

Often, this is the result of today’s radio world. Like many of my friends, I started out doing all-nights, then moved to evenings, etc. where we had time to get our arms around what our voices were most capable of, and how to eliminate the less ear-friendly parts of our voices and deliveries by simply putting in the ten thousand hours that becoming really good at something requires. But a lot of women on the air today haven’t had that luxury. Often, they’re immediately plopped down in middays, or made a partner in a morning team show, with virtually no preparation in what that SOUND should be.

LEARN what you can do with your voice. Try to sound like a mom, a sister, a friend, a lawyer presenting a case in court, a doctor talking to a patient, etc. Each of those requires a slightly different delivery, with tiny nuances that are either going to be three-dimensional and pull people toward you, or they’re just going to fizzle. Mad, sweet, informative (but not lecturing), smart (but not smarmy), forceful but not shrill – these are all little “roles” you can play to find out just what arrows you really have in your vocal “quiver”. It takes a good ear, first of all; then an absolute honesty about what you’re hearing yourself do. Breathing when you should (at the end of a thought), caressing a message to the listener rather than “announcing” it – these things take time, and training. You can self-train, and If you want to accelerate the program, get a coach. Often, a “hire” comes down to which person just has more vocal “chops”.

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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 #319 – The 80% Rule for Big Voices

This happens fairly regularly when I start working with someone who’s been blessed with a “big” voice.

Almost without fail, these guys have been told all their lives what wonderful voices they have, and it’s really hard for a lot of them, especially in smaller markets, to resist “using” that big chamber too much, or in the wrong way, or for the wrong reasons.

Some thoughts to help you:

1. You’ll never be “king of the hill”. There’s always someone with a bigger voice than you.

2. Often, big voices, when they try to sound excited, come across too “over the top” because it’s not the range they’ve worked on the most. It’s easy to slide into the “circus barker” delivery. (Ick.)

3. And almost always, the very lowest register of the Big Voice Guy isn’t very ear-friendly. Yes, a big, powerful voice on a Classic Rock station’s Imaging SEEMS like the way to go, but really…not so much. It’s become more of a cliché – even a cartoon, now. So I tell those guys to AVOID the very lowest they can go.

When you chop off the “not really authentic” top of the range, and then lop off the “fake Morgan Williamson or James Earl Jones” wannabe sound, all you’ve really done is take out the 10% from the top and the 10% from the bottom that makes you sound less real, anyway. That still leaves you with plenty of room in the remaining 80% of your range to do the real work – exploring and LEARNING about your voice…what your real strengths are, how to improve (but not overdo) your inflection, how to just “be the guy who would say that” instead of trying to “impress” someone with how beautiful your so-called “pipes” are. And as I’ve said many times over the years in various tips, you automatically take away two areas of concern that only great big voices have – sounding either tired, or angry.

You can always “go to the well” for effect when you need it, but chances are you never will. The guys with huge voices who learn NOT to “use” them, and just talk, instead, sound much more real and approachable.

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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 #298 – Keeping Things Simple Enough for the Listener

No, this isn’t about “dumbing it down”. It’s about not making it more complicated than today’s attention span will accept.

Today’s listener doesn’t read much. (No patience.) And we’re a nation of channel flippers. Fads come and go at warp speed. A lot of “relationships” between supposed “soulmates” last only a few months.

So if you’re going to get in sync with today’s “short attention span theater”, you need to keep things simple. The old “stop by each one of their 6 locations to pick up your card” contest is D.O.A. in today’s world. People have lives. They’re busy.

ONE thought (besides the formatic “basics”) per break.

ONE thought per Imaging piece.

ONE thought per phone call.

ONE story or reaction from a winner.

ONE step to win something, see something, hear something, or post something.

If you make it more complicated than that, you’re going to see gradually sagging response, and eventually, gradually sagging ratings.

The good news is that this actually takes us back to what radio used to be all about: a quip, a piece of information, or a short story, then BANG!…on to the next element. This is what great radio was founded on: MOMENTUM. (Not “going fast”. Just being succinct.)

I can hear the rebuttal already: “That’ll never work.” Oh yes, it will. And I’ve got about 350 stations I’ve worked with that can prove it.

Tell you what, just try it for a month and see what happens. Feel the burst of energy that comes from each air talent knowing that the one comment he or she made hit home, then Momentum took over and swept the listener forward.

(You can always go back to being longwinded and boring, or everything trying too hard to be noticed, or too complicated for anyone to care. And hopefully, that DOESN’T define your station.)

As always, my greatest hope for anyone reading this is to be the very best they can be, and to have a great time every day in a job they truly enjoy.

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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.