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.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #285 – The Brain, The Heart, or Both

Let’s make this one really simple:

With your Content, you can engage the brain, or you can engage the heart…or you can engage both. What you SHOULDN’T do is only engage the brain. That’s boring.

If you need help with this, get some coaching, do an aircheck session with your PD, or maybe swap ideas with some of the other people on the station. Because if you don’t understand how to do it…and do it well…you’re going to save a lot of time by NOT thinking that it’ll somehow just magically “come to you”.

It’s like that scene in “The Odd Couple” when the slob, Oscar Madison, tells his finicky roommate Felix Unger that he thought gravy just “came with the meat.” As Felix said, “No, it doesn’t. You have to MAKE it.” Sometimes we need help to make it.

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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 #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.