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.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #264 – Don’t “Present it”; just Do It

Dan Ingram died a few days ago. If you’re not familiar with him, suffice it to say that to a ton of people, he was the Michael Jordan of radio. Primarily known for his work in New York on WABC and WCBS, maybe this Wikipedia quote says it best:

Ingram was one of the most highly regarded DJs from his era. He was noted for his quick wit and ability to convey a humorous or satiric idea with quick pacing and an economy of words, a skill which rendered him uniquely suited to, and successful within, modern personality-driven music radio.

Yes, the style was a little different then, but he was FUN, and you never knew what he’d say next. So with Dan Ingram in mind…
Here’s the difference between being just a “disc jockey” and being a truly viable Talent on the air. When you have a story to tell or something to share, don’t “present it” to me; just DO it. Like a friend talking to another friend.

When you get “larger than life” in your delivery, you lose reality. And especially in today’s social media dominated world, with standup comics that are all about real life, reality shows all over TV, etc., that’s the one thing you don’t want to lose.

Yes, there are exceptions. And some music staging or sound effects can add the show biz aspects – but even then, they should be subtle, and not just some percussion track beating along under your break. But by and large, when people from the “That’s what SHE said” school of humor – playing it too broadly – or Talk show hosts that get exaggeratedly loud and abrasive as just part of their acts, with no real reason to be that way – assault our intelligence with that baloney, we ain’t buyin’.

And the good news is, you don’t have to be Dan Ingram. But you do have to be YOU – the best, most believable version of you. So relax and drop the B. S. Entertain me. Be my companion. Sure worked for Ingram.

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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 #260 – Why Your So-Called Positioning Phrase Doesn’t Work

“The Best Variety at Work…”
“(City)’s Best Music…”
“We Play More Music…”
“The Home of the Fifty-Minute Music Hour…”

We’ve all heard these.

None of them – not one – is true.

So why are you using them?

In a world surrounded by B. S., why are you adding to the junk pile of words thrown together like they fell out of a bowl of Alpha Bits and made what sounds like a sentence?

What do any of these say about the Values of your radio station? Or your city? Or anything, really, that’s meaningful to your audience?

Let’s take a close look…

“Best variety at work” – do you play “I Am the Walrus” by the Beatles? Do you play the “Flying” theme from E. T. by John Williams? Do you play Keith Urban, Pit Bull, Mercy Me, the Grateful Dead, Rihanna, Frank Sinatra, Cream, Mark Knopfler, Phil Collins, and Vince Gill? My iPhone does. Looks like IT’S got a better variety.
Oh, and “best variety at work” doesn’t even register at 2am when I’M NOT AT WORK.

“Houston’s Best Music” – really, now, do we even need to discuss that? Re-read the last paragraph.

“More Music,” “Fewer Interruptions”, and “Fifty-Minute Music Hours” just tell me (1) that you play more music than some other station (but NOT more than Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music), (2) you’re actually INTERRUPTING the flow of music to tell me that you have fewer interruptions, and (3) I’m gonna have to pay through the nose with some ungodly long commercial cluster after you give me a 55-minute massage – and you only do that a few hours a day, anyway.

Oh, and I heard a younger-demo Christian station that plays hip-hop, aggressive music that mentions Jesus say “Hits, Hip-Hop, and Hope” the other day. Hits? Really? Hope? Well that part’s right. I was hoping that I didn’t have to hear anymore of its music.

Listen, please…
I would recommend that you use your energy to simply say the name of the station, so people can become familiar with it (in diary markets) and know what station to tune into (in PPM markets) so the device will register that.

Your NAME is your Brand. The things you do are your ingredients. Your AIR TALENT should be the main ingredient in connecting with the listener. I can get the music anywhere. This is why I’m a Talent Coach; so there will be people on the air that reflect the things your listener cares about, and seem like friends – that cool friend that you always like being around.

Stop wasting people’s time trying to tell them what you’d like them to think about you.

When radio gets more honest, doesn’t try to tell people what to think, and becomes a viable place to visit, get information, and be entertained by, it does well. All the slogans and Positioning statements in the world are just noise.

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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 Tip #231 – The Three-Word Inflection Lesson

There comes a time in every career when you have to stop being a polished reader of words or some sort of veneer, and just become yourself. That “self” may be a somewhat invented persona like Larry David’s on “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, or it may as revealing of who you really are as possible, given the format.

But you need voice acting chops to accomplish this. Here’s a three-word exercise that’ll help you both on the air and in commercial voiceover work:

Really

Really

Really

You can’t just say this word the same way every time, because it can mean interest (“really?”), surprise (“really!”) or suspicion bordering on dry near-dismissal (“really…”).

Once each of those inflections sounds totally honest, totally NOT contrived or “acted” or “projected” beyond what would be the right way to say it in THAT moment – well, you’ve learned something.

Step 2 is to get someone you trust to tell you the absolute truth, and ask that person to listen to it. (And no, you might NOT know yet what you sound like to everyone else…until you do. It takes time.)

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #207 – The Difference Between an Aircheck Session and a Coaching Session

In the last tip, I spoke about a magic key to getting to the top level as a talent – the ability to edit yourself even as you’re speaking.

What I purposely didn’t say is that in over 20 years of coaching somewhere around 1700 air talents, I’ve never seen anyone who was just “born” with this. It always requires coaching or mentoring in some form.

So let’s deal with the elephant in the room: most air talents detest going into an aircheck session with the PD. Period.
And that’s because there’s a big difference between “critique” and “coaching”.

There is no such thing as “constructive criticism”. That’s just criticism.
Unlike an aircheck session, which seems to always be about finding something wrong, coaching is about three main things:

1. Shoring up weaknesses and losing bad habits. (The Fundamentals.)

2. Finding what each talent’s biggest strengths are. (They may not know.)

3. Gradually stripping AWAY the things a talent doesn’t do well, so that eventually, ALL YOU DO IS WHAT YOU’RE REALLY GOOD AT.

You want to be Michael Jordan playing basketball, not Michael Jordan playing baseball. A good coach would have told him to stick with what he did best and add a couple more years to his legacy, instead of becoming just a source of amusement playing a game he wasn’t good at.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.