Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #381 – What you CAN do that TV CAN’T do

One of the main arguments against radio today is that “people would rather watch TV.” Or stare at a computer, tablet, or cell phone screen. For our purposes, let’s just use TV as an example.

I watch an NBA game, and BETWEEN TWO FREE THROWS (!) they run a commercial. (The game itself, of course, is shrunk down so that my 70-inch screen might just as well be the 24-inch screen I had in 1988.) This is SO invasive. Announcers in every sport talk right up to the moment a pass or pitch is thrown. And baseball has been so ruined by TV directors that you see a pitcher, then – in the middle of his windup – they change cameras to show the batter, then another switch is flipped and you see a player field the ball. They could all be from separate games, and you wouldn’t even know it. And NFL games? Don’t even start. TV directors are so intent on “filling the screen” that you can see the pores of a quarterback’s face. I want to see more of the field (or court) so I can see where each player IS, and what they’re doing.

Here’s where radio is still magic: we’re not bound by what the Director decides to show. We can create “word pictures” that those screaming, big-voiced announcers don’t seem able to do, and we don’t have to listen to some broken-down ex-player describe things in such minute detail and in terminology that we don’t understand. We can do whatever we want to make something visceral and emotional.

But only IF:

*You’re not just some idiot reading crap off a computer screen with no emotional investment in what you’re saying.
*Or you’re not just endlessly intro’ing artists and song titles. (BORING.)
*Or what you’re talking about is timely, and connects with the listener’s life.

You have everything you need to succeed and be a true Personality, someone who seems like a good friend…someone I (as a listener) want to hear give your “take” on a subject.

I get asked a lot about what one thing I’d say to someone who hasn’t “gotten it” yet, and the answer is always the same: WAKE UP and say something worth hearing. Don’t let TV and Facebook be more valuable than radio, because there’s no way they can be as entertaining and as personal as you.

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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 #371 – There’s Always Another Level

If you’ve had success, it’s easy to think that the learning process is pretty much over. But there’s always another level.

Legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix thought Eric Clapton was stunning, but Clapton thought Hendrix was miles above him. Steven Spielberg thought John Ford was the world’s best movie Director, but Spielberg’s movies will be benchmarks for generations to come.

Great ideas and new approaches are everywhere. The late night talent on a tiny station you pick up driving somewhere may do something so original that it bowls you over.

No matter how good you are, you can get better. And more importantly, you should WANT to get to yet another level. Keep trying to learn more, or you risk becoming a dinosaur.

(From my perspective, this is the essence of coaching. Helping YOU get to the next level.)

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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 #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.