Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #325 – The Conversation

Several times in these tips, I’ve referred to being on the air as like having a conversation with a friend. But of course, someone who’s just tuning into your show for the first time isn’t a friend – yet.

So if you want to pull that person toward you, follow these two guidelines religiously:

1. Never go so fast that you lose being conversational.

And…

2. Never let the conversation go longer than it should.

It’s pretty obvious that people are tired of fast-talking deejays (particularly in the voice-tracking arena) who don’t sound engaged with us at all. And in coaching somewhere over 1700 people over the years, I’d guess that maybe – MAYBE – one percent of them have a good sense of “how much is too much.” (Hint: “too much” = a lot less than you might think.)

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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 #324 – The 2 Fastest Ways to Lose the Listener

There are two things that will make someone tune OUT fast:

1. Playing a song he or she doesn’t like. This is why you should definitely want to do music research. The charts don’t say it all, because they’re too general. And what the label reps say is sometimes just a “quacking” noise. My dear friend Randy Brown, an excellent programmer, put it best when he was accosted by a label rep for not playing a certain song. When Randy told him he didn’t think it fit his station, the rep said, “It’s just one song.” To which Randy replied, “Yes, but when it’s playing, it’s the ONLY song.”

2. Two people talking at the same time. This is just annoying, and carries lots of negatives…
It can seem like you’re trying to “top” each other. Or “shout down” each other. Or just that you’re a couple of knuckleheads who don’t “get” that I CAN’T UNDERSTAND EITHER ONE OF YOU WHEN BOTH OF YOU ARE TALKING AT ONCE. (Especially in the car.)

Talk stations should heed these warnings, too. But in Talk, the “song” no one cares for is the Subject that your listener doesn’t care about. If it doesn’t matter to me (as a listener), then I don’t care what you have to say about it. Hello, Sirius/XM…or Pandora…or Spotify…or my iPhone’s playlists.

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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 #321 – One of the Biggest Challenges with Voice Tracking

The voice tracker scenario isn’t going away any time soon. It’s the nature of the game in today’s radio world. And that’s not really good, because there are many weak things about having a voice-tracked show on the air.

The voice-tracking jock doesn’t know that a tornado is heading toward town. While he or she is doing a “partly sunny” forecast, a warehouse is in danger of losing its roof.

They can’t take phone calls. And since radio is about AUDIO, we get the lame “fix” of jocks reading social media posts on the air instead of having a person call. That leads to mostly boring Content, done in a pretty boring way, and losing the immediacy of someone replying to something you did last break – in their voice, not yours.

But one of the biggest “fails” is seemingly small, but extremely important: we lose the connection to the music. A comment about a song doesn’t get made when a voice tracker doesn’t even know what song just played. So what made the experience special in the first place – an air personality weighing in on a song, or giving you some background that might be really interesting – is missing from the equation.

That’s why we hear so many voice trackers just doing the “basics”, making announcements, and reading crap from a computer screen. Little, if any, real personality or bonding with the listener is going on, and there’s a lack of “something happening here” for hours at a time. And that makes for no – repeat NO – spontaneity.

COACH your voice-trackers. Raise their level of CARING, so we don’t just get “voices saying words” and a “floating head with a name” instead of someone trying to connect with us and being right here, right now, in this minute, and at least knowing what song just played when they stop down.

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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 #316 – The Difference Between You and Us

An extremely well-known morning show host once said about his team show, “We just have a conversation. The listeners just eavesdrop.”

I know that’s what he honestly believed, but it’s an incomplete thought. However, since they were quite successful, a lot of people thought that was right. Here’s why it’s not:

There’s a huge difference between a “You”-centered show and an “Us-centered” show. If it’s ONLY about you, it’s just not as strong as it could be. A show about you AND me (the listener) is a much more powerful goal.

What happened was his show actually was about the listener, too, but since the members of the team were entertaining (and having a good time), they got very “in the room” and talked about themselves both first and most. The result is that the fans they already have love it, but non-fans have no “port of entry” to BECOME fans. To a new listener, it can easily seem too “inside”. So as successful as they are, they’re not as successful as they could be.

Think about this: one day, there’s going to be another school shooting. Or (God forbid), there might be another plane flying into a building. Or wildfires are going to break out all over the state. Or a flood, or a tornado…

Then you’d BETTER be about Us, because none of your “in the control room” stuff is going to mean anything.

However, if you’re in the HABIT of thinking “us” all the time, those drastic or terrible events aren’t going to be a big shift in your show’s paradigm. You will have already developed the skills to know how to easily deal with something that affects ALL of us.

Great shows make everything sound easy. They don’t just talk about themselves. And they always picture the listener right next to them, and include her (or him) in the conversation, even though the listener isn’t saying anything at the moment.

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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 #307 – Team Spirit, as it applies to Your Station

In the last tip, I referred to basketball coaching legend John Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success” – something you should read, if you haven’t already done so.
Here’s another prime tenet of his teaching: Team Spirit. About that, he says “The star of the team is the team. ‘We’ supercedes ‘me.’”

So ask yourself this: When’s the last time you even MENTIONED someone else on your station? And even if you did, did you offer any real insight as to why I should listen? We’ve all heard those “Rocky Gomez plays more of your favorites this afternoon at 3” plugs, and these do NOT work. The fact that Ol’ Rock is gonna show up for work is NOT a reason for me to listen to him. I can “play more of my favorites” on my phone. I don’t need him.

Radio pioneer Gordon McLendon used to say “Make stars of the morning show. Then they should make stars of everybody else.” This seems to have been forgotten. And great staffs carried it much further; we ALL made stars of everyone else. And it wasn’t just perfunctory mentions of a name and when he or she would be on the air. We’d borrow quotes we heard them do, joke about quirks in their personalities, share little things about our relationships, eating out together, what they wore to work. Back during the final throes of the Viet Nam conflict, I even promoted Christopher Haze, our night guy on KNUS in Dallas, as being ABLE to show up for work because he had swallowed some aluminum foil coated in peanut butter to get out of the draft.

WE…are a radio station. YOU…are one person on 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 #306 – Little Things Make Big Things Happen: A lesson from John Wooden

This tip is for music stations.

If you don’t know who John Wooden is, you’re probably not a basketball fan. Wooden, called “The Wizard of Westwood,” won TEN NCAA national championships in a 12-year period as head coach at UCLA, including a record seven in a ROW. (No other team has won more than four in a row.) Many of his players became NBA stars, often Hall of Famers like Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Gail Goodrich, and Bill Walton.

Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success” has become the Bible to dozens of present-day coaches, and one of the things adjacent to it is his list of “12 Lessons in Leadership”, one of which is “Little things make big things happen”.

This directly applies to radio, with the current generation of radio talents who grew up with the computer running everything, voice-tracked shows taking away timing and “right here/right now” presence, and a total lack of understanding that sixty seconds is a LONG time.

So let’s concentrate on just one aspect of how your radio station can benefit from John Wooden’s lesson. Something simple, like whether or not the jock talking – or an imaging piece or a jingle – occurs TOO SOON on the end of a “cold ending” song.

Too soon = not a good thing. On a “cold” end, the listener wants to HEAR that last word or chord hit, not hear it stomped on. WAIT for it. You don’t want “dead air” (of course), but impatience is a drag, and a good reason for someone to go to a streaming service instead of you.
(This actually includes songs with fade-out endings, too. You want to end on a particular word or phrase, not in the middle of a sentence in the lyrics. And BEFORE it goes to virtually nothing that can be heard in the car.)

Too late = creates the immediate impression that you’re either not paying attention, or you just don’t have very good motor skills.

Just right = respecting the music in a way that leads to the next element hitting at the perfect time, so your voice or your Imaging piece or your jingle isn’t seen as an INTRUSION on my favorite song.

Do this all the time, every time, and I promise you’ll have a competitive advantage that other stations won’t even notice, and even if they did, they’re too lazy to raise their standard.

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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 #304 – How Stories Work

Telling a story is like being on a see-saw. On one end is that you want to share something. On the other end is not wasting the listener’s time.

Here are some rules to help you NOT be the person who takes a long time to tell a story that doesn’t matter:

The first line or two will be what “tethers” your subject matter to the listener – or not. Start abruptly into something that isn’t timely or relevant to the listener, and you’re dead in the water already. Spend too long getting into it, again…dead.

Add only the essential details, and let vocabulary and attitude, fueled by Emotions, fill it out. More facts than we need, names we don’t know, too much setting up who someone is, etc. will kill the story.

End with something we DIDN’T hear earlier in the story. The ending should surprise, delight, or inform. Try not to use cornball punch lines. The “that’s what SHE said” type of line is beaten to death.

Here’s an example, from a team show I worked with:

T: Oh, check your mail today. You may get the coupon that I got yesterday. It was for a new product, called “Spam lite.”

B: What do they leave out…to make Spam lite?

T: I don’t know…the snout?

That’s how easy it is, and how little time it takes, to serve up something that the listener will REMEMBER. (On the air, even with the station’s name, artist, song title, and the team’s name leading off the break, this took only about 20 seconds. But it’s never really about length. It’s about IMPACT.)

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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 #290 — The Twelve-Ounce Glass

The other day, I heard a guy who’s quite good RUSHING through every break. Talking to him later, I found that he’d gone through a series of really stressful things, leading to his getting back home at 4 AM, then having to go in and substitute for someone on the air just a very few hours later. In trying to overcome sleep deprivation, he went the “energy” route. But it didn’t really work, because the listener can almost always tell when we’re overcompensating, or just not quite “in the pocket”.

This is what I told him:

A 12-ounce glass won’t hold 14 ounces of Dr. Pepper. Pouring it faster won’t help.

Keep that in mind the next time you’re not physically at your best. Stay ear-friendly. Fit the glass.

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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 #288 – What a fan fight at a football game has to do with you

On Sunday, December 2nd, 2018, two fans got into a fight in the stands of a Pittsburgh Steelers game. One guy said something. The guy he said it to tellingly removed his cap, then head-butted the first guy. Guy #1’s girlfriend and several other fans got involved.

Not exactly untypical, but as I read about it (and watched the video), something the writer of the article, Jay Busbee said, really caught my attention:

“This is why nobody brings kids to football games anymore, and why nobody under the age of 40 spends any time on Facebook. They know enough not to get caught up in whatever messes the ‘olds’ are creating.”

The “olds”? Wow.

Now whether you agree with the Facebook statement or not, it’s still something to consider. I’ve been coaching people on how TO use – and now NOT to use – Facebook postings for years. The gist of it is that if a comment is relevant to something top of mind TODAY, you might want to use it, but random postings are virtually useless, because Relevance is King when it comes to Content.

I’m not saying your listeners don’t still use Facebook, but we should always be looking at the next big thing. Because habitually when radio does that, they find out that it’s already here.

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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.