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 #333 – Friendly Competition

Great radio stations are different from just “radio stations where people work”. Great stations know who they are, who the listener is, and have air talent that competes with each other on who will have the best “moment” that day.

They also root for each other to have their own memorable moments, too. Being the best player on a team with only one or two good players – well, there’s no real joy in that. We should want to lift each other up and challenge each other to do really good radio. Every day.

When that happens, as my dear friend “Brother Jon” Rivers says, you reach “critical mass” and your station explodes in all directions with great ideas and a palpably good morale. And an almost automatic level of success, because it’s actually easier to do good radio than it is to do lame radio. CARING is its own reward, and triggers endorphins that make you feel good about yourself, your life, and your career.

I like to think that coaching is the art of bringing this spirit alive in Talent; showing each air talent what he or she does best, and working on eliminating what we don’t do well. It’s never just about x’s and o’s and techniques. It’s about a sense of the Art of communication. So, if your station lacks coaching, here are three free “starter kit” lessons:

“What can I say about this that the listener might actually notice?” is where it all begins.
“What can I say that won’t be typical?” is the second step.
“What can I say that is unique to me?” is when it starts to really blossom.

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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 #330 – Avoiding California Airhead Language

“And I was like…”
“Then she was like…”
“So I was like…”

Like what? Like someone who never passed seventh grade English?

“She was TOTALLY not going there…” (Could she partially go there?)
“I’m SO doing that…” (Well, all I can say is “You SO sound like a dolt.”)

Look, I’m all about “street language” and I definitely don’t think we should speak “The King’s English” – but we need to sound like we’re not 14-year California airheads.

Here’s why: Someday, a plane might fly into another building. Or another “quiet guy” is going to walk into a mall and start shooting people. And when that happens, you want people to take you seriously if you’re going to comment on it. Radio is about having fun, and being topical; but at times, it’s also about being CREDIBLE.

Note to anyone in California: feel free to do all the Texas and Louisiana jokes you want. (Louisiana is my home state. Texas is where I spent the majority of my adult life.)

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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 #328 – What You Can Learn From Ron Jacobs

Back in the heyday of Top 40 radio, there were a handful of stations that became the icons; the stations we wanted to work at, or at least have our station sound like.

One of the giants was KHJ in Los Angeles, a Drake-Chenault consulted station with the brilliant Ron Jacobs as its Program Director.

Jacobs had three primary rules:
Preparation.
Concentration.
Moderation.

Preparation: Being absolutely sure of what this break was going to be about. Working on your “camera angle”, your vocabulary, and putting things in the right order, so information or a story unfolded in the easiest-sounding way.

Concentration: No distractions, no second thoughts at the last minute, no stumbling around verbally.

Moderation: Staying “in the pocket” and not trying to do too much, or add details that don’t matter, or take too much of the listener’s time.

If this worked for some of the greatest air talents of an entire generation, it certainly can work for you, too. And these principles would be such a breath of fresh air in today’s voice-tracked, kind of distanced sound that we hear on way too many stations. WORK ON YOUR CRAFT. Radio is NOT dead – but bad radio is.

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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 #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.