Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #503: Your Greatest Hits

After one of my recent tips came out, my associate and friend John Frost sent me an email saying: “When I was at KHTR in St. Louis, I hit a little slump in my on-air performance. My Program Director suggested that I create a “best of” tape and listen to it every day on my way to work. That way, I would have an objective reference point to what I did well, and it would help build my confidence since I was listening to my own work.” The thought was “Yes, I can do this because I’ve done it.”

Great suggestion for anyone, especially if you get little or no coaching.

I would add one other thought: Every 3 or 4 months, just put away a random aircheck of yourself. Then once a year, pluck one out and compare it to your work today.

Invariably, you’ll hear something that you’ve improved on. Doing this regularly will sort of “chart” your progress. It may also surprise you, in that just the WAY you do things has matured. Not just what you do, but how you do it.

And the thought process from that exercise could very well be “Yes, I can still get better – because I’ve done that, too.”

If you’re not moving forward, you’re standing still.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2023 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #502: Talk to the Eyes, not the Ears

Konstantin Stanislavski was the father of “method” acting. Practically every actor since Marlon Brando in the 1950s has read and/or studied his writings and techniques.

One of his main tenets is “Talk to the eyes, not the ears.”

It’s all about making things visual. If I can visualize it, I can crawl inside it, emotionally. But if it’s just “ad copy” or doesn’t bother to engage me visually, it just goes by unnoticed. Or it’s noticed, but not in a good way. It’s just noise.

“You can have a family member flown in for Christmas” is sort of generally visual, but “Imagine eating Grandma’s recipe with Grandma…” is very visual. Then, “We’ll fly her in!” adds another visual component.

Think “what does this situation (or this behavior) look like?” and you’ll be on the right track to stand out in the sea of disc jockeys reading crap off a computer screen.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2023 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #501: Givers and Takers

Recently, my brilliant friend and associate John Frost wrote a column that struck gold. While he was specifically addressing Contemporary Christian Music stations, I believe his points resonate with every format. Here’s part of what John said:

When you think about the people that have had the greatest influence on your life, I reckon you’d say they were GIVERS.

I wonder, then, why so many Christian radio stations are perceived to be TAKERS, always asking their listeners to give them something. In fact, there are some managers or staff whose voice is not heard on the air unless they have their hand out.

This is one example of why John is a great Consultant, particularly skilled in foundational “big picture” Strategy.
But I’m a talent coach, and I drill deeply into exactly how to express Strategy on the air.

Here’s what I sent to John after reading his tip:

My thought would be that the language of the station should be considered in everything we do. Is it an invitation or an order? Do you want my input (as a caller), or do you just want me to do your show for you? Is the Imaging just about the station, or is it about us (as listeners) too?

This is all part of getting to the complete thought, instead of settling for an incomplete one.

Sadly, the incomplete thought is where most stations reside. In my on-air and Programming career, whenever I worked against a station that didn’t really even consider a strategy like John wrote about, I just thought of them as ‘dead men walking’. EVERYTHING you do on the air should be born out of a solid Strategy. If it isn’t, why are you doing it?

And if you don’t know how to put your strategy on the air (hint: it’s not more liners saying “the best of the 80s, 90s, and today”), you need some help.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2023 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #500: The Rhetorical Question Rears its Ugly Head Again

Like Dracula, Godzilla, and Freddie Krueger, the rhetorical question disease is popping up again. My crusade to kill off weak, obsequious questions and make stronger, more revealing statements, has apparently faltered. I could give up. But…no.

Quick review…
It’s all about putting things in Statement form. Example: Saying “Here’s how to win” instead of asking “Want to know how to win?” like I’m some parrot that has to answer you. Just tell me what you want me to know.

Here are a few of what I feel are the likely answers to the questions we all get asked:

Would you like to win a new car?
No. I just love roller skating to work in the rain.

Do you want to play our morning madness trivia game?
No, I don’t want Siri to think I’m that stupid.

Would you follow us on Facebook?
No. I’ve only heard you for three minutes. At this point, I’d actually rather hit myself in the face with a book.

In summary:
Why do people ask rhetorical questions?
And do they expect an answer?
Can you guess how I feel about them?

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2023 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #499: The Faceless Name

In the old days, we got listener reaction on the phone. But now, with social media, a lot of input comes from Facebook, etc.

The result is hearing “Jim says…” or “Samantha said…”
Faceless names.
I know nine people named Jim. Which one is he?
I’ve known three women named Samantha. Is this one of them? Is this the one that dumped me for that idiot that played quarterback in High School?
More importantly, did someone named Jim or Samantha actually respond, or are you just making a name up to give the impression that someone posted something about what you said?

I don’t even get the point of mentioning a name. Why not just tell us what was said?

But okay, here’s a cure – give the person’s name and city or area. “Jim from Plano” tells someone in Dallas where Jim’s from. It also says “We’re your station” to Jim, and everyone else in that area. Simple. Now, instead of just a name floating by like a balloon, we have some firmament. And we get a chance to have that name serve a purpose by being connective.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #498: When Repetition is Good, and When it’s Not

Radio is all about telling stories. But I keep hearing people repeat things all the time on the air. What a drag.

IF you repeat something because you’re pounding a point home, that’s okay. (It was a huge part of George Carlin’s act. Chris Rock does this to good effect, too.) And repeating things is a good tool to use if you’re talking to a 3-year old.

But repeating something just because you’ve forgotten that you already said it, is NOT okay.

As anyone who took a first-year Speech class in college knows, unconscious repetition is a bad habit. Saying things ONCE is the best and most efficient way of telling a story.

Tighten it up. You might – dare I suggest this – actually rehearse it beforehand, instead of just fiddling around hoping it all just magically works out somehow.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #497: Not Sounding Like a Moron, Part 1 – The Echo

Little things matter, because the listener is continuously forming an opinion of you as he or she listens.

One overlooked deejay thing is what I call “The Echo” – where you say the title of a song the last thing out of your mouth, then the song begins by singing that title. “Why would that matter?” you may ask. Well, that could send the message to the listener that you somehow didn’t know how the song began, or maybe you forgot – otherwise, you wouldn’t have put it back-to-back with the vocal repeating what you said.

Centuries ago at KNUS in Dallas, various members of the air staff would get together casually and listen to airchecks of each other. It was good-natured; we all liked each other. When the “echo” thing came up once, I stopped the audio and said to my friend, “That kind of makes you sound like a moron.”
He replied, “I wouldn’t say that.”
I teased, “I know YOU wouldn’t say that, but…” – and we all burst into laughter. But then we all agreed that we would consciously avoid “the Echo”. It became one of dozens of “rules” we formed in order to not sound like every other ‘asleep at the wheel’ station.

We all did things a certain way. Or avoided doing certain things as a group. I truly believe that tiny threads of connection among an air staff will inevitably end up being a zillion tiny threads of connection with the listeners. A great talent or station is like that cool club you want to be a part of. That’s the way we felt, and all the members of that staff tried to instill that vibe throughout their radio careers. (Oh, and fyi, KNUS became the first FM station to be #1 in a major market.)

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #496: Turning Print Words into Spoken Words

As air talents, we get handed some pretty unwieldy things to put on the air sometimes. Even with the best of intentions, sometimes a contest or promotion is written up as awkward sentences that no human would ever say to a friend in a real-life conversation.

So let me help you with two thoughts – one from the great voice acting coach Marice Tobias, and the other from the amazing British character actor Charles Laughton. Here they are, in reverse order:

The starting place is to take the copy and figure out that one word in each sentence that matters the most. Laughton said that you hit that word and just toss the others out there. This is really important. “Announcer”-types and bad disc jockeys try to “hit” too many words, so it comes out hype-y and unnatural.

And Marice Tobias uses the thought of just “noticing” a word, rather than “inflecting” it. That’s a very cool way to look at it. More subtle.

Following these two simple guidelines will turn “print words” into spoken words that are more comfortable and genuine-sounding. The goal is to inject natural emotion and purposefulness into the copy.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #495: The Value of Nonsense

Here’s a question for you: When’s the last time you did something nonsensical on the air?

I love radio, but most stations I hear nowadays are SO BORING. A bunch of people reading crap off a computer screen. Where’s the creativity in that?

Howard Clark, one of my first and greatest mentors, used to build in goofiness to his show. Howard would quote the lyrics of a song, for instance, like “I never felt more like singin’ the blues” – over a completely different song!

Howard once came out of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” with “…the amazing Funkel brothers, Simon and Gar…”

After starting a song on the wrong speed (back when we used turntables to play records), Howard would simply say, “Every move…carefully planned” as he slowly reset the speed.

Howard personified that ingredient of my never quite knowing what he would say when the mic opened. A reason to listen more closely. And people did.

SURPRISE someone today. Surprise yourself. Take a chance. Jump into the pool without checking to see if there’s any water. People will notice.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #494: Listening to Yourself

It’s absolutely stunning to see how few people listen to their own air work.

Back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, we had “skimmer” cassettes that started recording when the mic went on, and then stopped recording when the mic went off. It was a ‘given’ that I’d take the cassette of that day’s show and listen to it as I drove home from work.

It’s even easier now. You can do it on your phone by just logging into the system.
But very few people do. More than once, I’ve asked someone how often they listen to their show, and all I get at first is a blank stare. Some people NEVER listen to themselves! And as a result, ancient, boring habits remain on the air, the spirit of “How could I have done this better?” doesn’t even exist, and the talent stands still in terms of development.

It’s why I use audio in almost every session, because if you won’t listen to your show without being prompted to do so, I make sure that you hear what I believe you need to hear – both things that need work (or need to be jettisoned entirely) and things that are really good. (Pointing out what you do best is a huge part of my coaching process.)

So, after reading this, some questions:
Is this tip going to make anything different?
Or are you just going to keep on believing that everything’s okay? (Your PD may feel differently.)
And finally, if you don’t care enough to listen to yourself, why should anyone else?

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.