Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #406: A Lesson from Alex Trebek

Watching ‘Jeopardy’ these days is strange for the millions of people of all ages who grew up watching Alex Trebek emcee the show. First, Ken Jennings, the greatest contestant of all time, hosted. Then the Producer of the show, Mike Richards, came in with his “Don Draper” looks and professionalism. Then Katie Couric, enthusiastic, but…

While we know a little about Jennings and a lot about Couric (but in another setting), we knew a lot more about Alex. He loved travel, his pride in Canada was cute, and just the WAY he conducted the show spoke volumes about his respect for what could have been just another Game Show.

Think about that. Why was it different with Alex? Why didn’t the guest hosts capture us like Trebek did?

Because, over time, we learned about Alex, from his appearance to his demeanor, and through the pancreatic cancer diagnosis and treatment that told us all about his dedication to his job. The way he kept the show moving, but knew when to slow it down and elicit stories from the contestants, tease them, applaud them.

Now think about your audience, and their relationship with you. IS there one? Are you doing anything worth their time? Do you know when to keep it moving? Is there anything happening that shares a little about you and your attitude toward doing your job, and how does that compare to an Alex Trebek?

He’ll be remembered by many as the guy who was so universal that he was parodied for YEARS on Saturday Night Live – a show that prides itself on being about THIS week. Would your listenership even notice it if you left?

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #405: Meet the Listener Where He/She Lives

The whole key to Content is one simple thought – “tethering” the Subject to the Listener. You have to meet her or him where they live.

Just recently, I watched an old “Andy Griffith Show” rerun about a Mayberry High School reunion. It touched everything I felt about my own reunion, how it reawakens old feelings, puts things in perspective, etc. (Andy saw his High School girlfriend, wondered why they drifted apart, then realized why when they got into an argument over staying in Mayberry as a “big fish is a small pond” instead of her moving to Chicago to compete in a larger arena.)

Over the years of watching what are now classic sitcoms, two names keep coming up: Everett Greenbaum and Jim Fritzell. Name any big show in that era – Andy Griffith, M*A*S*H, Mary Tyler Moore show, etc. – and they wrote episodes for it.
They had the knack of writing something very particular to each character, but framed by what the viewer had in common with them.

That’s your challenge, too. If you need help, get some coaching. This is an Art, not just a technique.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #391: The Significance of Bubblegum

Connecting with the listener – as soon as possible in any given break – is Job One. I’ve spent hundreds of hours doing sessions about this one thing with air talent in every English-speaking format, and the best example is the simplest one:

I like bubblegum. You like bubblegum, too. Let’s be friends.

That’s the way we form relationships as kids. We start with what we have in common. The problem with so much of radio today, where some faceless voice selects an article or a subject from the internet or social media, then adds a lame punch line to it, is that it lacks that fundamental “bubblegum” ingredient.

This is why “News of the Weird”, “Trivia”, “Stupid Criminal Stories”, “This Day in History”, and contests that are too complicated and don’t sound like I can win the prize anyway are massive “Fails” today.

Reject all those. START with what you and the listener have in common. If you don’t really know who the station is targeting, ask your PD today. If you need help learning how to do this, well, there’s always coaching…

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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 #389: Selling versus Telling

There’s a huge difference between “selling” and “telling”.

“Selling” something isn’t nearly as effective as simply Telling me about it; sharing. There’s a built-in resistance to someone pounding a message home.

Disc jockeys are told to “sell” liners, copy points, etc. But you don’t “sell” your friends on something. You just share what you know or believe. (If you do “sell” all the time, believe me, your friends are tired of it and you need to stop.) This is why disc jockeys aren’t doing movie trailers and national ads.

In working with many voice actors that you hear every day on national spots, I’ve often stressed just talking to the listener/viewer. A great example from the past is voiceover master Mason Adams, famous for “With a name like Smuckers, it has to be good.”

Just talk to me. It works.

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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 #376 – Be a Part OF the Music

What really works in any field isn’t much about finding something completely new as it is about finding a way to build on something old, but making it better. We’ve had phones forever, for instance. But the Blackberry, then the iPhone changed what we can do with them – and what we now EXPECT from them.

The point is, there’s a tendency to categorically reject “old” ideas, and that’s often the biggest mistake. Radio is making one now. With all the technology we have available, and all the “sabermetric” data we now use, we’ve largely lost one thing that used to be the core of every great station – the connection to the music we play. Simply put, I rarely hear a station anymore that respects the music at ALL.

Imaging pieces blare right over the last word of a “cold”-end song. Fades are either ignored, where the air talent jumps in too soon, or the other extreme, where the song dies out completely. Or a “cold” end song ends abruptly, and then there’s dead air. The computer’s running everything. The talent is asleep at the wheel.

It’s not cured by something as simple as putting the cue tones in the right place (although this is ESSENTIAL). It’s also about a sensibility that we want to be PART OF the music, not have the music just be noise that plays until we make our next ‘brilliant’ remark.

If you don’t show an awareness of the music you’re playing – not just the lyrical content or little trivia pieces about the artists, but the “vibe” that song creates – you’re only giving the listener a “playlist” with jibber-jabber thrown in.

Remember, the listener can go to iTunes or You Tube or Amazon Music, etc. and get the music WITHOUT YOU. Be part OF it, and it’s just a lot easier to connect.

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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 #351 – The Scarecrow or The Tin Man

The Wizard of Oz is a magical film. Ostensibly a children’s movie, it’s filled with little “morality plays” about good versus evil, the use of power, family, friendship, and the choices we all make.

To me, it boils down to The Scarecrow or the Tin Man. One wants to be smart; the other wants a heart: Brains versus Emotions.

When you think about it, the Scarecrow stands out in our minds because of what we felt about him BEFORE he got brains. The Tin Woodsman cried (which rusted him up, and made him creaky), and as children watching it, we all cried. The lesson: There’s certainly nothing wrong with Smart, but Heart matters more.

Remember this the next time you open the mic. If you’ve left your heart out of the equation, you’ve missed the boat. If I listen for an hour, and don’t learn something about how you FEEL, that was a wasted hour.

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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 #336 – The First Thing You Say

The first thing out of your mouth when you open the mic often determines how long someone will listen to you – or if they’re hearing you at all. Almost instantaneously, the Listener will either connect with you…or not. So here’s a tip that almost every air talent ignores:

MATCH THE MUSIC to automatically glue yourself to the Listener’s ear.
If the song is slow and quiet, but you come out loud and blasting words, that’s TOTALLY WRONG.

Fast song = upbeat delivery that matches that rhythm.
Slow song = “right in the pocket” delivery that matches that song’s pace.

Second level thought: Feel the Emotion of the song, and start right there, as if you’re into it.
From that beginning, you can go anywhere else you need to go. But DON’T start like you just threw your headphones on because the song was ending. If you sound like you were just texting or looking at your Facebook page one second ago, you won’t get the result you want.

The listener can feel when you’re engaged and in the moment…and when you’re not.
And remember that you CAN’T feel if the listener is engaged or not. Pull that person toward you by being a PART of what he/she is hearing first.

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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 Tp #315 – More on the “You Second” Technique

If you want to make contact with the listener instantly, you don’t talk about yourself first.

For some reason, this concept that I’ve been teaching for over twenty years gives people problems. Because in real life, it’s natural to talk to a friend by starting with yourself (“I saw this movie the other night…”), we assume that this is the way radio conversations should begin.

But that’s not very effective, because (1) often – most of the time, actually – the reaction is “So? What does that have to do with Me?” And (2) real-life conversations are face-to-face. Radio isn’t.

We all know that person that constantly talks about himself (or herself). That’s the one we tend to avoid at a party.

So what I’ve coached over the years is to either start with the Subject first, or start by referencing the Listener first in some way, THEN weigh in with your “take” on it, or tell your story.

Simple. But also a little counterintuitive. People simply don’t HEAR themselves doing it wrong. So let me try to help with a couple of examples:

The other day, I heard a personality kick off a break by saying, “We were driving home yesterday, and we went past the corner of Grand Avenue and Thomas; they’re doing some road construction there now.”

First it’s all about you, and then, instead of telling me what happened, you add “left brain” facts. These “cars on the train” are in the wrong order.

Subject first:
“They’re doing some construction work at Grand Avenue and Thomas. We went past it yesterday driving home…” Now the story can continue seamlessly, since “the data” has already been given. Putting yourself in as the second “slide” in the projector makes it easy to just roll on.

Listener first:
“You’ve probably seen the mess at Grand Avenue and Thomas. We drove past it yesterday on the way home…”

See how easy it is? My ears (as a listener) perk up because I’ve been referenced. Then, with no clutter, the break flows right into your perspective.

This is just basic sentence structure stuff, really.
Remember, you’re not paid by the joke. You’re not paid by the word. You’re paid by the CONNECTION.
This “You second” thing will help you connect IMMEDIATELY. Your story still gets told, but without that constant little “I am the center of universe” vibe.

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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 #301 – Stop TRYING to be Noticed

One of the prime ingredients in all truly great talents is that they connect with the listener on a daily basis.

And one of the keys in getting to that place is:

Stop TRYING to be noticed.

Instead of constantly trying for punch lines, or “talking points” that just get the same five people to call in with the same types of reactions we always hear, the ‘Real Deal’ is to just be part of the listener’s life each day. Talk about things that we all have in common, then put your individual spin on it.

Think about this…the more you try to be noticed, the more it’s just about YOU. But the more you just try to be part of something that we share together, the more it’s about US.

And that’s what gets ratings. If you build your show around having something going on that I can relate to each day, I’ll come back – over and over again.

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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 #295 – Seeing Through the Listener’s Eyes

This past weekend, the fine actor Alan Alda accepted the Screen Actors Guild’s Life Achievement Award, saying “When we get a chance to act, it’s our job, at least in part, to get inside a character’s head, and to search for a way to see life from that person’s point of view. It may never be more urgent to see the world through another person’s eyes. And when the culture is divided so sharply, actors can help, at least a little, by doing what we do.”

I agree. So did C. S. Lewis, who wrote: “My own eyes are not enough for me. I will see through the eyes of others.”

Part of our job should be to see through the listener’s eyes – and not just the P-1 devoted listener, but also the person who just hit the “scan” button and it landed on you.

Great radio is performance art. And anyone who’s worked with me knows that’s the way I approach it. As Alan Alda said at the end of his acceptance speech, “The nice part is it’s fun to do it. So my wish for all of us is: Let’s stay playful, let’s have fun, and let’s keep searching. You can’t solve everything, but it wouldn’t hurt.”

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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.