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 #303 – Doing the Wrong Thing Well

Believe it or not, there are some instances when a really good talent will foul the ball off his own shin. It happens to baseball players, and it most assuredly happens to air talent.

Case in point, recently a wonderful talent spent time (a setup, followed by two phone calls) setting up a little factoid about how we really only use about 13% of the things we learned in school.

Right at the outset, there are several things wrong with this:

  1. It’s not particularly timely, which means it’s largely irrelevant, because it’s not top-of-mind TODAY. (Where does this rank on the list of the things that are most important to your listener today, 150th? 250th?)
  2. It relies on using a percentage, which automatically makes it sound “left-brain” driven, as opposed to something more “right-brain” and visual and creative, and…
  3. Trying to get phone call response will inevitably lead to one decent reaction or story. Any call that follows will basically be just the same story with a different example.

I call this “doing the wrong thing well.” It sounded “professional”, and it got some reaction from the listeners (although it was limited). But literally anyone on any station could have done it, so it doesn’t really give you any way to stand out, or to offer something unique. So while it “ticks all the boxes” for filling some time, it’s not really very compelling.

As I told this talent in a coaching session afterwards, instead of doing the wrong thing well, let’s do the RIGHT thing really well. By “right thing”, I mean something that the listener is already thinking about – something top of mind that you can share a perspective on. Only then can you pique interest and reveal something about yourself in a compelling and unique way.

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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 #302 – Looking in the Window

Here’s a little something that happened in a recent session with a great morning team in Austin. I always try to do video sessions, and during this one, they were on location somewhere.

As we talked, I could see people behind them looking in the window. The people were just curious, wonder what they were doing, and what the two of them were like.

And that’s what happens every time someone tunes in, too.

It’s kind of like a remark that Garry Shandling made to Jerry Seinfeld in a “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” episode, when they talked about seeing Robin Williams for the first time: “You don’t remember what he SAID so much as you remember what he WAS.”

So think about who YOU are, to the listener. Are you just another person “broad stroke” over-performing, larger than life – but not in a good way? Or are you someone I can identify with, who’s entertaining, but also surprisingly down to earth and someone I’d like to hang out with? What you project is a choice. Choose wisely, because Shandling was right.

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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 #300 – Two Segments, Max

Here’s a short, but really powerful tip.

Give a subject two segments (in Talk radio), MAX. If it doesn’t “catch fire” by then, give up and move along to something else.

The same principle is true in Music Radio – give a subject two tries, and if there’s no usable reaction, punt. If it hasn’t “happened” by then, you’re just firing bullets into a dead body. This is both boring and desperate-sounding.

This is why I always over-prepped each day. Just having “enough” to cover a show might not actually BE enough on a given day. And as you know, it’s impossible to predict when something might inexplicably fail to connect with the listener. (Although, now that I think about it, this could simply be because there’s not an Emotion at its core. Might want to think about that, too.)

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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 #299 – Discovery

To the listener, it’s all about Discovery.

As long as I’m discovering something (if it’s relevant to my life and interests), we’re good. When that stops, it’s “See ya.”

So you have to avoid repetition, and you have to always be moving forward.

This is why, as a coach, I can zero in on what a show needs quickly, because I’m always looking for the answers to two questions:

“What did we learn?”

And “What did we learn about you?”

Both of those things are essential.

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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 #298 – Keeping Things Simple Enough for the Listener

No, this isn’t about “dumbing it down”. It’s about not making it more complicated than today’s attention span will accept.

Today’s listener doesn’t read much. (No patience.) And we’re a nation of channel flippers. Fads come and go at warp speed. A lot of “relationships” between supposed “soulmates” last only a few months.

So if you’re going to get in sync with today’s “short attention span theater”, you need to keep things simple. The old “stop by each one of their 6 locations to pick up your card” contest is D.O.A. in today’s world. People have lives. They’re busy.

ONE thought (besides the formatic “basics”) per break.

ONE thought per Imaging piece.

ONE thought per phone call.

ONE story or reaction from a winner.

ONE step to win something, see something, hear something, or post something.

If you make it more complicated than that, you’re going to see gradually sagging response, and eventually, gradually sagging ratings.

The good news is that this actually takes us back to what radio used to be all about: a quip, a piece of information, or a short story, then BANG!…on to the next element. This is what great radio was founded on: MOMENTUM. (Not “going fast”. Just being succinct.)

I can hear the rebuttal already: “That’ll never work.” Oh yes, it will. And I’ve got about 350 stations I’ve worked with that can prove it.

Tell you what, just try it for a month and see what happens. Feel the burst of energy that comes from each air talent knowing that the one comment he or she made hit home, then Momentum took over and swept the listener forward.

(You can always go back to being longwinded and boring, or everything trying too hard to be noticed, or too complicated for anyone to care. And hopefully, that DOESN’T define your station.)

As always, my greatest hope for anyone reading this is to be the very best they can be, and to have a great time every day in a job they truly enjoy.

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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 #297 – Producer, or just a Board Op?

The description “Producer” seems to be thrown around pretty loosely these days. So let me try to help you with what a Producer really should be:

A true show producer is a right-hand man (or woman), an extra set of hands and feet, and a resource in finding material, in addition to the right “framing” for something (music, sound bites, etc.).

A great Producer should have superior Production skills, too.

And you want a Producer to be a source of feedback, so a Talent has someone he or she can count on to weigh in on whether something is a good “fit” for the show, or in some instances, will even work at all.

Most producers I see work with morning shows, although there are some exceptions. But a lot of these so-called “Producers” are pretty much nothing more than board ops.

When one of the shows I coach is looking for a Producer, we start there: we want a Producer. If we needed another air talent, that’s what we’d be looking for. (Frustrated air talents usually don’t make great Producers.)

Editorial comment:

I really don’t like – and have never liked – the idea of a Producer being a board op. I don’t like the idea of ANYONE running the board instead of one of the air talents. If for no other reason, it’s really hard to get the split-second timing it takes to master the “First Exit” if you have to point to somebody else to hit the button for you.

A great Producer can be a valuable asset. But be sure that your description of Producer is an accurate one.

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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 #296 – What You Can Take from Super Bowl LIII

It’s so easy for an air talent to think “I have to do something BIG to stand out against the competition,” and yes, radio is all about creating memorable moments that make people want to come back and listen to you again tomorrow. However, as New England showed against the Rams in Super Bowl LIII, you don’t want to go outside your comfort zone or change your identity to accomplish that.

Once again this year, the Patriots demonstrated that you win by doing the right thing at the right time. That’s what puts you on top. So here’s what you can take away from the Super Bowl, in radio terms…

Things to stay away from:

Don’t try to cram in too much over a song intro.

Don’t try for a second punch line. 99% of the time, that second line will not be as good as the first. Stop trying too hard.

Lose the thought that 3 minutes (or more) is a decent length for a Content break; it’s actually half that…or less.

Things to remember:

Do what YOU do best. (You may need coaching to realize what it is. Most talents do.)

Trust that it WILL be enough…that it WILL work. That confidence comes across.

Forget imitating anyone else or stealing someone else’s bit or punch line. Come up with things that not everyone else will do or say.

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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.