Unskilled Labor? No Way!

By Matthew C Wallace

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How Hard is Announcing?

“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to…”

“Now Batting for Shortstop, Number 9, Jamie Erickson, …Junior, Number 13, Patricia Jones.”

“Peters on the carry for 7 Yards. Tackled by Williams. Second down and 3.”

Timeout on the floor charged to the Coyotes, this will be a Media Timeout. “

“Penalty, Landers of Centerville College, 2 minutes for roughing, time of the penalty…”

“Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention for a special announcement…”

“Ladies and Gentlemen, for everyone’s safety, due to inclement weather within 10 miles of our location, we must calmly vacate the stadium. Please, take your families and slowly head to the nearest exit as directed by stadium personnel.”

It’s all harder than the layman thinks.

A person pulled out of the office, plopped in the chair and handed the microphone cannot articulate these the way a skilled Public Address Announcer can. No, they cannot. If you believe they can, you are misinformed and recklessly mismanaging your events. In fact, in the right circumstances, you risk everyone’s safety with this principle.

The Public Address Announcer is a SKILLED position. Yes, it is. Anyone convinced otherwise needs to be removed from sports administration or game operations.

Sports Management Kicked Out

Proper Job Descriptions

Public Address Announcer Job Description

Recently, we embarked on constructing a thorough job description for High School and Youth P.A. Announcers. We designed the document to help edify organizations on all the job entails. If they need to hire a P.A. Announcer, they can use said details to advertise, screen, interview and hire better individuals for the job. They can, also, use the description to gauge the performance of their announcers tasked to their various sports.

Click the image to get the full job description.

On the surface to the layman, the public address announcer gig seems easy. A “kind of” anyone can do it type of work. However, the truth resides so far away from this perception. Doing this job properly requires training, experience and ability. Putting anyone on that microphone risks the management of the event and the safety of the patrons. Oh yes, safety.

Different sports and venues will have different needs. Just think ring announcer versus baseball announcer versus horse racing announcer. All use microphones, have names and competitions but the announcing could not be more different. 

What the Good Announcer Does

The good announcer will know what to do in each case. They will know straight away if they can do the gig or not and will state as such immediately.

So much goes into being a good announcer. First, the skilled public address announcer will be keen on knowing the game operations, scorekeepers, scoreboard operators, marketing folks, music person and officials. They will realize out of the gate they must interact with every last one of these people. Each plays a role during any contest. An announcer may have to check on fouls with the scorekeeper, jersey changes with game operations, coordination with the DJ, field games and promotions with marketing, procedures with officials and more, more, more.

Press Box Staff and EmployeesA greenhorn will be utterly lost. Any announcer who has spent more than a smidgen in a press box or at a scorer’s table will tell you it is without doubt the most fluid environment on Earth. Things happen. The place is rockin’ busy. People come in and go out constantly. Only a skilled announcer retains the wherewithal to keep focused amongst the chaos.

Public Address Announcer LostBut being lost is not so bad…right? Yes, except if you have 15,000 fans, rooters and cranks alike, in the stands, little kids running around, a packed press box, a tight ball game, marketing changing their programs on the fly, coaches dynamically modifying their player lineups, and maybe sketchy weather in the sky. Oops! On the other hand, the skilled Public Address Announcer will say, “Well, that’s just about every game.

On top of it, the able announcer will climb on the mic quickly after a play and announce the result fluidly as if game operations had programmed it into his or her bloodstream. If the game needs to be suspended for whatever reason, he or she takes that data to the mic and calmly delivers an articulate message to the crowd to guide them out of the ballpark or gymnasium. They adjust quickly when marketing has modified their promotion at the last second yet, their delivery gives the appearance it was marketing’s plan all along. Pull someone out of the office or off the street to do this equal to a proper public address announcer and I attest we bear witness to a miracle worker.

What about the Rosters?

Wait a second! I thought announcers need to know the names of the players. I thought that was their big thing. What about pronouncing the names right??? Uh-huh. Anyone lucid on the details of the job is clear names are just one big piece of the action. One piece! So whoa newbie!!!

PA Announcer Field Hockey Tools

The adroit announcer has already long checked those rosters. They thoroughly reviewed ever player, coach and administrators. But wait? Coaches and administrators? Yeppers! Those names invariably end up getting announced at one point or another. Remember, every name counts. Oh by the way, the officials names have been reviewed along with any special guests.

Additionally, the experienced public address announcer will have deciphered challenging pronunciations beforehand, practiced them before arriving at the ballpark, checked them with the coaches or admins on hand, practiced them again in the press box, marked notes on their roster sheets and made mental notes…all as part of their warmup. Warmup? What warmup?

Announcer Warmup

Good announcers will do a number of things to warmup. They stretch, they recite tongue twisters, vibrate their lips, read through copy (beware of copy written to be read with the eyes but not spoken with the voice…there is a difference), practice all the names again, organize all their paperwork for the match, connect with the broadcasters on hand, engage with the DJ and video board person, check their chair and so on.Click the Wrenching Smile for Tongue Twisters and Announcer Tests

Public Address Announcer Warming Up

Warming Up

…and I don’t mean heating up.  I’m, also, not making chicken noodle soup.  No, no.  I mean warming up yourself for an event, game or match.  Before a game, athletes warm up, right?  They stretch.  They run in place.  They perform drills.  They psyche themselves up.  They review things with

Read More »

Get with Administrators

What about administrators? Of course, announcers get with them and tournament directors to work out dos and don’ts. Here is a good example. In one conference, we get new rules not to mention officials’ names beforehand. At a different league, they insist on them getting pronounced correctly. The adept announcer knows to ask. Otherwise, mistakes get made. To what end? No one knows until after the mistake is made. That’s why organizations need skilled announcers on the microphone. Simply, less faux pas business occurs.

Studying Game Scripts

What about the darn game? Sorry, we have not even gotten there yet. Experienced announcers spend time looking at the game scripts and not just for the reads. Why? Timing. Administration and Marketing will change the timing of activities practically every game. You are catching on…every game is different. Hardly, any of them are the same. The skillful Public Address Announcer knows this and goes in the door asking about it.

What happens so often? Marketing says, “…no worries, routine…” Administration says, “…no worries, routine…” Game Operations says, “…no worries, routine…” The P.A. Announcer checks the script and there are not less than 5 timing changes. Uhhhh…

 

Who Can Do the PA Job?

We are 1,000 words into this article.

We have mentioned a myriad of actions the skilled announcer knows to take as part of the job without having seen the first pitch, tip off, kick off, face off, etc., etc., et al. Truly experienced Game Operations folks shiver like they were stuck in a Canadian snowstorm when administration delivers someone with zero experience to work on the microphone in their booth. They understand thousands hear everything the person will utter through the P.A. System. It will be direct reflection of them and their entire team. No, I am sorry. The public address announcer can not be handled by just anyone.

The gig is so much more than a good voice. They must have smooth voiceover abilities. If they cannot read out loud well, you are sunk. The individual must have extensive knowledge of the sport at hand along with a steep fluency on the current rules. A capacity to adjust and modify on the fly is a requirement. Their talent must include calmness under pressure and in emergencies. There is no room for a personality that panics on your stadium microphone. The list of what an able-bodied announcer contains goes on and on and on. It is undeniably a skilled position which, for the protection of the program, patrons, players, coaches and officials, beckons more money. It does. The ability to deliver messages to thousands during an emergency is worth the extra money alone. One wrong word or a nervous tone of voice could create pandemonium.

“But we only have $50 per game in the budget…” Ok. Let’s see how you feel when your cheaper neophyte caused numerous injuries during a stampede out of the gym by poorly announcing an evacuation. Suddenly, an extra $50-$100 will seem awful small.

Your organization likely pays your play-by-play broadcasters a great deal more. Yes, they are skilled, too. However, their breadth of audience can be scrutinized. If they commentate on television or radio, there could be a fair-sized audience on the other end. Those broadcasting on the internet get wildly varying audiences on the other end. But therein lies the rub, ”the other end”. 

Your stadium or arena announcer has hundreds or even thousands listening all around them. They are right there!!!

…not in ear plugs jogging on a trail…

…not on the boob-tube in their man cave…

…not on the radio on the way home from work…

Are Patrons Listening?

I refuse to take anything away from the skills of the Play-by-Play Broadcaster. The good ones are great! They long locked their craft down but, so did your excellent Public Address Announcer. Anyone deciding the one job is harder than the other lacks a clue. Once the realization emerges which differentiates Play-by-Play from P.A. Announcing, that special moment when the Play-by-Play person knows not who listens and the Public Address Announcer sees who listens, the respect between professions blossoms.

In the play-by-play world, no guarantees exist anyone is listening at all to your broadcaster or commercial copy. In contrast, a stadium crowd will hear everything blasted out of the speaker. If your announcer yells profanity or “Save the whales!” through the mic, it certainly vaults from goal post to hot dog stand. It reflects off ice cream cones over to shoe tops off seat backs and into a paying customer’s ear. Absolutely, positively, guaranteed. The only way no one listens to the P.A. Announcer is if no one shows up to sit down. Even if only one shows up, do not organizations want good data flowing into their innocent ears out of a highly skilled mouth? Seriously.

Look at White House press secretaries and what messes get made or cleaned up because of the skill of the individual speaking to reporters. Great strides are made to select a person which speaks to the listening ears of the press. DO NOT BE CONFUSED! Patrons at a ball game are listening. Oh, yes ma’am, they most certainly are. Only the fool traverses their event oblivious to porous eardrums of their patrons absorbing the dribble of an utterly unskilled public address announcer. Oh, on top of it, members of the press are typically sitting in your stands, too.

Hire a PA Announcer

The WANTS are extensive and, as it turns out, are tantamount to the NEEDS. The Public Address Announcer is a skilled and trained individual and should be recruited and hired in kind.

Yes, the PA is Skilled

After all of our drivel on the subject, it is time to see the Public Address Announcer is a SKILLED POSITION.

How should you know from this article?

We have not even talked about announcing during the game or match yet. You got it. There are myriad activities and, none include announcing the contest. Of course, the contest takes skill, too. Knowing what to announce when and to announce precisely, and efficiently takes a person with great ability.

Does your tyro know how to announce substitutions without slowing down the game? Were they smart enough to ask which sport? Each sport is different on subs. Are they still trying to announce the libero back into the volleyball match as a sub a hundred times?  Does your person understand football officials’ signals to announce penalties? Or…are they so good that they announce the penalties when the officials happen to be mic’d up? Can your announcer that you yanked out of the office read the lips of the umpire in a noisy stadium where there is no phone to call up the changes to the press box? These are real skills that not everyone has. They take training and experience to acquire.

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Yes, yes, yes. Name pronunciations are paramount and, many folks can figure out how to conquer that. On the other hand, can your announcer handle the names, the press box environment, the dynamic changes, the noise, interact with everyone in the booth, deal with special announcements, substitutions, music and video people, broadcasters AND the game itself all at the same time? If not, get out your check book and make your games better success stories rather than adventures in babysitting.

Public Address Announcers are not unskilled labor. Of course, anyone can learn to do it but, only a fool expects any Tom, Dick, Harry or Jill can plop and go. The administrator who thinks this way does not belong in sports management. I’m totally serious. A sports management person who believes P.A. Announcers are secondary, can be handled by Brenda in accounting or Jim in marketing needs to consider a career change. It indicates they no little about their overall position, which is to protect their organization as much as build it up.

Public Address Announcer Hero

Wise up, Managers!

So, wise up managers! Solid P.A. Announcers are extremely skilled. These are the folks you want speaking to your thousands. You need to advertise with a good job description and vet candidates carefully. This will not just be an audition. The job is more than just a pretty voice. You need to interview thoroughly. If you hire prudently, you will become and organizational hero. The qualified P.A. Announcer makes your organization look good, increases your credibility in sports management, enhances patron experience and could very well keep everyone safe. Great Public Address Announcers are worth the extra dollars and hiring mile.

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About Matthew C Wallace

Matthew C. Wallace is the owner of publicaddressannouncer.org. He is a public address announcer, writer, webmaster, historian, author as well as a former executive and musician. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and children.

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