Recently announcing a homecoming ballgame, the scoreboard went out or, more pointedly, never really got going. No score, no time,
My dad kept an overflowing, disorderly Sears Craftsman toolbox of ratchets, screwdrivers, needle-nose pliers and thingamajigs he credulously envisioned he would need one day. As an executive, I’ve carried around a flash drive of accumulated-over-time documents to the tune of 30,000 files and 48.5 gigabytes convinced I will be able to pull out something old to apply to a new situation. Like my father, I leveraged about 2% of those tools; yet, I go to a new job or contract and that damn flash drive is right there in the briefcase because you never know.
PA Announcers, whether they need everything or not, require toolkits in kind. Not because they will use everything in the box but, because they just might need some of the stuff in that box. It’s nuts but, it’s not. Try showing up to a football game without tape. How about sitting down, getting organized and having no pens that work. Consider having plenty of pens but, no spiral notebook to right on. The possibilities for falling into announcer chasms are endless.
Well, I have a kit and you should, too. Not for my own sake but, for my customers…the administrators. After all, what kind of professional PA announcer am I that shows up to a game unprepared. Luck Favors the Prepared. Remember, that post I wrote some time back? Go read it. It’s all true. I won’t belabor the point. I want to talk tools so, let’s get to it.
Let’s begin with my toolbox, designed for musicians as I once was a musician. Now, my Anvil case travels with me from game to game filled with little goodies which may or may not be used. Irrespective, I am happy they are in there. YES, the case is heavy which will not be everyone’s cup of tea; however, Anvil engineered these cases for heavy travel and industrial use. This makes me happy. The case won’t bust, will last my lifetime and more and, everything inside remains safe and secure. Others may not need a case. Unabashed, I do.
Let’s rap guts. My pieces and parts came to be through need, watching what colleagues do and even the list in NASPPA’s Voice Above the Crowd (The PA Announcer’s Must-Have Bible…even if you don’t use it). Since, I’m concerned that this will end up being a long drawn out post, we’ll do this guts talk in a list to make it easier on the eyes.
I consider this the #1 tool. Yep, above the microphone and everything. Tape is like the universal PA Game Day tool. I have had more rosters blow away or fall on the floor than you can shake a stick at. I use clear packaging tape due to its strength. Many an announcer has survived with plain old scotch tape, though. I just could not imagine operating without taping down rosters or game sheets.
Here’s the thing. Papers move. Clipboards move. If you tape it down though, you don’t even have to look at it to know where it is. I prefer game sheets exactly where I can expect to find them, especially in fast-paced press box environments. One time, I even reversed the tape once to hold my pen and pencil on a table that was leaning. Always have tape!
These represent the you-never-know tools. Kinda like Dad having a whole set of allen wrenches or voltmeter, they are never used until that ONE DAY, which invariably arrives like the devil…unexpectedly, and you breathe a sigh of relief that it’s in repose in the back corner of the Anvil case waiting to be wielded.
For a PA Announcer, scissors really stick out in the mind. Suppose, the table they put you at won’t fit your rosters, etc. Scissors emerge invaluable for trimming or neatly cutting in half. Certainly, they work better than creasing and tearing a page of paper. For me, smaller student sized scissors do the trick. They are compact in a toolkit with little free space.
Imagine an admin supplies you with a script not stapled. Paper clips or a spare binder clip saves the day. Nothing more destabilizing than a bunch disorganized papers. I lean toward colored paper clips as you can organize by color which is helpful if you are starting to stack up many events in your schedule.
Rubber bands, also, have that universal collecting up appeal. Excellent for rounding up your writing utensils, a good rubber band meets the needs of so much more. A good thick rubber band can hold an XLR cable together or a small group of tools (PC screwdriver and such). Of course, you can roll up your scripts and rosters and secure with a good rubber band if you have no other means of holding your papers together.
No choice in the matter. The choice resides in how many to bring. How about 100?! It sounds silly but, if you only bring 3, your risking your day. Being a pen fan, I have pens of blue/black and red. Why two colors? I use a red one when there is something I need to highlight quick and speaking of that, I usually have one or two in the box. I prefer pens with the rubber for your finger. I write verbose and do not like the finger bruises.
I use pencils less. I like scratching out my errors. Why? To make them obvious… Others tend toward pencils and erasing. Personal choice. If you do go pencil, get mechanical. No sharperners in the press box!
Highlighters are useful if you just want to drag a yellow line across the starters. Any color turns out fine actually. Highlighting certain portions of the script pre-game can be helpful as well. If you’re not a red ink fan, go highlighter! Trust me, it works effectively.
I use a spiral notebook always. The pages don’t fall out. I can flip back and forth when needed. It works for me. My spiral has everything in creation written in it: birthday announcements, captains, subs, downs, things I hear to note, phone numbers, occasional picture of Kilroy, etc. Why anyone in broadcasting would show up anywhere without blank paper is beyond me. My way is not the only way though. Note pads, composition books, loose leaf pages (I don’t recommend since they are hard to organize and require a binder), sketchbooks or any paper item you are comfortable with. Please, have paper. What’s the point of crippling yourself at a ballgame?!
A special note on paper. I head toward wide-ruled because my penmanship suffers from a lifetime of pitiful handwriting. Wide-ruled provides more space for legibility.
If I could thrust this item upon everyone, I would. To have a hard surface one can hold in their hand and write on expands the announcer’s flexibility. An announcer can stand and write, move around and write, write down and hand the board to another to glance at, hold close or far from the eyes, secure keep papers to be read. How better to adjust phonetics on the 50-yard line with the visiting coach then writing on the roster which is clamped to the handy dandy clipboard. For me, the clipboard serves as the screwdriver of the toolkit. And what, exactly, is a set of tools with no screwdriver?
Yes, earlier and above, I hopped on the soapbox about taping things down. You bet…during a game. Pre-game, you are on the move. You head to SID folks, officials, coaches, scorekeepers. How many announcers have gone to mid-field at a high school game and discovered they’ve made a rule adjustment here or there for the game. Want to remember? Write it down. THIS is where the clipboard comes in. How many announcers have had to run from one end of the scorer’s table to the other to ask the scorekeeper about a ruling. Want to remember what they said? Write it down. Again, Clipboard!
Now, all varieties of clipboards exist. I recommend cheap! But different strokes for different folks. Others like what they like. The point is they still carry a clipboard.
Holy cow! How professional does a game sound when it is scripted?! If you are new to this and never scripted your High School baseball game, script it one time and you’ll never go back. The big difference between the MLB and the sandlot is…scripting. Items for which you should have scripts printed and organized: rosters, in-game tracking, pre-game copy, national anthem, halftime or between periods copy, end of contest documentation, emergency procedures, it goes on. The more scripts you show up with, the better. Bring blank roster sheets as well. I cannot tell you how many times admin has given me the rosters and they were dead wrong. Yap, a lot of furious writing went into a blank template but, the big idea, the blank was available ’cause I brought one. Scripts, scripts, scripts, scripts, scripts, scripts. Did I emphasize it for you?
Often, at higher levels, scripts are pre-written. Get them sent to you ahead. Why? You find the author wrote them to be read and not spoken. If you have them beforehand, you can whip out your highlighter and red pen to make adjustments. You want your speaking to be clear and fluid.
Can’t get them until you arrive? No worries. Flip through on-site with your pen. Confusing rhetoric? Ask Admin or Marketing what they meant. You might just find a mistake and save the day!
Need forms and sample scripts? We are prepared. Just go to our forms page in the tools section of the website. Everything there is professionally formatted and FREE!!!
WARNING: If you do pen your own script, have someone in admin peek at it and say “Approved” to your face or write it on your doc. Unapproved scripts can get you in hot water if rhetoric counters an organization’s policies. Believe me, you want to be reading the pre-game and not winging it. However, you want admin approved reads in your hand and rolling off your tongue.
You bring what keeps you organized. Paper clips (above) help, too. Organization is an announcer’s best friend. If keeping 5 folders with this and that in the case works for you, do it…every time! If just stapling your items before you leave to the arena does it for you, do it…every time! I keep a couple folders empty in the case. I’ve had to use them more than once so, they’re now tools worth having.
I, also, keep a soft binder with officials signals for the sport at hand. No, I do not have every hand signal in creation memorized. I carry references with me to keep sharp by having what I need. Stick with 1/2″ binders. They must fit in the tool kit with everything else. Consider slant d-ring which does not screw up the holes in the paper. Food for thought.
If you have not been able to tell just yet, discipline is a good buddy to the announcer as well. The more discipline you have to your routine, the better you perform. It is a fact! Announcers with discipline win out every last time.
Throat treatments are as essential as breathing for anyone who’s voice is their business. Water is top dog. Careful on intake though, little to no time stands ready for the announcer to get relief until game end. I use an old singer’s trick and eat, sparingly, potato chips throughout a contest. It greases my golden pipes in a pinch. Hopefully, you don’t plan on kissing your girlfriend after the game as there will certainly be gross little pieces of potato stuck between your teeth. Ick! However, you will sound great throughout!!! Pack a bottle of water and a bag of chips in that case. You’re gonna need it, trust me. If chips are NOT your thing, throat lozenges work too but, BE CAREFUL! Don’t use anything coated in sugar. Sugar and Milk are a vocalist’s worst enemy. Check out our piece on VOCALZONE!!! They really do the trick!
I am less a fan of throat spray. On the other hand, two hours of steady speaking wear on a throat as well as a voice. If throat spray relieves it, bring it along. Again, avoid anything with sugars. Sugars and milk stick to your throat and will relieve it of its clarity for certain.
There is no substitute for water, though. Of course, some organizations will provide but, bring one bottle as backup. If you show up and there is none, you will pat yourself on the back for being smart. Consider spending more money on quality bottled water. It goes in you. Remember that. Avoid flavors. Avoid sugars. Read the ingredients and make sure you agree with what is in there. Penta and Fiji sit at the top of my stack but they cost more.
As gross as this might sound, the best possible water for the vocalist is cucumber water. Sadly, you have to make this yourself. If you really want your voice treated as you drink, find a recipe for cucumber infused water. One I know and haved used is:
Funny, funny. If you can’t read without glasses, you’re game DOA. Keep an old prescription in the kit. Fine, they are not perfect but, you’ll find a way to make them work for 3 hours. If you wear prescriptions all the time, keep a backup in the kit. If you require glasses, spare no expense for 2 pairs.
Ya’ sunburn like me? I forget my baseball cap more than anything else. I come home with a pink beanie and a wife berating me over the terrors of skin cancer; therefore, I keep a crammed, smashed old cap in the case as a backup. No red beanies for me!
Click on the beauty on the left to purchase!
Keeping sunscreen on hand if you are going to sit outdoors, tent or no tent, makes all the sense in the world. Do not depend on others for this. You know your skin best. Get the proper SPF rating for you.
If your eyes are blue, you are subject to macular degeneration. Oh boy. What the heck is that?! At it’s most basic, it is the chronic loss of visual acuity in the center of your field of vision. It just so happens that blue eyes are more susceptible. How can you combat? Sunglasses. Not just any sunglasses though. You are looking for UVA, UVB and blue light filtering ability. No sight… Generally, no announcing; although, I do know of one blind announcer who leverages braille rosters and spotters. Wow!!!
If you think macular degeneration is a problem or you wish to be proactive, visit your family eye doctor immediately. Get your eyes checked. They will recommend the best course of action regarding glasses AND sunglasses. An announcer can take no chances with their eyes.
Speaking of seeing things…no matter the sport, I’ve been glad to have my compact binoculars along. I could not imagine doing any sports operations/media-type job without a pair. There just seems to be always something in the distance I need to get a quick, closer look at. Football, Baseball, Softball, Lacrosse, Soccer, Hockey, Rugby, etc. – ESSENTIAL. It is an unprofessional mistake not to be carrying a pair around as an announcer of any kind.
I’ve even used them indoors where the jersey numbers are so small and do not contrast. My eyes are not perfect so, I never turn away an aid of any kind. There is no shame in using a tool in any condition to be more accurate in your work.
Choose what you want. The ones below are cheap and work. I own 2 pair. Backups!!!! You do not need to spend a fortune on a basic tool, folks. Go with what works. Better yet, go with what works for you. I like things functional and compact.
Who on earth told these dummies to bring the clubs out in the dark anyway! Great little LED flash lights are everywhere and cheap! Have one. It’ll work out and when you can’t believe. One time, I was at a basketball game (in the audience…hard to believe) and the lights poofed out! That’s right, poofed! The calm announcer whipped out the flash light and read a procedure to relax the crowd.
Keep it small and compact. Use LED only because it uses less power which means the batteries last longer. You shall seldom use it; however, you will be so grateful the day you are in the dark.
Lots a guys and gals like their tech. Instead of pen and paper, the favor the tablets, phones and laptops over the old school pencils and paper. That’s awesome! Wise words of warning from your announcing sage: have backup. Imagine, for whatever ethereal pretext, you arrive and your trusty tablet is dead. What do you do? Panic?!?! No way! Why? You were smart enough to fill your toolkit with backup paper and pens just in case such nonsense befalls you.
If you are compelled or engaged to do music, you are a slave to some tech unless you are going to pack your trumpet in your bag. Have backups for that too…if you can fit it. LOL! A number of announcers use laptops with music production software. Great!.. until the laptop dies. Have a backup…even as simple as your phone with a list. Have backups!
All this technology is wonderful but have backups! On game data, hard copies. On music, an alternative means to keep on truckin’. Think “Backups”. Everything well-engineered has backups. Always. Great announcers have backups to everything. Well…except one thing…their voice. You can’t have everything, people. Besides, for all I know, some clever PA Game Day folks have figured out how to backup their voices, too!
If you ARE planning to leverage laptops and tablets, make them cheap and get an extended warranty. Most announcers are road warriors. The road is harsh. Laptops and tablets damage easily. If you get a device that is cheap enough, you might be able to afford two. Again, the “B” word comes to mind. Keep the primary tablet in the toolkit and the backup in the trunk of the car.
So often, the technology is used solely for music. The sage advises announcers to stay as far from music as possible. Let that be someone else’s job if at all possible. Yeah, yeah, yeah… I’ve heard all the arguments that if they are willing to pay you, you take it. Yeah, yeah, yeah…whatever. I’ve done both. I can tell you, no matter what the alleged experts might mouth off, for the everyday announcer, being prepared to do music is far more important than doing music itself. Where money is concerned, each person’s drivers are different and I don’t judge.
The less vocal-busy sports lend better to music…say hockey. Basketball? Football? Volleyball? An announcer is busy constantly. Let someone else piddle with music in sports where your brain, hand and voice are on the constant move.
Music can be a big pain all by itself. You play a song with a bad word…you’re done. You play a song that offends one person…you’re done. If you don’t follow modern music, you play only old stuff…boring! Announcers that are, also, professional DJs are better staged for success. They know the announcing gig and the music gig. If you are just an announcer, you could struggle in higher profile organizations and events. If your situation is very simple, say a small high school, go for it! Listen to your own brain on it, if you don’t want to be burdened with music, do not take it on.
Having said this, we get caught in the music web very, very often. Be prepared with clean lists. Playing music with dirty words will get you tossed out quick. Have your noises and national anthems loaded on whatever tech you use. Organize them so you can get to them quick and easy. Remember, music is not the focus, announcing is. If there is someone there that can use your tech to play the music, all the better. Music is an announcing red herring. I know it’s fun but, it is undeniably a distraction the PA guy does not need.
Some can afford great software for more professionally managing music. It works but, it is an investment. Your decision. College and professional usually have someone paid to deal with music. Music comes into play often at high schools or junior colleges which cannot afford hardly an announcer let alone people, computers and software. These environments, if you can afford the software and laptop, benefit from these software packages as they put songs and soundbites at your fingertips.
If you are doing music, choose your music very carefully…very carefully. Get advice from professional DJs. Pay attention to the audience in attendance. What sport are you doing? If you have girls on a volleyball court, heavy metal will not fly. If you are announcing men’s basketball, bubblegum pop will likely not go over either. If young children are running around, parents might freak at something too sexually oriented.
Invariably, music sits in the toolkit. You keep it there. Let’s consider it the power drill of your kit. You pull it out if you need a job done and there is no other way. Otherwise, you keep it updated, clean, packed but available when needed.
Ok. I am a tech-foolish sage. We all use tech these days. At a minimum, I go to my phone at a baseball game to look up the local weather and announce it to the crowd. Now, i carry a USB charger with me. On top of it all, I keep a fresh back of AA and 9V batteries. Wireless microphones, geeeeeez! They were supposed to provide mics with fresh batteries then BOOM! I am talking to myself because it died. I tell you the other thing i started carrying because it paid off a hundred times over: mic cable pieces. I have a 10 foot XLR cable all wrapped up with an assortment of adapters for every darn type of plug hole. Do you know every system you are going to face? Of course, not! Good announcers anticipate.
Where Apple products are concerned, buy Apple. Costs more. Lasts longer. It frustrates that it costs more but, that’s where it is at. Other brands, such as Samsung, you have more flexibility on accessories and price. Be wise on it!
I like to be hands free. I have a collapsed mic stand in the case that screw together everywhere I land where I don’t get a headset mic. I use a rubber microphone holder which stretches to fit the thick wireless mics that all places sport now. The best part about using a stand is that I can better control the distance between my mouth and the mic. It matters. Same distance and same volume equal quality, consistent results out of the speakers. Also, I keep a couple of those foam mic (pop filters) covers as well. I slip them on the provided mic and, suddenly, my germs and everyone else’s segregate to the benefit of the whole lot.
Headset mics are an entirely different discussion. Most venues, you use what they have. At the collegiate and high school level, 99% will have a wired or wireless handheld microphone. Yes, you will be compelled to use what they have. No, they likely will not you plug in your own personal microphone. And so… having a good mic stand to plop in what they have is an imperative.
Got this feedback from some colleagues and will be evolving my kit but, what about carrying a genuine screwdriver. More than once, I’ve needed to fix something then there’s the big scramble to find a tool. A multi-tool, screwdriver, wire-cutting pliers or any little fixing it tool for bent connectors, a mic you have to tear apart on the fly (EEK), or all the things that happen that you don’t think about ahead of time. One colleague indicated they carry a power strip. At first, it sounded much but, then I recalled a time when I arrived and there was only one plug…AND the school was using it. A power strip could be a might weapon in your arsenal. Think about it.
NASPPA’s Voice Above the Crowd is definitely a need for me, especially if attacking a new sport. The book could use a diet though. Thick by nearly two inches, it can’t quite fit in my case with all my other necessities. How do I handle it? Toss it in the trunk and carry it into the auditorium separately. Egads, extra stuff to carry! It’s worth it. Little bits of data in that book have helped me time and time again. Carrying that book does not make me an amateur. Quite to the contrary. The pro brings the tools they need. Consider that.
With NASPAA shutting its doors at the end of 2021, get your copy today. I have been informed the book will be sold on a different website in the near future but, if you are a new announcer, do you want to chance it? Get yours today!
Sadly, not one of us invited this pesky little character, but what havoc it caused! Now, unlike our old life of showing up and getting to work, we must consider the safety of things conscientiously prior to any activity outside our homes. Safety always rested in the back of our minds, surely. However, our world’s current state pressed safety considerations in the vanguard of our everyday life.
No doubt COVID-19 has been destructive. Regardless, we must press on. Organizations, across the board, have set policies announcers must adhere to or not announcer. We may disagree with said policies but that is neither here nor there. Policy is policy. As announcers, if we choose to announcer, we must conform to their rules and prepare ourselves in kind for our own safety and theirs…like it or not.
The following are additions to the toolkit not one of us could have foreseen. Each person is different. Each person’s doctor is different. Each organizations healthcare administration is different. We take it all into consideration and do the best we can.
Truth is…everyone should keep a small bottle on them regardless of circumstances. Just a good practice. However, an uncertain world obligates certain items. You don’t know where that mic has been, or the table, or the chair, etc. et al. A 1 or 2 ounce bottle in the case can spare the announcer the bacteria on the hands that make it to the face. Hands to face. Hands to face. Disease’s #1 helper is your own darn hands to your own helpless face. Memorize this for your own health’s sake: HANDS TO FACE…HANDS TO FACE.
Most organizations claim to clean things. Trust yourself. Be disciplined. Take care of your own business as a guarantee.
COVID-19 or no COVID-19, the human being has been put on alert. No one knows where anyone’s been. Professional speakers already realize fluids exit the mouth when we talk. They fly through the air, wildly with reckless abandon. They land on faces and inanimate places where hands touch. THIS is the most common way things spread.
Again, circumstances are immaterial at this point. The announcer uncomfortable stepping into future unfamiliar locations might want to consider having masks on hand to calm the nerves. Masks now exist on the market which have minimal effect on vocal quality. They arrive in all shapes and materials. Spend the money and try out a variety until you end up with what works for you and ONLY you. These days, people even make fashion statements with them. (A sample of a mask my son had made to the right.) Who knew?! Of course, during this time of virus fear, get yourself good masks to keep in the kit at all times. It’s best to always mitigate your own risk but, you know this already.
For myself, I HATE the mask. Yes, HATE. I have done enough research to know there is no material gain. Others have their own opinions. I respect it. Organizations have rules. I comply. I will say that I use the cheapest possible mask. You do what makes you feel best. I will not judge but might just disagree. LOL.
So, here we go. Hands to face…hands to face… With gloves, the ol’ nasty business doesn’t land on your skin in the first place. Do you look weird wearing them? YES!!! So what?! If it gives you solace to know you are doing all you can do to protect yourself, go for it! Remember, hands to face. We are our own worst enemies. It is not others’ hands but, our own which will likely get us under the weather. Why play games if you are worried? Stack the deck in your favor and keep fresh disposable gloves on hand.
Warning: some are allergic to latex. OK. Speak to your doctor. Always speak to your doctor. Let them help you with an alternative.
Do you know what lips have been on that microphone???? OMG, NO YOU DO NOT! That’s right. Microphone covers exist! They work! The best part is they put a shield between your lips and the germs on the mic itself. No matter the future, we highly recommend having a package of disposable covers on hand for the rest of your career. Foolish thinking tips the scales of doom the wrong direction. For so many announcers, they contract on demand to unknown locations whereby anything could have occurred in the recent past. Show up. Pop a cover on the microphone. Go to work in safety! If you work one primary gig at say a university, demand Administration purchase an unlimited supply to keep in press boxes and at tables. They want you to announce? They should provide a safe environment.
These are NOT Pop Covers. This is something you might put below a Pop Cover to the detriment of sound, however. These covers, like spray and wipes, are about germs. If you do not use Pop Covers and want a germ blocker, these items might work for you.
I thought you’d never ask. I carry a classic. The Shure omni-directional SM58s reigns, in many a mind, as the greatest, reliable stage microphone of all time. Yes, one, literally, lives in the toolkit, ready and willing to be plugged in.
Not a fan of carrying a headset mic around. Some announcers love it and take it to every event. Typically, they are bulky and take space when one tries to keep the kit compact and efficient. A pair of SM58s switched mics in the box are perfect! They are reliable. Work in a pinch. Mostly, they fit tight in a tight toolbox.
Irrespective…mics are a personal choice. People like one over others for 1,000 reasons. Research. Test. Try. Evaluate. Decide. Buy what you like…but keep it in the toolkit.
No, do not carry a wireless setup around. Too much stuff! Too easily damaged! Plain old-fashioned wired, omnidirectional stage mic with an on/off switch is professional and prepared. Sure, you can take along all that stuff but, do not complain to me if you are bumbling and stumbling with too much gear. Probably, you will be using the hiring organizations equipment anyhow which could be wired, wireless, headset, world class, junk, clean, dirty, who knows?!
If the microphone they hand you has no switch, ugh…. Might be time to dip into the toolbox for your own. YES! A switch is a requirement. Turning off the mic protects everyone!
Hauling around 2 switched mics with an XLR cable just seems wise. Will you use them? Unlikely. Backups, baby! Be more than smart. Intellect vs Wisdom? I’ll take wisdom every time. Put at least 1 mic in the box.
Not much to summarize I am afraid. Every announcer needs a toolkit…period.
To be prepared, an announcer must put themselves together a kit they can count on but, the microphone is not the top tool to consider. If you show up as a mechanic to fix a car with only a wrench and screwdriver, you will fail. Announcing is the same. It takes a lot to do something right. My list is not exhaustive and constantly changes on me but, I have a toolkit available to me at all times. I couldn’t imagine doing this otherwise. Could you?
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.
Recently announcing a homecoming ballgame, the scoreboard went out or, more pointedly, never really got going. No score, no time,
…and I don’t mean heating up. I’m, also, not making chicken noodle soup. No, no. I mean warming up yourself
Originally, I set out to get my NASPAA certification for the sake of completeness. I’ve announced oodles of events. I already owned