One-on-one

Last Thursday night (November 6), the 76ers were on national television while playing the Magic in Orlando.  It was an exclusive telecast, meaning our local telecast on Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia was not permitted.  It gave me the chance to watch the game while sitting with and listening to Tom McGinnis, the 76ers outstanding radio play-by-play man.  It was a chance for me to hear McGinnis reinforce the importance of a broadcaster communicating one-one-one with his or her audience. 

McGinnis is one of the best in the business, conveying the descriptions and accounts of the game vividly for the radio audience.  But one of his best qualities is a quality that all broadcasters should embrace, be they sports or news, radio or television.  During brief stoppages in the action, McGinnis would digress, providing personal and at times intimate commentary of his views and opinions to the listening audience.  His remarks were directed as if he was speaking to me, the guy next to him, as if we were a couple of guys sitting in the stands watching an NBA game.  He wasn’t merely “broadcasting,” he was communicating.  And there is a difference.

Broadcasting in my mind takes me back to the 40’s, where many a newscaster, sportscaster or radio performer would “bark out” a performance, as if he or she was speaking to an audience of thousands or even millions.  While indeed that was the case then as it is now, it’s important to remember one thing: the viewer or the listener on the other end isn’t a thousand people; it’s simply one person, a person that’s receiving the message of a single person.  And that message is most effectively communicated when it’s done in a personal, one-on-one style. 

Admittedly, that’s not always an easy thing to do, especially when looking into a camera lens.  It can be difficult to visualize that there’s actually a single person “out there somewhere” who’s watching you talk and listening to what you have to say.  In this case, it’s incumbent upon the performer to indeed visualize such a scenario and to have your performance reflect this. 

This is something that could take time to accomplish.  If you’re an aspiring performer or even one who’s already employed in the business, watch or listen to your tapes with a critical eye and ear.  Try to imagine yourself on the other end, impartially watching and listening to what you have to say.  Ask other professionals to critique you as well and see if they perceive the image you’re ultimately looking for.  That image would be of a true communicator, delivering a message in a clear, concise, personal manner that makes the viewer or listener feel that they’re the only one in the audience.

At www.marczumoff.com, we help those developing their broadcast performance careers to become personal, one-on-one communicators. 

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Less is more

As a passionate, lifelong Phillies fan, I did something that many would consider somewhat odd.  On Wednesday night October 29, as the long-delayed Game 5 was coming to its intoxicating conclusion, as reliever Brad Lidge built strikes against Tampa Bay pinch-hitter Eric Hinske, I did not join in on the building crescendo of the crowd.  Normally a rambunctious fan, I instead grew quieter and quieter.  Finally, as Hinske went fishing after fate, swinging and missing at Lidge’s final offering, I stood perfectly still as the sights and sounds of delirium simply poured over me.  I wanted to drink it all in; to perceive this monumental moment with every molecule of my being.  And I did it by doing nothing at all.

Broadcasters—play-by-play sportscasters and even news and sportscaster on news programs—would be wise to utilize silence to enhance their broadcasts.  In terms of play-by-play men, Fox broadcaster Joe Buck is one of the best at doing this.  Frequently, the bigger the moment, the less he has to say, allowing the pictures to do the talking instead.  Finally, when he does add something, those few words he says stand out in bold relief. 

Even if the moment is not a huge one, many play-by-play announcers are advised to “lay out” on occasion during a telecast in order to allow the game to “breath” a little.  Again, the less you say in general, the more meaning your words will take on when you finally do speak.  Even for radio play-by-play men, laying out a bit during the action to allow the fans to hear the sounds of your game or to say nothing after a goal, home run, touchdown or big basket and allow the crowd to fill the void, many times makes for great radio. 

To some extent, news and sportscasters would be wise to allow a little “breathing room” too.  Take written copy for example.  Sometimes during an on-camera segment, a slight pause or a simple gesture might bespeak a lot more than all of those words, words, words you’re trying to cram in.  

So, don’t fall in love with the sound of your own voice.  Instead, when you sense an exciting moment in a sporting event or perhaps you feel yourself needing a proper pause in the copy you’re writing, allow it to happen. 

At www.marczumoff.com, we’ll show you that many times, in any sort of broadcast, less is actually more.

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Q: How to break into sportscasting? A: Get a famous Dad

In 1988, Kirk Gibson’s pinch hit home run in Game 1 of the World Series caused the late sportscaster Jack Buck to bellow “I can’t believe what I just saw!” At the time, his 19-year old son Joe was an undergraduate at Indiana University.  Just six years later, Joe Buck would follow in his dad’s footsteps.  He would become the youngest announcer ever to broadcast a regular slate of NFL games when he was hired by the Fox network.  At the time, Joe Buck was just 25 years old. 

It’s easy to shout “nepotism!” here.  And I think it’s relatively safe to say Joe Buck might not be in the position of a seasoned, award-winning network announcer if not for being the progeny of a sportscasting father.  In fact, Joe himself half-jokingly said in a recent issue of a newsletter published by the American Sportscasters Association that the secret to breaking into the business is being the son of a famous, sportscasting father! 

Fact is, Joe Buck is great at what he does.  And the fact that he’s performing at a network level (much like Kenny Albert, Marv’s son) should not be held against them.  What I’m saying is, it’s not their fault they are who they are and that their fathers’ positions gave them the opportunity to have a leg up.  It’s when you get that leg up, then the question becomes, can you stand on your own two feet?  Can you deliver the kind of performance that’s tantamount to the level at which you’re working?  The answer in both Joe Buck and Kenny Albert’s case is a resounding—you’ll pardon the expression Marv Albert—YES!

No matter who you are in this life, especially if you’re trying to make your way in an ultra-competitive area like broadcast performance, there’s no such thing as an unfair advantage.  The thing to remember for most of you who don’t have famous broadcasting parents is you too can make your own advantages.  This is done through a logical, thorough system of networking to the right contacts that can help you develop your career.

Who’s your  Daddy?  At www.marczumoff.com, we’ll tell you it really doesn’t matter.  Instead, we’ll help you develop your career as a broadcast performer despite your genealogy.

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News or Sports?

So there was Dorothy in the movie Wizard of Oz, walking the Yellow Brick Road, when suddenly the path divided in two.  “Which way to go,” she wondered, when suddenly a voice yelled out, “Some people go both ways.”  With that, we could see the smirking Scarecrow, hanging on his cross,with his arms crossed in front of him, indeed pointing BOTH ways…

Among broadcast performers, some people profess a passion for news.  Others are sports freaks.  But some share an interest in both.  So the question become, “which way to go?”  Perhaps the Scarecrow has the right answer.

I can’t say for sure—I haven’t polled every news or sports director in the country–but I’m reasonably sure a demo DVD that has both news and sports elements to it would be OK.  Let’s put it this way, one of our clients is trying it because he feels comfortable and confident performing in either genre.

Even though I’ve been a play-by-play announcer for nearly 15 years and a sportscaster for 28 years, I’d actually spent about the first five years of my career as a broadcast performer exclusively in news.  In truth, I made the transition rather seamlessly, having wanted to be in sports all along.  Being a lifelong sports fan didn’t hurt either.  In fact here in Philadelphia, a major market, two prominent performers made the transition from sports to news while on the air here in Philly.

Point is, if you can perform, chances are you can be equally comfortable in either news or sports.  And, if your demo DVD reflects both, it would seem to figure you’re making yourself eligible for that many more openings as well.

 By the way, that client of ours who’s producing a demo DVD of both news and sports—we’ve just started on the production.  You’ll see the results of our efforts and be able to view that demo on his client page in the coming months.  Check back frequently here, at Marc’s site.

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Buyer Beware

Podcasting.  Professional or amateur, good voice or bad, youcan be a podcaster.  But buyer beware—that downloaded software you’re using to produce your podcasts…well…you might not “own” as much of that software as you think.

I recently discovered this the hard way.  I had been using Roxio’s Record Now Premiere software to record voice-overs for my professional work.  The software had proven to be relatively easy to use and I was able to record commercials and other production work with relative ease.

The Roxio Record Now software was on my laptop.  Recently, I had to have some updates done on the laptop so the hard drive was completely re-done.  That meant everything on the hard drive was going to be erased, including the Roxio software.  No problem, I thought.  I have all of the necessary registration numbers and security codes necessary since I’d properly purchased the software online.  I figured when I get my laptop back I’ll just go to Roxio’s website and re-download the Roxio Record Now software.

So, my laptop is returned, I go to the website and I put in all the necessary codes and passwords in order to re-download the software.  In fact, on the website, there are specific instructions in case you need to re-download software.  However, when I went through all the hoops and hurdles and got to where I needed to be, I was not able to re-download the software.  Instead, up comes a message that tells me I exceeded the 30-day limit for downloading the program.  In other words, when you first buy the program, Roxio then gives you 30-days to do the download.  If you don’t do the download within the 30-day period, you have to purchase the program AGAIN! 

Fortunately, I had another audio software package manufactured by Sony called Sound Forge, and I was able to re-download that without a problem. 

The moral of the story?  If you have to re-do your hard drive or if you want a copy of the software you already purchased for a second or third computer you own, make sure there’s no deadline for re-downloading the software package.  If not, you might have to buy what you already purchased…again!

At www.marczumoff.com, we help you navigate other pitfalls, especially those related to the task of trying to break into television or radio as a broadcast performer.  Visit us today!

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Keep your ego out of it

By all accounts, Larry Mendte had it good.  He was making huge dollars anchoring the 6 and 11pm newscasts for CBS3 in Philadelphia.  A native of nearby Lansdowne, Delaware County, he had come home in July 2003 to help improve the station’s ratings.  He is married to another local news anchor.  Indeed, life was good.

But in late May, reports surfaced that Mendte was under federal investigation.  Authorities reportedly searched his home and confiscated his personal computer.  He had allegedly accessed the private e-mail account of his former co-anchor on the evening news, Alycia Lane.

Mendte is innocent until charged and subsequently proven guilty.  But the point of this exercise is, what if the charge is proven to be true?  And if so, why on earth would somebody of his prominence stoop to this level?

Hopefully, it wasn’t ego.  Ego—that force within all of us that cries to be stroked, soothed and satisfied.  It’s what drives many of us to get into the business of being broadcast performers. 

When I was in college, just hoping somehow, someway to break into broadcasting, someone told me he wasn’t even going to try for a broadcasting career because—as he put it—that business is just a jungle of egos.  And maybe it is.  But that doesn’t mean you have to be Tarzan.

We all have egos.  Nobody is ego-less.  Basically, I think it’s those who can control their egos who end up being the better for it.  Let ego drive you certainly, but only to a point.  Don’t let it interfere with friends or co-workers.  Don’t allow it to ruin your career, as it has for some.  Find a way to channel that ego until it—shall we say—calms down.  Hopefully, you’ll look back on the hurt your ego felt and look at the experience as what it really is–just another instance of pettiness.

Dealing with problems of the ego as it relates to developing your broadcasting career is just one of the many issues we tackle at www.marczumoff.com

Who are you? Developing a style

Old schoolers like me harken back to The Who, the 1960’s British rock band that asked the musical question, “Who are you? Who, who, who, who?”

That’s a question all aspiring television and radio broadcast performers need to ask themselves. Who am I? Who am I on the air? What is my on-air persona? What is my style? And for good measure ask yourself, how do I develop that style?

This is not an easily answered question. And even once you discern the answer and have developed an on-air personality, know that it’s a personality which will evolve and change for the rest of your broadcasting life.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Your primary interest right now is on nurturing a style of performance unique to you as an individual. This is really the first thing to consider. You have to honestly determine who you are. If you’re serious and generally straight-forward by nature, then that in large measure should dictate how you perform. If you (or others) deem you as witty and funny, than that needs to be evident, both in your deliver and your writing. Of course all of this depends on what you’re doing (news, sports, weather, commentaries) and what persona is appropriate for the vehicle in which you are performing.

There are many other areas to consider as well. Looks and voice quality go a long way toward determining who you should be on the air. And it’s always good to try to incorporate some of the on-air stylings of others. You’ll notice I said incorporate and not imitate others. There’s a big difference. Incorporating the phrasing, cadence or look of someone who’s on air style you like is natural and in fact, encouraged. Again, the trick is to find the fine line between incorporating and imitating this particular person.

www.marczumoff.com knows how to help you develop an on-air style that is attractive, comfortable and unique to who you are.

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Don’t just read—think!

You’re on the air and the teleprompter suddenly goes blank…

You’re on the air and a reporter package is not playing…

You’re on the air and you lose your place in the script…

You’re on the air and…

…Something goes terribly wrong. What’s the first thing you need to do? How do you act? What do you say?

Like many things in life, being a broadcast performer is a lot easier when things go right. But often times, things don’t go right. At that point, it’s incumbent upon the person on the air to do what he or she has to do to minimize the damage and—as they chorus crowed in the show Annie Get Your Gun, “…Go on with the show!”

The first thing you need to do when trouble’s brewing is to instinctively relax. It will allow you to take that “long second” to think of what the issue is and where to go next. Relaxing in a difficult situation is not something that is normally developed right away. Simply, you need to work on it.

Once you’ve re-gained your on-air “balance,” you need to cover up whatever mistake is being made. Whether the issue is caused by a technical snafu or by a member of the crew, it’s best when you do your best to camouflage the incident. Drawing attention to the problem or the person or machine that caused it generally doesn’t do anybody any good.

There is no script when it comes to covering up while things go awry. So, you need to know how to ad lib. That is, looking and sounding clean, clear and sensible while talking off the top of your head. I remember working at a major market radio station in the late 1970’s and early 80’s, watching some of the great voices of that station–men and women who’d been on the air for decades in major markets all over the country—literally shake during instances when they were forced to ad lib. That’s because it’s not easy to ad lib—you have to be able to organize your thoughts while, at the very same time, talk…and make sense doing so.

www.marczumoff.com stresses the importance of knowing how to think on your feet and ad lib, including a complete practical and theoretical curriculum on the subject.

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For play-by-play announcers: .150 is a great batting average!

The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.

~ Joe Paterno

Penn State football fan or not, Joe Pa’s words should be heeded, most especially by play-by-play announcers. Preparation (aka doing your homework) is the key to making the good call of a game a great call. But it’s also important to use that preparation judiciously and effectively.

When people ask me how long I take to prepare for a game I usually say, “Every day.” Being an NBA announcer, I am always on the lookout for information on my team and my league. That information comes from a plethora of sources: TV, radio, team and league publications, game notes, the internet and conversations with players, coaches and other team personnel (be careful to cross-check and confirm questionable or potentially controversial tid-bits you may come across). That said, the actual preparation time (the time it takes me to prepare my sheet before a game) is usually three to four hours.

Every announcer has his or her own system of preparation. I do my homework on an Excel® spreadsheet that I customize to my own personal taste. Much of it is written in my own personal code, with stats arranged according to my somewhat esoteric preference. Suffice it to say, there is no right or wrong way to arrange your facts as long as they are correct and easily and quickly accessible while you’re on the air.

One of the most common errors of young, well-prepared announcers is the over-use of homework. Many feel the pressure to use their facts as much as possible, often times jamming in the information whether or not it makes sense to do so at the time. The key is to use this information only when it’s appropriate. For example, if a rookie has a breakout game and scores a career high, you should mention not only the fact that he has a career high but feel free to color the broadcast with more information which enhances who he or she is, on the court as well as off the court. In other words, if a player accomplishes something noteworthy, that is the time people will be interested in hearing more about him. The same thing applies to the team. You might not mention that a team is just an averaging shot-blocking squad, until they snuff 12 in a game, then it bears mentioning.

I have facts on my sheet that I may carry around from game to game and use only twice, once or not at all during an entire season. At www.marczumoff.com we say if you use 15 percent of the information on a sheet during a telecast, you’ve used a lot. That’s a .150 batting average in baseball–not a great average in that game, but a great night if you’re a play-by-play announcer.

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It’s OK to be anxious

You’re on the outside looking in. Your nose is pressed against the window of the broadcasting industry and you hunger to get inside. But then you ruminate about the competitive nature of the business or that callous news director who won’t return your phone call. You start wringing your hands at the prospect of perhaps never seeing the fulfillment of your dream of being a broadcast performer.

You’re anxious.

And that’s OK.

Any amount of angst, distress or out and out worry about how, when or even if you have what it takes to break into the business as a broadcast performer is perfectly understandable. Breaking into the business is not an easy thing to do. But hopefully, you’ve created a vision of yourself doing what you’ve always wanted to do. Let that vision fuel your fire to do what you have to do to get it done.

The first step in “getting it done” is for you to acknowledge your fears. These are perfectly natural, understandable feelings. Ultimately dealing straightaway with these emotions is really the first step toward making that dream come true. Give yourself a break, please–you want something badly and you don’t know how to achieve it. You know you love the rhythm of the newscaster’s cadence or the rush from doing a live shot as a sports reporter or play-by-play announcer, but you may not know the first thing about making it a reality. Doesn’t it make sense that you feel a level of frustration and helplessness when you are sitting there with this fervent wish for yourself and you have little or no idea how to make it become a reality?

The broadcasting business is immensely popular and competitive for a number of reasons. For one, it is a tremendous artistic outlet. The act of creating something can be a truly sublime way to make a living. News anchors, reporters, sportscasters and actors can experience an exceptional amount of self-satisfaction by having to perform before thousands of people on a nightly basis. The attendant notoriety of having your face on camera can be rewarding as well. And for those who ply their craft live, without the benefit of video taping, editing or even a script, the result can sometimes be even more satisfying. Frequently, the mental preparation and concentration required for live performers is so great, many will report a real “natural high” after they get off the air.

www.marczumoff.com is uniquely qualified to help you achieve your dream. That’s because we offer personal, comprehensive, accessible career development for aspiring news and sports broadcast performers.

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