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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No phone calls please

No phone calls please

Ads for openings in broadcasting look good. You read it and when it looks like something you’d be good for, you no doubt start to fantasize by seeing yourself in that position. Anchor or reporter. News or sports. Play-by-play. Whatever it is, you’re ready! So, you ready your demo reel and your resume. You agonize over every word in your cover letter. And you send off your package—attaching postage to a dream…

Sure, want ads can look great. But stop and think for a second. Think about where you’re seeing that “employment opportunity.” The Internet? A national magazine or some other prominent publication? Well, remember this. If you can see this advertisement, think of how many others can see this. How many thousands. Millions! Go ahead and answer the ad, but prepare for the consequences—that is heavy competition where you’re on a relatively equal footing with hundreds of others who are answering as well.

Many of these ads discourage follow-up with the deadly order “No Phone Calls Please.” How do you get around this? Try a different tack: an e-mail or snail mail letter might help. One thing I recommend is to try to get to know someone in the News Director’s news room. Do your research that way. In time, you might find out what the News Director will accept in terms of correspondence from you. This could very well give you that leg up your looking for.

At www.marczumoff.com we can help you strategize when News or Sports Directors tell you No Phone Calls Please.

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Making contact

Getting to know you,
Getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you,
Getting to hope you like me.

–from the song Getting to Know You, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein from the musical King and I

Getting to know people in the industry can be a real key to developing your career as a broadcast performer, especially the right people.

But you say you don’t know anybody?

You may think that’s true, but you really know more people than you think. Actually, it’s more accurate to say you can network to more people than you think. Here are some ways to start your network from scratch.

1.) Make a list of people you already know – that can be anybody, and we mean anybody. Make a list of friends, relatives, neighbors as well as friends of your immediate family in general. Call these people and see if they know anybody, directly or indirectly, who can help you in your employment search
2.) Cold call – if you see a name in print or on a station’s website, place a cold call to them. Once you get them on the phone, be prepared to tell them who you are, why you’re calling and that you’re simply trying to get to know people who can help you.
3.) Be in the right place at the right time – if you notice a newscaster or sportscaster is making an appearance or a speaking engagement, try to get yourself to that place and meet them in person. This is often the best way to make contacts since they can eyeball you immediately and are frequently ready to exchange the necessary information.

Once you make the contact, try to arrange for an informational interview, particularly in the station at which they work. There, they can give you advice on your career, your demo reel or even future employment.

At www.marczumoff.com we’re experts at developing these contacts and helping you expand that list into a lifetime of opportunity.

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Rejection can fuel your enegy

“Life isn’t fair. It’s just fairer than death, that’s all.”
–William Goldman, “The Princess Bride”

Life is not a meritocracy. It’s not the Boy or Girl Scouts. You don’t always get a badge, patch or some other reward for being competent, good or even great in a particular area. Broadcasting, like any other business, is chock full of politics, favoritism, nepotism and other such characteristics. Many times, the best one for the job doesn’t get a sniff at the job. It’s just the way it is, and we all have to learn to deal with it.

You need to accept the fact that failure is an inevitable part of acquiring your first job or any job in this wild, wacky, wonderful business. To be honest, rejection can be frequent, but it’s essential not to take it personally. An unreturned phone call or receipt of an impersonal form letter declining your candidacy is not an indictment of you. This is about the business. Perhaps you didn’t fit what the company was looking for. Maybe the executive who received your tape or application was simply too busy to acknowledge your phone calls or letter. Maybe the job was given to a friend or an associate or someone on ‘the inside’ and you had no shot at it from the beginning. Hopefully, if you were rejected, you were able to get some kind of feedback from the company or establish a solid relationship with someone for future reference.

The object is to literally convert the rejection into the energy you will need to pursue your goals. That “Who-is-he-to-tell-me-I-don’t-have-the-talent-to-make-it-in-this business?” feeling can be converted into positive power. Once you’ve processed the putdown, internalized and rationalized it, you need to take a stance of aggressive, controlled, properly dispensed “I’ll-show-him-I-have-the-talent-to-make-it-in-this-business!” and use it. While the adrenaline is pumping, seize the moment to write that next letter, label that next demo reel or network to that next person who could help you get where you’re looking to go.

At www.marczumoff.com we’ll help you turn rejection into positive energy and opportunity!

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Ya gotta believe

The late Tug McGraw was a relief pitcher for 19 Major League seasons with the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies. One day while with the Mets, McGraw emerged from a team meeting, blinked at the assembled media, smiled and promptly spouted, “Ya gotta believe.”

Even as McGraw was speaking, the Mets were mired in last place in their division. This was August. By the end of the season, however, the Mets would win their division, the National League pennant, and go 7 games before losing the World Series to the eventual champion Oakland A’s.

You have to believe in yourself. It is the primary prerequisite to getting a job in broadcasting. The right cover letter, demo reel, management contact, voice delivery, editing technique, shooting style, approach to production…

These things don’t mean anything until you believe in yourself. It is the first brick in the foundation, the first step in achieving your dream of working in television, radio or video production. You need to know, deep in your heart, deep in your soul that you can do what you dream of doing. Not just performing in the job once you get it, but the formidable, time-consuming, character testing job…of trying to get the job.  We help you to believe in yourself. Visit us at www.marczumoff.com to learn more.

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Listen up! (The most important skill for interviewers)

Being a good listener is the single most important thing you can do as an interviewer. It will help to bring out more honest and interesting answers from the person being interviewed and it will keep your audience engaged and interested as well.

Case in point—a recent post game interview I did with 76ers forward Andre Iguodola after a stunning victory at Boston against the Celtics, the best team in the NBA. After the exciting come-from-behind win, I asked Iguodola what it was like to win a game of this magnitude. Well, I frankly expected platitudes from Iguodola, the usual patter about his young team taking a big step forward by beating a team like Boston on its home floor. Instead, Iguodola was complaining about his team getting off to a slow start, that they never should have allowed themselves to fall behind in the first place and that he (Iguodola) and his less-than-great play earlier in the game was one of the reasons for that.

With that, I followed up with him and asked him to elaborate on the fact that here was his team, the decided underdog, winning a huge game. Yet he felt as though they and he should have played even better. Had I not been listening, the opportunity to follow up and pursue something very interesting and compelling would have gone awry. And viewers who were listening closely would have been miffed at me as the interviewer asking why I hadn’t pursued this fascinating point.

This is not to say you should not do your research on an interviewee or, in the case of a long sit-down interview, have a list of some prepared questions. But when it comes to doing your best job as an interviewer, listening to the answer is right up there with asking the questions!

We have many of the answers regarding your career development as a broadcast performer. Visit us at www.marczumoff.com.

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