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You’ve decided you want to be a sports PA announcer and are finally getting some work. Great job! But just saying names and reading off of a sheet of paper won’t make you the best. Don’t quit your day job, but you do have to spend some time perfecting your trade. Things like making sure names are correct when you announce them (there are plenty of tricky names out there), having the correct voice inflection at the proper time, speaking slower than normal conversational speed, and maybe the most important: learning how to use improvisation while announcing.
How to Improve Your PA Announcing
Pronouncing Difficult Names Correctly
During my time as a sports announcer (a little over ten years now) I have come across some difficult names that I never want to say again (sorry if you are one of those people!), but it is my job as a professional sports announcer to get those names correct each and every time I say them over the PA system. The best way…just ask! I will contact sports information directors from the teams that are coming to town and ask them over email. Most of the time they will send me a roster with a pronunciation sheet, or you can wait about a hour and a half before game time and ask the coaches themselves for the correct pronunciations. You can then write the name phonetically on a separate sheet of paper and practice pronouncing those names until you can say them fluently.
Voice inflection is important to keep a crowd of people interested. It doesn’t matter if you have the greatest voice in the world (i.e. James Earl Jones); if everything sounds monotone then nobody is going to want to listen to you. Sometimes simple things such as smiling while you are announcing can give your voice more personality. Also, learning when to use those inflections is important. For example, when I announce basketball games, I want to sound pumped up to get the crowd cheering and the home team ready to go. On the flip side, when announcing the away team it’s actually a good time to use a boring monotone voice. As the home announcer, you want to sound less interested in the visiting team to hopefully give your home team an advantage. After the team you’re announcing for scores a basket, you want to say the name of the player that scored the basket loudly and with lots of inflection. When the visiting team scores, I simply say the player’s name in a low, monotone voice to once again show that I’m less interested in what the away team does while on the floor. Watch sporting events on YouTube and study the announcer’s inflections in different situations.
Managing PA System Reverb
When announcing to a crowd of people, you are likely to have some amount of reverb (delay and echo) in the PA system. Don’t speak at the rate you would talk with your best friend going a million mph. Speak as if you are giving a crowd of people vital information (let’s face it, that is what you are doing). You want everyone in that audience to understand the material that you are giving them while keeping them engaged. If you start talking too fast, people will start to dismiss it as background noise and start to tune out.
I would advise taking some type of improvisation class just to learn the basics and how to speak in any situation. There have been many times during a game when I will get a change from the director over the walkie-talkie and have to make something up that is not on the script while still making it sound professional to our crowd. Sometimes you may get a minute or two notice ahead of time, and that’s where I suggest having paper and a pencil with you at all times. You can hurry up and make an outline of what you are going to say, but even with just an outline you’re still going to be improvising the new content. This is where practice comes into play. Taking an improv class will help you to think on your feet. Practice what you’ve learned from that class, and nothing will slow you down.
I hope these have been some helpful tips on how to improve your PA announcing. If you have any more helpful advice or questions, please leave me a comment.