by Marian Massaro
The lights go down, the music goes up, you hear the Director say those three magic words “And…..Cue Announce!!”, and you’re off on an incredible, magical night. You are part of a team of remarkable people who put together an awe-inspiring evening that’s about to change others’ lives. The room is filled with excited guests waiting to hear if their names will be called. This is the world of the live announcer – one of the many genres of voiceover, and ----one of my favorites.
Could it really be as fun and exhilarating on the inside as it appears to be on the outside? Totally. Does it take a certain kind of voice actor to be able to perform this type of voiceover? Absolutely.
To be an effective live voice-over performer…You must be able to watch and react in the moment to lead the audience through what is happening. Aside from studying names and facts, you must understand the feel of the show. It is important that our show voice has command and depth so the audience listens but not so much that they are distracted from the visual. This isn’t an easy balance. I am always grateful for experienced voice-over talent. (stated by Screen Actors Guild Awards® Executive Producer, Kathy Connell)
Live announce isn’t for the faint of heart. There is no ‘take two’ here. But in my opinion, it’s the ride of your life! I’ve had the amazing opportunity of live announcing the esteemed New York Emmy® Awards for the past several years; along with the Screen Actors Guild Awards®, and Critics’ Choice Awards, to name a few. What an amazing honor. It is especially fun when you do the show again, as you usually work with the same people, and you become a family. George Cauttero, Director of the New York Emmy® Awards explains“A great live announcer has to be able to cut through the noise in the venue…Listen to what’s happening as the event evolves. If things turn..adjust your read.”
So how do you prepare for a night where anything can happen at any time? If you’re lucky enough to get a copy of the script ahead of time – which doesn’t always happen – you’ll quickly learn that YouTube is your best friend. Any names you’re unfamiliar with can usually be found here. Many times, you’re given phonetic spellings of the names, but I like to do my own research as backup. If there’s a name that’s particularly difficult to pronounce, I’ll write it phonetically in the script and white out the actual name, so there’s no chance of error. Of course, watching award shows is also great training. Improv classes, as well, can prove to be invaluable in preparing for a live event because it teaches you how to react ‘in the moment’ and think on your feet.
Throughout the show, you’ll follow along with the script, as well as watch what’s happening on stage --- as changes can often take place and so you know when you’re up next. At all times, you’ll wear headphones which will have the director in your right ear, and the live show in your left ear. When it’s your turn to speak, you’ll push a ‘talk’ button that puts your voice live on the air. In cases where you can’t see the stage from your announce position, you’ll have a TV monitor nearby so you can follow the show in real time.
Adaptability is ‘key’, as noted by Barry Adelman, Executive Vice President of Television, for Dick Clark Productions:
We look for someone who can convey energy, excitement and the attitude of the specific event. For example, the voice for the Golden Globe Awards needs to project a more formal attitude than the voice does for New Year's Rockin’ Eve. By the way, the same announcer can absolutely do both if they are versatile enough. The announcer must be continually in the moment, because anything can happen. (Sometimes an introduction is written for two presenters and only one walks out!) She/he must be completely sure of the pronunciation of each name... Many of our shows have ‘walk up’ copy that updates the winners’ accomplishments as they come to the stage. When a nominee is up for several categories, this copy may be constantly updated, so the announcer needs to be able to adjust to the copy options on the fly.
Bob Dussault, Post Producer for the Screen Actors Guild Awards®, adds:
The announcer is a hugely important component to the success of the show, and assists and complements the director, performers, presenters & hosts, and binds the audience to the outcome. The audience will take its’ cues from the announcer and, especially at a live event, the audience is as much a part of the overall spectacle and experience as are the performers - they feed off each other.
What advice can be given to voice actors interested in doing live announce? Bob continues:
Become a student of the genre. Understand its history, its present, and what is trending for the future. Become familiar with the work and style of those awards show executive producers, and do everything you can to get on their radar and meet them.” Adds George Cauttero: “Study the Announcers working the awards shows and game shows; see how these Announcers approach their assignments. See what you can appropriate/borrow from them.
What else can you do to prepare? All good habits come into play here. Eating well, lots of sleep, drink lots of water, exercise, positive thoughts, meditation and even visualization work amazingly well. I treat each show as if I’m training for a marathon. I’ll block my calendar weeks before the event to give myself time for anything that should come up. On show day, I’ll take a bag with me filled with goodies: Things to soothe my throat if needed, snacks to keep my energy up, and markers & highlighters for last minute changes to the script. Good snacks? Fruit, nuts, and protein are great choices. I always bring water – although it’s usually provided for me as well. I always have apple juice or black Australian licorice on hand – as they’re great at keeping any mouth noises away. Grether’s Pastilles and Entertainer’s Secret are also with me, as they’re terrific for soothing the throat, if needed. (Peanut butter would not be a good option here.)
Of course, what’s an exciting night like this one without an after party??? The evening is just beginning! Wear your best, and get ready to toast to a terrific show! It’s everything and anything you can imagine. All in a day’s work…
-Marian Massaro has been the live announcer of The New York Emmy® Awards, as well as other prestigious award shows. She has also voiced national commercials, narrations and promos for many Fortune 500 companies.