Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How to Get a PA Job by Dennis J. O'Boyle

Through a variety of methods, most of us have found a way to fulfill our dreams of becoming a PA Announcer.

There really aren't too many "jobs" available in the sense of a full-time, fainful employment opportunity with a great salary, easy hours, no evenings or weekends, plenty of paid vacation and benefits, excellent insurance and so on.

There are a lot of opportunities out there; most of them might not pay anything at all or only a few bucks, usually only enough to cover your expenses for gas, parking, a quickie meal, and a bottle of water. But you have to start somewhere and be ready for the good paying gigs when the time comes.

I'll share with you a few ideas in general, things that always work for me, and also a set of specific events, details about how I got started. I've announced over 1,400 games as a PA Announcer from the grade school level through the professional ranks and am also entering my fifth consecutive season with Time / Warner Cable Television, announcing football and basketball games on their local affiliate, serving in both the play-by-play and color commentary / analyst roles. It all started somewhere for all of us.

Some of us have come in from teaching, public speaking, sweeping, business, IT, coaching, playing, sports music programming, official scorekeeping, or from being officials or referees, whatever, but we have all oriented ourselves toward PA announcing and here we are today.

Usually we had an interest, as you do, a passion to do the announcing and often we were born with certain traits and desires that brought us to the fun, fascinating, and exciting world of announcing. My older brother used to complain that my "fog horn voice" would wake him up every Satruday morning, and he'd pound the snot out of me for it, but who would have known that the ol' fog horn voice was meant to be used in PA announcing -- it just turned out that way.

Right now, let's take a look at some basic methods for getting yourself an announcing gig, then I'll tell you more about how it all started for me.

First, we all assume you know what you're doing when it comes to PA Announcing. There are books available but most of us haven't read them or taken any type of announcing class. I compare this to swimming.

There are books on swimming but if you could not swim anyway and read all the books, how would that help you if a helicopter dropped you in the middle of the ocean? It wouldn't, right. Books have their place and experience is often the best teacher.

Compile some announcing sources that will help you. Search YouTube. Listen and download samples. Are you a yeller, holding notes for eternal seconds, "The BiiiiiiiiIIIIIIIIGGGGGG DoooooOOOOOOOOOGGGGG!" or are you a professional, classic voice artist? Determine and develop your style, then stay with it. It's you.

Attend a PA Announcer clinic, like the ones that this Yahoo! Users Group has, or the ones that the National Association of Sports Public Address Announcers holds, check 'em out at

Construct your voice and style to be the best for YOU. None of us are the same -- find what works best for you and stick with it. Listen for the PA announcer on the television and radio. Attend a few tournaments. Go to some games. Pick up on the attributes of other announcers. Develop a score card of announcing style and then determine what characteristics are your strong points and which ones do not belong to you at all.

The score card might include columns and point-rating systems for voice quality, tone, level, strength, diction, enunciation, accent, along with technique, ability to grab and hold audience attention, how special announcements are handled like the car with its lights on in the parking lot and so on.

Then, put together some samples of your voice and announcing style. Prepare these audio tracks on your computer and get ready to burn a few CDs so you can distribute them to interested people. Also, create a PA Announcer flyer to go along with your marketing campaign.

Next, start thinking about the opportunities that are available for you to do some public address announcing. Contact the schools that are near your home and workplace. Ask for the coach of the sport(s) you want to announce, speak to the athletic director, find out what is going on and what the needs are for a PA announcer.

Even if they're all set with an announcer already, let them know that you're available for fill-in assignments in case their regular person goes down, can't make it, comes down with a lost voice, gets sick, has a heart attack, enters long term rehabilitation, prison, or dies. Hey, things happen. YOU can be The Back-up Plan, simply by putting yourself in that role as needed.

Cover the local grade schools, junior and senior high schools, colleges, and professional teams. Call, write, send an e-mail. Find out what organizations are conducting tournaments, special events, anything and everything that might need an announcer. Is the McDonald's All Star Game going to be held at a place near you? Call McDonald's headquarters, ask for Ronald himself. Start getting your name out there. Let them know you are available -- with the end goal of becoming the PA Announcer for these people, my friend.

Then, at least once each year, or in advance of each sports season, get on the phone again and let 'em know that you're just touching base with them, you are available to serve as the PA Announcer or as the back-up, on-call person, and fill them in on any relevant developments that occured since the last point of communication, such as, for example, you worked with Ronald McDonald and announced the big Mickey-D's all-star game.

You will get results, yes, you will; it's true. Be ready when the time comes. Preparation is the key; practice makes perfect. Look and sound your best. Get ready for the opportunity. Be there early.

Now, here's how I got my start:
During the 1980s and '90s while my kids attended a parochial school that started hosting a basketball tournament way, way, waaaaaaaaaaayyy back -- not to the wall but to 1961 -- I got involved with the tournament by volunteering for the Tournament Committee. They asked what I did in my regular job -- which at the time was sell advertising.

The next question was, "Do you know of a way for us to make money at the tournament?"

In looking at the tournament program booklet, I noticed that they only had the front and rear covers, a message from a cleric, another message from the principal of the host school, some basic tournament information, the food menu, a sportsmanship statement, the teams' rosters, and a centerfold bracket showing the schedule and all the pairings through the championship game.

What was missing -- no ads! So I got jiggy with it for two or three years, building the tournament booklet and helping with the ads, doing all the desktop publshing on my system at home. The money poured in, over $3,000 a book, not bad for a grade school tournament.

Things were running smoothly so at another annual planning meeting, they asked what else I could do for them. In all walks of live, it is important for every one of us to have a servant mentality, so I simply asked, "What else do you need?"

Of course, today, I might advise you or anyone else interested in doing PA work to just boldly state your objective, "What else can I do for you -- how about showing me to your microphone and letting me announce a few games for you, that'll do it, mm-hmm!"

Instead, all I did was make that aforementioned general response and sit back and watch. God will direct your path.

The secretary became very sparkly and bright eyed, saying, "Oh, Mr. Vaclav over there has been announcing these tournaments for many years and now that he is older and getting over his heart attack, he's having a hard time doing eight games a day. Would you be interested in announcing some of the games?"

Others on the tournament committee became enthusiastic, saying, as I've often heard all my life, that I have a great voice and it would be a blessing to utilize the talent as unto the Lord.

They put me to work right away and the results were amazing.

Before I was finished introducing the starting line ups for the first game, the visiting coach was handing me his business card, saying, "We have a tournament at my school in two weeks, and YOU are going to be annoucing it."

So, there you are with an outline of how you can get started, along with a brief synopsis of how it all began for one of us out here on the other side of the microphone.

Put these and the other great ideas from the PA Announcers Group at Yahoo! to work for you and you'll be announcing sooner -- and more often -- than you thought possible.

Keep us posted on your success, take care.

by Dennis J. O'Boyle - Professional Announcer - Milwaukee, WI USA /

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