Voice actor Marian Massaro smiles before announcing a New York Emmy® Awards show - one of many live announcing challenges she has met - and enjoyed.
'And ... Cue Announce!' How To Prepare For
The VO Ride Of Your Life: Live Announcing
July 12, 2016
Note: This article recently appeared in The Gold Standard, the newsletter of the New York chapter of the National Academy of Arts & Sciences, and we appreciate the chapter's permission to reprint and share the multi-talent author's experiences and insights on live announcing.
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 voice over, and one of my favorites.
Could live announcing 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 voice over? 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 for your show voice to have 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." - Kathy Connell, Executive Producer, Screen Actors Guild AwardsCAN YOU DO THIS?
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 to live announce the esteemed New York Emmy® Awards for the past several years, in addition to live announcing 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 often 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.”HOW TO PREPARE ...
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.
FOLLOW SCRIPT, WATCH SHOW, SPEAK ...
Throughout the show, you’ll follow the script as well as watch what’s happening on stage - since changes can often take place - and you'll know when you’re up next.
At all times, you’ll wear headphones that 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.
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
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.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 and 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."IF YOU WANT TO DO THIS ...
What advice can be given to voice actors interested in doing live announce? Dussault 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 the 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, getting lots of sleep, drinking 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 might come up.
On show day, I’ll take a bag with me filled with goodies:
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.)
THEN ENJOY THE PARTY!
Of course, what’s an exciting night like this 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 Screen Actors' Guild Awards, the Critics' Choice Awards, and for the past five years, the New York Emmy Awards. She is a multi-talented and sought-after voice actor who has voiced national commercials, narrations and promos for many Fortune 500 companies.
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