It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m going over the next week’s assignments and workload. While doing that I have the Kansas City Royals on the TV. I suddenly hear my friend Mike McCartney, the Public Address announcer for the Royals call in a batter, and I am transported back to fourteen years of my stint as the PA announcer for the Royals.
It was, for the most part, a magical tour. Oh, not all of it. Dealing with some of the head cases in baseball upper management positions is always a challenge. Not all. But some. All in all it was one of the highlights of my career.
For some reason I recalled an incident that changed my career as a voice talent.
I don’t even remember who we were playing at the time, but, as normal, after the game fans would gather by the exit doors where the players would walk out to go to their bus or, in the case of the Royals players, their cars. Those were the same doors that the rest of the staff used to exit.
Most of the time when I walked out, no one said a word to me. I hardly look like a baseball player. But this one time as I walked out I noticed a little girl, probably about five or six years old, standing next to the ropes by her father. She was teary eyed, and I figured it was because it had been a late night and she was tired.
As I walked by she held up her ball glove and a Sharpie. I noticed and smiled. Her dad said, “Would you sign it? She hasn’t been able to get anyone to sign it all night.”
I said, “Hey, I’m obviously not a ball player. I’m just the public address announcer.”
He suddenly got rather excited.
“You’re the announcer? Honey, this is the guy that says ‘Now batting’ when the ball players come up to bat!” Then he looked at me and said, “That’s awesome! Would you sign her glove?”
Within minutes, I was surrounded by a crowd asking for my autograph. It was all rather embarrassing.
But I learned something special that night.
The late, great Kevin Gray, the guy that hired me for the Royals once told me, “Your job is to be part of the fan’s experience. As far as you’re concerned, it doesn’t matter if we win or lose. The important thing is, did the fans have a good time? Every time you open that mic is an opportunity to make it a better experience for the fan.”
I soon realized the wisdom of those words. Even beyond that role as the public address announcer.
Our job as voice talents is to be a part of the listener’s experience. It’s really not our job to sell anything or hype anything. Our job is simply to connect with the listener. And in doing so, to connect the product or service with the listener.
Let me share three things that I learned from that encounter with that little girl. Three things that relate to our job as voice talents.
First, it’s not our job to create emotion. That’s the writer’s job. It’s simply our job to say the words in a way that the listener can choose to create emotion.
We often confuse ourselves with music. Yeah, music. You know how during certain movie scenes the music enhances the action on the screen? For some reason, many of us think we are like that music – that it’s our job to enhance the action on the screen.
Well, we’re not like that music. What would have happened if I, as the PA announcer, had opened the mic during a fly ball and in dramatic terms announced, “It’s a loooong fly ball to center field! Will he catch it and will the runner on third base score?”
I can tell you what would have happened. I would have been fined by Major League Baseball!
In voice work, it’s not our job to create emotion. It’s simply our job to connect the information with the listener without interfering with the event. Let the action create its own emotion.
Secondly, as voice talents, we’re not the story. Anything we do that detracts the listener from the story is a violation of our responsibility.
Kevin Gray once told me, “I never want to hear from a fan that we have an awesome P.A. announcer. Because if I hear that, I know that they were distracted from what was happening on the field.”
Yeah, that hurt. A little. But I understood what he was saying. If I may use the metaphor of a painting, all we are as voice talents is a brush stroke. If we draw attention to that particular brush stroke, the painting is ruined.”
Finally, what we do as voice talents really is magic.
Just like with that dad and his little girl, it was special because of his experience. It had absolutely nothing to do with me. It was all about him and his experience.
The same thing is true with what we do as voice talents. It’s not about us. It’s about the listeners, their experience, and their connection with the product or service. But we have to remember, we don’t create that experience. We reflect it.