he world of live announcing for major network broadcasts is a very small and exclusive club. Nothing can really prepare you for going live until you do it for your first time, and it is one hell of a ride for three straight hours. Any kind of public speaking is totally daunting to many, but you must embrace what scares you and approach live announcing as a beautiful challenge to be an intricate part of a show.
When I announce the Academy Awards or the Tonys, or the 31st Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (which I’ll be doing tomorrow, April 8), I always prep with these five tips.
1. Bring your own headphones. There’s nothing like having to wear someone else’s old, ripped, dirty headphones for hours on end. I travel with my own headphones. The Sony MDR V6 fold up nicely and are easy to pack.
2. Have your microphone and laptop with you. I travel with my MacBook Air, which I also use for research during the many hours of rehearsal. Having more information about the show or a nominee enhances and inspires my read.
Additionally, my workhorse microphone is a Sennheiser 416 Shotgun microphone. I use the audio editor TwistedWave for my personal recording/editing on the road. When you announce shows like the Oscars, Emmys, Tonys, plus many others, the Sennheiser 416 is the mic of choice. Due to its ability to eliminate ambient noise, it is at its best in a potentially noisy environment. When I am announcing other kinds of shows that don’t know the difference, I request to use my 416, and they always willingly agree.
3. Take care of your body. Organic essential oils are my go-to products for super immune-boosting and vocal optimization. Young Living has a blend called Thieves (cinnamon, clove, rosemary, and lemon). I use it by applying drops on the tongue and chasing it with water. Or I make a delicious Thieves tea by adding one drop of Thieves and a spoonful of honey to a cup of hot water and sip throughout rehearsal.
Another trick to eliminate mouth noise is eating slices of a Granny Smith apple. It cuts mouth noise. Sometimes it’s not what’s in my bag it is what is not. No sugar! Eliminate everything that can promote mucus or respiratory issues including sugar, dairy, and citrus 30 days (if possible) before a big show. And once I pull out my essential oils, you think you’re in a spa and not in the hot seat of a live broadcast.
4. Mind your mind. The gift of learning how to meditate many years ago is the most important tool for success that I possess. The frenetic energy and movement of a live broadcast is extremely stressful. I began meditating a year before I booked my first Oscars broadcast, so I was ready. I’ll never forget, however, when it came in the most handy.
Sept. 11 delayed the Emmy Awards in 2001. Ellen DeGeneres hosted. The broadcast was beautiful and poignant, filled with touching, heartfelt acceptance speeches. But behind the scenes it was very tense, fraught with concern for everyone’s safety. I was asked to clear my booth a couple of times for them to sweep the house with the dogs. It was the first time I ever saw militia on rooftops with weapons at the ready. That year my script supervisor was a Buddhist meditator, so we meditated together before the show. Now, whatever show I am doing before we go live on the air, I find the quietest space—(usually it’s my booth)—and I meditate.
5. Familiarize yourself with your surroundings before the broadcast. Master how to use the booth. Know your tech by name. Get his or her cell number and keep it handy. Double-check all pronunciations. Ask for any notes. Kindly request that the booth have several bottles of room temp water, Kleenex, pens, and Post-its. Drinking all that water has its drawbacks, though. Know where the restroom is so you can run during a long break.
The biggest compliment ever is getting asked back, and I’m proud to share that I’m returning for my 18th year to this year’s Tony Awards, hosted by James Corden, live from the Beacon Theater, Sunday, June 12 on CBS.
If you ever get the thrilling opportunity to announce a live event…take it from this live announcer: Have fun! And break a lip! I mean it!