We work in a business which relies on our skills to swifly describe what we see to those who aren’t in attendence, so it might feel counter-intuitive to read something to our audience. So I have to ask, is it okay to read a script to your audience? I say, at times, yes.
I began my sporstcasting career as a producer in a tiny radio studio. My main objectives were to make sure the talent gets on the air, fire off commercials, and at select times throughout the broadcast I had live reads and scoreboards to relay. As I started out, I would script as much as possible – especially the days sports headlines and other items that were past tense. I began doing it for two reasons, first, because it helped me calm some of the nerves by taking the “thinking” off my plate, all I had to do was read the words on the screen. Second, it helped me manage my time which was often short and almost certainly definitive. As I got more comfortable behind the mic, I began scripting less and less but always kept my core segments scripted.
When I transitioned to a traditional play-by-play position, I felt lost without the comfort of the scripting. How can you script a live-action sport? I felt those beginner nerves creep in because I didn’t have my crutch. Eventually, I realized that not only are there times when it’s okay to script, but sometimes it helps me have the best broadcast possible. Here are some of the times I’ve found myself using a script.
1) Pregame and Introductory Segments
This is something that I script nearly 100% of the time. One big reason is because we have a sponsor who pays to get their brand across in our “keys of the game segment” and if I don’t write it down, I might forget. Secondly, it also helps me plan. I write my intros almost as if their an outline of the upcoming game. Our job is to tell a story, so this is my foreward. I can build the cast of characters, massage the plotlines, and focus on the setting as I need to in order to help the audience get set for the major action. What to look for, what to listen for, and all those important bullet points. Writing it down hours before the broadcast helps me keep a clear mind and simplifies my explanation to the audience.
2) Live Reads
Okay, so maybe this is a no-brainer but any of your live reads and customer-centric material should be scripted, and honestly, the audience knows that and is okay with that. Be faithful to your sponsors words and wishes, afterall a broadcast really is a three-hour long commercial selling your team and other products to the general public.
3) Championship Calls…. kind of.
This is the one area I can’t speak to fully because I’ve never experienced it, but I imagine though, that should there come a time where I’m in a position to call a championship, some of my game clinching call will be scripted. However, I want to be cautious in advising this, simply because you don’t want to sound forced. In fact, Andrew Smith had a great article on sportscasterlife.com regarding this very thing. That said, it’s never a bad idea to have written down a few options, to mouth the words a couple times in case the moment arises. You don’t want to sound like it’s too corny, but you also don’t want to have a slip of the tongue or stutter during a monumental moment because you got caught in the enormity of the situation.
The whole trick to scripting is to NOT sound like you’re reading. So if you try to script something and read it to your audience, throw grammar out the window. Write it as if you would speak it, don’t use words that aren’t naturally in your vocabulary, and don’t be too technical. If you’re someone who speaks in long sentences with many breaks, type like that. Try to make your script as natural sounding as possible because when you read it, it’ll be second nature and literally roll right off your tongue.
Scripting gives us the opportunity to think before we speak and ensures we hit all the bullet points we intend to. So in a