Like any good broadcaster, I self-critique. Simply put, it’s a vital part of doing this job to the best of our abilities. How else can we truly understand our skillset, our strengths, and our weaknesses, without hearing our broadcasts through the ears of the audience? If you don’t already self-critique, or if you’re a seasoned vet with years of self-improvement under your belt, here are some tips I found helpful to get the most out of my self-critiques.
Timing Is Everything
That old adage, ‘timing is everything’, definitely applies when you start out doing self-critiques. You have to let your broadcast breathe before you can really dive in. If you attempted to review your call only hours after the game, you’re only doing yourself a disservice. First of all, you’re probably burnt out from the game as it is. You just got done spending two to three hours on the mic and you’re likely tired, if not physically, definitely mentally. If you’re trying to relive the game in such a short period of time, you won’t be at your best. Let’s say you’re not tired, you’re brain is still in the same mindset as it was while you were on the call, you might not be able to notice some mistakes you made earlier. You need to allow some time to pass in order to cleanse the pallet so you can engage yourself completely.
At the same time, you don’t want to wait too long after the broadcast, because the whole purpose is to find improvements for your next game. Picking a spot thats a few days after your last call and a few days before is ideal.
Location, Location, Location
Find a place that’s comfortable and where you can minimize distractions for your self-critique. When I first started out doing them myself, I listened back to my call on the bus ride home, almost immediately after the game. Boy, what a bad idea that was. Not only was it too soon after for me to be effective as mentioned above, but the number of distractions was overwhelming. Eventually, I decided I would do them in my office during the week. That quickly proved futile as well with the number of interruptions that came my way. Eventually, I got into the rhythm of going to my local Starbucks and relaxing while listening to my call. I took my pocket notebook, listened to the call off my phone, and made notes as they came to mind.
Find a System and Stick With It
It’ll take some trial and error, but once you get comfortable with a system for your self-critiques, do your best to stick with it. For me, I use a notebook which is only used for self-critiques and I like to make four columns with headings labeled: “Misspoke”, “Errors”, “Production”, and “Other”. Here are the explanations of those categories.
Misspoke– a simple slip of the tongue, something that’s not crucial to a fan’s understanding of the game.
Errors– a little more problematic than a simple stutter, errors are glaring issues with the broadcast. An incorrect stat that I didn’t correct mid-call, mispronouncing a players name, or reading the wrong score or period are all things that could be considered errors.
Production– anything audio-wise, aside from my words, that might interfere with a listener’s experience. Mic knocks, clipping audio, loud breaths, and plosives, or loss of sound all fall into this category.
Other– anything else I find fault with that doesn’t fit into the previous three categories.
In each column, under the correct label, I write the time (of the audio file, for ease of finding later) and a brief description of how I erred. I apply a grading system, with “Misspoke” mistakes costing me one point, “Errors” costing me two, and “Production” and “Other” varying from one to two points based on severity. Once I listened to the entire game in its entirety, I count up the points. 0-10 is a solid game, something I’d probably use to find a good stretch which I can use as for improving my demo. 11-20 is an okay game, not great but not bad either. 21+ is a game where major improvements need to be made.
This is just what works for me, you’ll find a system that works better for you and as long as you commit to it and stick to it, you’ll begin to feel the improvement almost instantaneously.
You Can Only Fix a Couple Things At a Time
When I have a 21+ point call, something that I’m not too proud of, I usually file that under “best place to start for improving”. I’ll look at the litany of issues I found with the broadcast and find which ones are the most crucial to fix immediately. I cherrypick. I’ll flip back to the handful of games prior and see if there’s any repeat offenders and if so, I will be sure to make fixing those errors my main focus. The thing is, we can only focus on so much at a time and if I look back at a poor call and think that I’ll fix ALL the errors, permanently, for the next game and forever, I’m going to learn a hard lesson. Be selective, find a targeted goal and go out and accomplish it. Once you eliminate the problem from a broadcast or two, move onto another area of improvement, rinse and repeat.
Self-critiques are just as critical to your development as critiques from respected colleagues. The intimate knowledge that you’ll gain about your skillset is so valuable that you’ll have no choice but to improve. So next time you call a game, good or bad, go back and listen to it. Make it a habit and you’ll be the best broadcaster you can be.