The notion of testing equipment is somewhat of a no-brainer for me. You arrive at the venue, you setup and test your equipment. But I can’t tell you the number of conversations I’ve had with fellow broadcasters that went something along the lines of this:
Me: How’d your game go the other night?
Them: I had tech issues at the start of the game
Me: Were your testing equipment before the game?
Without fail, not testing equipment before a game is the single biggest white flag a sportscaster can raise. Especially in travelling situations where you’re in a different setup every night/week, the importance of setting up and testing equipment well ahead of time is essential.
For over 10 years, I’ve been a classic over-preparer before a game. Not in terms of my prep or my content, but when it came to my equipment. For home games, I would often arrive 4-5 hours before my game. I had a lot of responsibilities to do for my team, however a good chunk of that time was set aside for testing equipment, connections to the radio station, video for the PPV broadcast and more.
Is 4-5 hours overkill? Absolutely! Did it save my backside a few times when things went south? ABSOLUTELY!
It never took me 4-5 hours to setup, usually it was only about 20 minutes. However that time allowed me to handle just about every situation I needed to handle. Whether connections to the station were down or equipment malfunctioned, I had the time to deal with it in a calm, orderly fashion.
Finding out your connection to the station is dead 5 minutes before you’re going on air is useless. Knowing that information 2 hours before game time allows you to test, trouble shoot and if necessary get people to the station to help you out.
Experiencing equipment failure 5 minutes before you go on air is the death of a broadcast…but knowing that a mixer isn’t working or a headset is cutting in and out 2 hours before a game allows you to change your plans and put backups in place.
The old adage “failing to prepare is preparing to fail” holds so true in many aspects of sportscasting. Your game prep is so important, your content prep is vital….but don’t overlook the tech setup. Allow yourself the time for testing equipment before a game.
Throughout my career, I’ve often said….if the last 30 minutes before I go on air solely include me sitting down with my feet up, then I’ll have a good game.