Sound Off On Sound – Live Announce, Virtual Event VO, VOG
Voicing live is a rush, just ask any radio on-air personality. I’ve done both live events and radio, and trust me, live event announcing is its own wild and wonderful animal.
In the industry, an event announcer is often called VOG (Voice of God) since we are the unseen voice booming through ballrooms revealing the recipients of much-anticipated awards. It can be used to ask participants to silence their cell phones, introduce celebrity speakers, and anything the group at-large needs to hear.
Tips for Live Announce Success
To be a successful live event announcer, one must be a stellar cold reader, remain calm amid chaos, and be able to listen to one thing while saying another.
Yes, there are easy parts of the job such as reading scripts asking people to take their seats or letting them know a session starts in five minutes, but the fun parts come with the challenges including:
- Making names easily flow off your tongue like you are fluent in multiple languages
- Being able to ad lib if you’re asked to fill time
- Answering someone’s question about bathroom locations who has mistaken the sound platform for an information booth seconds before your next announcement
- Reading the script to picture during video presentations while watching the video via a blurry, miniscule 3-inch monitor
- Making industry jargon sound like something you chat about around the water cooler on a daily basis
- Listening to the director in your ear prompter call lights, sound, AV and VOG while you are reading names into a microphone
- Saying one name as someone is simultaneously whispering the next name pronunciation in your ear
- Reading a handwritten, smudged announcement from a cocktail napkin thrown on top of your script at the last minute
- Having a person rip off a half page of your script to write a note for someone else not realizing you hadn’t read that page yet
- Paying attention to where they are in the program schedule while Cirque du Soleil performers cavort around you backstage
All of those things and more have happened to me while announcing live events.
Converting Pre-Recorded Announcements Into a Live Announcer Booking
My best friend and mentor, Zak Miller, booked me to pre-record the Orlando AAF’s Addy awards for several years before we finally convinced them to have us voice live. It was on-the-job training for an event filled to the brim with potential clients for our voice-over services.
Suffice it to say, I was nervous. As soon as the show started, the adrenaline coursed through my veins and I fell madly in love with this genre of voice over. Zak and I voiced that event for years together until he passed away.
On a side note, the last Orlando ADDY event Zak and I voiced was at the Hard Rock Cafe at Universal Studios. It was the same place Zak had proudly voiced Macy’s National Teacher of the Year event for many years. We had a great time before the ADDY’s started running around backstage at the venue getting a peek behind the scenes.
I have a photo of my friend with his hand on the stage door and he said, “Kell, when I die, post this picture and say, ‘Exit stage left.’” It makes me sad to think that’s exactly what I did less than one year later.
International Live Announce Booking
About 10 years ago, I was asked to live announce an international awards show being held at Atlanta’s gigantic Georgia World Congress Center. This was the first time the event had used a professional VOG instead of one of their board members. Command Central was set up in the balcony overlooking the stage, and I was seated next to the show manager, outfitted with a headset, and had a lovely Sennheiser mic put in front of me.
The PPA’s International Grand Imaging Awards was a heck of a lot bigger than the Orlando AAF Addy awards. It’s where I learned how to simultaneously listen for my cues, tune out what wasn’t applicable to me and voice something completely different than what was hitting my ears.
Since that first booking with PPA, they’ve booked me every year they’ve been in Atlanta and even had me come voice the event in Nashville a few years ago. They’ve hired me to voice their first post-pandemic event in Maryland in January 2022.
During the pandemic, PPA’s event went virtual, as did many others that weren’t cancelled altogether. It definitely felt different, and I missed experiencing the winners’ contagious excitement as they heard their names called. However, I still enjoyed the rush of celebrating the amazing winners and working with the same PPA team I’ve worked with for years.
Live Announce – VOG Venues
The coolest venues where I’ve voiced include the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Hard Rock Orlando, Georgia World Congress Center and Gaylord Palms Nashville.
For virtual events, my VOG recordings have been heard at Walt Disney World Resort, The Bellagio in Las Vegas, Hawaii and many other corporate event locations
Virtual Event Announcer
While I’d certainly done my share of pre-recorded event announcements, the pandemic event VOG recordings were vastly different. Instead of a booming voice echoing through large venues, I was being heard in people’s homes and headphones.
For virtual events, the voice styles were more subdued yet more energetic, if that makes sense. The directors didn’t want to shout at the participants, but my voice still needed to communicate energy and excitement.
PPA was the first of many virtual events I voiced during the pandemic. My clients were having to pivot years of experience planning live events and learn what it takes to move them online. They did it creatively and were such an inspiration. I hope some writer does a story on events held during the pandemic and all of the out-of-the-box thinking and innovations that made them possible.
I recorded virtual events for Home Depot, Marriott, PPA, Climate Reality Project and even got to virtually introduce former Vice President Al Gore.
I look forward to voicing live again, and I am more grateful than words can say to my friend Zak for introducing me to the live announce voice over genre and for showing me the ropes of such a fun type of work we enjoyed together.