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Q+A: John Sadak

- October 09, 2013 |

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by Eldon Khorshidi | @eldonadam

Earlier this week, IF Client John Sadak (pictured top right) was named Ballpark Digest’s Broadcaster of the Year, recognized for his work as the voice of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, a Triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees. The award encompassed all broadcasters in every level outside of Major League Baseball. Today, we caught up with John to discuss winning the award, his experience in the industry, some play-by-play techniques and more.

First off, congratulations on being named Broadcaster of the Year. That’s pretty amazing.

John Sadak: Thanks so much. I’m extremely humbled and grateful to receive this award. It’s representative of a lot of hard work, not only in terms of myself but with regards to the people I work with.

How did you find out you had been chosen for the award?

JS: It came to me as a big surprise, actually. I was submitted for this award last year at my prior job, and I finished as the runner-up. So to be honest, I did not think I would be a candidate this year by virtue of how I finished last year. And I didn’t even apply this year—I didn’t put anything together for it. My boss did it for me, and I didn’t know anything about it until I got the congratulatory email. So that was pretty neat, and I think it had a lot to do with the package my boss put together. I think it’s a culmination of years more than it is representative of 2013 itself. I do believe it’s a mass effort to a lot of people that have given me different chances along the way, and the exposure of being at the Triple-A level helps dramatically, and working for a Yankees affiliate enhances it all the more. I’m humbled by it because there are a lot of great announcers out there.

What are some play-by-play tips, or fundamentals, that you try to use or work on everyday?

 JS: I think the two biggest things, by far, are a) you have to listen to yourself, which a lot of announcers don’t like to do because we know and we hear a lot of our flaws constantly, and it’s like nails on a chalkboard to listen to yourself, and b) you need to send your material out to as many people as possible, so you can improve. Send your stuff to people in all different realms of the industry—and also not in the industry—to get their perspective and honest thoughts of your performance . Yes, you should get your tape to decision-makers, but you should also share it with other announcers that you respect. Hear their take. Give it to an average fan, or someone who doesn’t have an invested stake in the industry. You’d be surprised by the things they notice that you don’t.

Tell us a little about your broadcasting journey up to this point.

JS: Coming out of college, I was a producer and studio host with the Lakewood BlueClaws, which essentially is my hometown minor league team. They are the Philadelphia Phillies’ Single-A team. At the same time I was working at Major League Baseball as a freelance logger at Yankee Stadium. I then did some Division II work in Atlanta.  Then I did some work as a play-by-play announcer in Delaware, and then that offseason a guy with the Yankees that I met when I was logging for MLB, called me and said he wanted to create a job for me in the Yankees broadcast department. I started that in 2005, and at first it was more behind the scenes. So a year later, I went back to Wilmington as the lead announcer—covering guys like Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz—and stayed there for a few years, picking up freelance work on the side.

Things just kind of grew from there, and last October the RailRiders called and I took the job.

As a fan of the game, how is it to see guys like Ellsbury and Buchholz before they “made it” to the big leagues. You saw them in their developmental stage, per se. How was that?

JS: It was very cool. It changes your perspective on the sport, honestly. I grew up a die-hard fan of teams, but I would say the longer I’ve been in the industry—and I think this is the case with most announcers—you start rooting more for people than you do for teams. Because in today’s world of trades and free agency, players are changing teams all the time. So when you come across good people, you want to root for them because the jersey becomes almost irrelevant.

You’ve covered a plethora of sports—baseball, football, basketball and others. Which is your favorite to cover?

JS: I would say it’s often whatever sport that I am in the early stage of doing. I’m always excited about my work, but I think there’s a little bit of an extra itch when the season is getting underway. Every sport is also different, which makes it fun. Baseball is more casual and rhythmic. Basketball is highly explosive, and there’s tons of action. And football is probably America’s sport at this point, and people are really attached to their teams, so it raises the stakes as well. I would say whatever season is next is probably the one I’m most kicked up for. But like I said, I love to do it all.


Four Characteristics of Great Broadcasters (Part 2)

- August 23, 2013 |

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Happy Friday!

This week’s post is from Eldon Khorshidi, Director of Client Services.

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A couple of months agoIF President Steve Herz shed light on four important traits all great broadcasters possess: Voice, Warmth, Energy and Sincerity. Today, we dig a little deeper, taking a look at four additional characteristics, all of which can be honed and developed over time.

Relatability — The vibe you give off—with your voice, intonation, appearance and on-air attitude—is a key component to how you are received. It is essential to connect with the audience. If you’re an expert on a particular topic, don’t come off as pretentious or superior; if possible,speak in layman’s terms, or at least break it down for the viewer to understand. Often times, well-received broadcasters are people who are down to earth, and seem fun to be around off camera.

Also, since you’re on television, humanizing yourself is a useful tool. Don’t take yourself too seriously, and try to put yourself in the shoes of the viewer, showing personality and engaging with your followers on TV and social media. It can go a long way.

Look — Physical appearance is very important. In fact, it’s the first point of contact with your audience. Make sure you dress appropriately, and are at least semi-consistent with your look.

Body Language —  Without effective body language (especially when reporting in the field), there’s a good chance people will lose interest in your message. Subtle hand motions help guide your story, and provide a nice balance for overall presentation. Don’t overdo it, but don’t just stand there with a blank face and your mouth moving.

Authority — There are hundreds of different news programs on television—why tune in to yours? Having authority is essential. On camera, you must appear confident and give the viewer a reason to stick around—do your research, use proper inflection and direct where the story is going. How a story is presented can have just as profound an effect as the content itself. Maintain a consistent energy level, and the easiest way to do that is to vary your delivery and inflect important words and phrases.

What are some traits you think are important for broadcasters? Who emulates them well? Let us know in the comments section below.


Shooting Tips

- August 09, 2013 |

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Happy Friday!

This week’s post is from Eldon Khorshidi, Director of Client Services.

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In both short- and long-form packages, visuals are such a critical aspect of a story. Sure, voiceovers, background music and interview questions are important, but without strong pictures, your story will be a radio edit and not a news package.

And in today’s journalism landscape, reporters often have to shoot, write, edit and produce themselves, from start to finish.

Here are seven camera techniques to help capture the most effective visuals in your stories.

1) You can never have too much B-roll — It’s always better to overshoot than undershoot. Your story can go in any number of directions, which will require different shots. Be prepared and give yourself options by capturing as much B-roll as possible.

2) Don’t shoot against a white wall — There are ways around this one—making sure  your “white balance” is on the right setting, angling correctly, etc.—but in general, you shouldn’t shoot an interview against a white backdrop. Just like shooting in the direction of sunlight, white walls usually create a glare and distract the viewer. Try to avoid if possible.

3) Don’t shoot against a window — This one is self-intuitive. Unless you’re going for a shadow/reflection effect, stay away from windows.

4) Use manual focus — Even on higher-end cameras, the automatic focus feature is not foolproof. Cameras often focus on different, sometimes random aspects of a shot; they’ll focus the lens to a short, middle, or long distance, when you may want a different shot. It’s always better to manually focus in on the object you want, then proceed.

5) Dress the microphone under a shirt or jacket — When using a lavalier microphone and clip, make sure to slip it out of sight. If your shot is from the neck up, you can place the mic on the outside of your subject’s clothing, just out of the frame. If you’re taking a full body shot, hide the mic under the collar or shirt.

6) Shoot sequences — The most effective shots are visually stimulating, all encompassing, and unpredictable. In order to accomplish this, use a variety of different shots:

Shots that are parallel to your audio

Close-Ups

Middle Shots

Wide Shots

Pan the horizontal axis

Tilt the vertical axis

Last but not least…

7) Have fun! — There’s a reason you’re doing this in the first place. Love your story, expand your imagination and enjoy the process. After all, this stuff is supposed to be fun.


Interviewing Tips

- August 01, 2013 |

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This week’s post is from Eldon Khorshidi, Director of Client Services. It highlights five techniques for conducting effective interviews.

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 “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” — Voltaire

In the broadcasting world, conducting interviews is not easy and at times can feel like a daunting task. With so many different personalities (on both ends of the camera), there’s no handbook to follow for a constructive and insightful conversation. But as a journalist, there are various techniques and tools to develop rapport with your subject, and to ultimately conduct an effective interview. Here are five tips:

1) Do your homework— The depth of an interviewee’s answers will heavily depend on how much he/she thinks the interviewer knows and understands. In other words, always do your homework beforehand.  Obviously you (the interviewer) won’t know everything pertaining to the topic, but if you know enough to ask methodical, pointed questions, there’s more opportunity for the interviewee to share deeper insights.

2) Have a strategy — Interviews are like chess, and as the interviewer it’s your job to always be two steps ahead. Use easy-to-answer “set up” questions to establish background and develop flow, and then ask follow-up questions. While you can never predict what direction an interview will take, it is your job to systematically improvise and keep the conversation within a certain scope.

3) Listen up —Instead of thinking about what you’re going to ask next, listen—like, actually pay attention—when the interviewee is speaking. A lot of times their response can lead to the best questions.

4) Don’t be overly demanding — Sure, sometimes you should push for answers and/or information, but you should never be intrusive or rude. Doing so will result in an uncomfortable conversation, something that benefits neither you nor the interviewee.

5) Be sincere — In an interview, in order to get information you must first gain trust. In order to gain trust, you must always “level” with your interviewee. If they see you’re thoughtful and genuinely interested, they’ll be more likely to open up a truthful dialogue with you.

Also, don’t feign interest or respect. Interview subjects will sense this, and it will strike a disconnect and damage rapport. As they taught me in journalism school, “Don’t’ judge the subject, but instead let the subject judge himself.”


The Importance of Bouncing Back

- June 27, 2013 |

This week’s post is from Carol Perry, Senior Vice President of News and General Counsel, about owning up to your mistakes and making the best of a bad situation.

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Everyone faces difficult situations at work. Sometimes people allow these events to discourage or even cripple them. Most don’t realize that how you respond in tough times really shows who you are as a person, both professionally and personally. Here are some tips I have found helpful when crisis strikes in the workplace:

Stay calm.

Even though it can be difficult, try not to get anxious. If you stay calm, you are more likely capable of acting quickly and figuring out a solution to move forward. The only way to gain the reputation of being a problem solver is to remain calm and level headed.

Take responsibility.

If you make a mistake, own up to it and be genuine in your conciliation. For example, if you’ve missed an opportunity to market a client properly, make sure they know that it was an isolated incident, apologize, and move forward.

Don’t waste time.

If you do, something small could turn into a crisis. If you’ve offended a colleague or boss, apologize and nip it in the bud. Don’t beat yourself up about it, and definitely do something about it.

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Turn lemons into lemonade.

Turn an argument or mistake into an opportunity to open up dialogue and communication. Perhaps this misstep can turn into something constructive. What you learn from failing can help you identify new ways of doing things and allows you to grow and become a better manager and leader.

This too shall pass.

Don’t harp on the mistake and let it prevent you from moving forward. The better you overcome and bounce back from any crisis, the more successful you will be long term.

We’ve all had our share of crises, but if you remember to remain calm, focus on a solution and see it as an opportunity to learn and lead, you’ll be in much better shape to handle obstacles in your future.


Everybody Needs An Agent

- June 07, 2013 |

This week’s post is by Steve Herz, the President of IF Management. The title says it all!

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As someone who has been a talent representative (manager or agent) for the past 20 years, one of the most frequent questions I get is, “Do I need an agent?” My answer, although sometimes met with laughter and derision, is “everybody needs an agent!”

I’m a true believer in my own Kool-Aid, so much so that I have come to believe that anybody—in any field—needs an agent, as long as that agent can perform a useful and helpful role in that person’s life.

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Good agents can:

1. Negotiate a great deal for you, monetarily or otherwise, and protect your interests, both short and long term. A good agent can protect you from onerous non-compete clauses, and other contractual obligations that might limit your mobility, marketability and financial upside.

2. Chart out a career path for you and be ready to offer suggestions and guidance, as necessary, based on your own achievements and setbacks. A good agent may also have insight into outside market conditions that can be crucial to your career growth. For instance, if you have a great career as a buggy whip manufacturer, but find out that the business is atrophying from your agent, you can plan an exit strategy before it’s too late.

3. Give you feedback—either by their personal observation or through conversations with your bosses—to help you improve in your career. If you don’t know why you’re being held back from a promotion (perhaps because of something your boss sees in you but doesn’t want to verbalize for fear of offending you) that lack of knowledge could be devastating to your future. An agent can be the intermediary to get the important information you need.

Career success is an inexact science. As you can see from the above points, this advice is not limited to those in the media. And while having an agent is no guarantee of success, if you aren’t managing your career for yourself as effectively as possible, the value of a good agent who can do these tasks (and much more) is invaluable.


The Importance of Investing in Yourself

- May 30, 2013 |

This week’s post is about taking a step back, and improving yourself from the inside out.

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Carol Perry, Senior VP of News Broadcasting and General Council:

The Importance of Investing in Yourself

We all have busy lives – whether it’s meeting deadlines, servicing clients, or raising children, the list goes on. And we have to budget and prioritize our time and resources. While it’s obviously important to spend the majority of your time and resources at work and on the basic necessities, you can never go wrong with ‘investing’ some time in yourself. Doing so can expand your growth and success. You can invest in yourself in a number of ways, but the most beneficial, in my opinion, are: health, image, networking, and knowledge.

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Health:

Your health is the most important thing to invest in. It determines how effective you are. It determines your ability to focus and how you treat others. Devoting time and resources to healthy foods, sleep and exercise is by far the best investment you can make in yourself. Simply put, when you’re healthy and rested, you are bound to be more productive and successful.

Image:

Make sure your online presence represents who you are. Try to strike a balance between personal and professional contacts and make sure your friends maintain the same standards of professionalism that you do; Otherwise, it’s time to make new friends. It’s also important to be mindful of what you say and share online as it reflects on your image in real life. A good rule of thumb we use for advising our clients is: “If you wouldn’t say it on the air, don’t say it on social media.”

Also make sure your physical appearance reflects your image, which ties back into investing in your health. Try to shed the extra pounds, if any, and dress appropriately, so that you portray a good image, on-air and off.

Networking :

Being social by talking to just about anyone is an investment because it improves your communication skills and extroversion while building relationships. Plus, it’s fun. Being social online is a fabulous way to build a network, but putting in some real time, at your kid’s school events or even a fitness class, for example, can build friendships as well. You never know where those relationships can lead.

Knowledge:

Read as much news as you can. Read about everything that interests you and some things that don’t – business, politics, health, travel, entertainment, etc. The more you know, the better you are able to relate to more people (which can, in turn, expand your network.) Plus, exposing your brain to new ideas can help you generate some more of your own.

This all may seem obvious to most people, but in practice, it’s easy to forget or put-off investing time in yourself. But if you make the effort to trade some of your time, money and energy for better health, image, networking, and knowledge, your work life and personal life will get exponentially better. And remember, if you don’t invest in yourself, who will?


Four Reasons Jim Nantz Is “America’s Sportscaster”

- May 09, 2013 |

Have an idea for a future #IFTips post? Want to join our weekly mailing list with exclusive new content? Email: stephanie@ifmanagement.com

This week’s post analyzes the strengths of play-by-play giant, Jim Nantz, from whom all broadcasters can learn a thing or two.

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Gideon Cohen: Vice President of Sports Broadcasting:

We look forward to hearing “Hello Friends!” on the Masters, the Super Bowl, and the Final Four… but what makes Jim Nantz one of the most omnipresent play-by-play voices of our generation?

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1) He’s a familiar face – Nantz joined CBS Sports in 1985, at the tender age of 26 , so he’s grown up in front of our eyes. He’s hosted and called some of the biggest games and shows over four decades.

2) He’s not polarizing – Jim Nantz’s persona feels about as classic American as apple pie. His look, sound, and personality are comfortable and non-threatening. He’s not over-the-top with his calls or opinions – pretty much always “down the middle.”

3) He’s naturally warm – Nantz’s familiar sound and appearance are enhanced by his friendly aura. His voice is rich and smooth – even soothing on golf. His body language and demeanor project genuine warmth. He’s the kind of guy you would invite over for dinner.

4) He knows his place – Nantz lets his analysts shine and doesn’t overstep his bounds. Nantz was a fantastic golfer growing up (and was even offered college golf scholarships), but he doesn’t feel the need to show off his knowledge, instead leaving the technical breakdowns to his partner, six-time Major winner Nick Faldo. Similarly, with football, Nantz is able to tee up his analyst Phil Simms by steering the conversation of the game with relevant questions and thoughts.

Overall, if there was such a title as “America’s sportscaster,” Jim Nantz would carry it.