Oakland A's

Oakland A’s Announcers Exemplify Passionate Speaking Skills

Those of you who know me know that I’m a huge Oakland A’s fan. Well, last night’s baseball game between the Oakland A’s and the Detroit Tigers left even me—a speech coach—speechless. Picture this: It’s game 4 of the American League Division Series. The Oakland A’s aren’t the favored team to win. In fact, they’re performing terribly. It’s the bottom of the ninth. The score is tied. The A’s are up to bat. It’s the final moments of the game, and then suddenly…against the odds…the A’s win on Coco Crisp's walk-off single. The crowd went wild! And so did the announcers. You can hear the announcers during the exhilarating final moments here. After the excitement died down and I replayed the footage in my head, I realized how the announcers Ken Korach, who does the play-by-play, and Ray Fosse, who does the color commentary, displayed their passion about the outcome yet maintained their professionalism throughout it all. It’s a classic lesson for public speakers everywhere.

I often tell my clients to let their passion guide their speaking. But really…what are the elements of passion? What does passion sound like from that vocal context?

As the clip of Korach and Fosse exemplifies, passion has two key parts. First, it’s the formal, technical, and mannered play-by-play of information. When you listen to Korach explain what’s going on, you hear every detail to the point where you can see it in your mind. It’s factual. It’s complete.

But the second part of passion is the free and unbridled response to what’s going on in the moment. That part of passion is incredibly clear in Fosse’s animated assessment of what’s happening in those key moments.

So as a speaker, you need to manage the characteristics of these two announcers during every presentation. You need to be the formal person with the details and the facts. But you also need to show your excitement, your enthusiasm, your zeal, and your passion for your topic.

It’s the combination of these two qualities in one person that ignites the spark of passion. That’s what ultimately captures the hearts and minds of your listeners and makes your message come alive.

The final game in this series is tonight. If the A’s win, we keep going on the road to the World Series. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and my passion alive. Go A’s!

2010 World Series: Speaking Lessons from the Pinch-Hitters

I’m thrilled that one Bay Area team is in the World Series this year, but as many of you know, I’m a fan of the team on the other side of the bay—the Oakland A’s. I’m undecided about who I’ll root for in this year’s match up, although that’s hard to admit in public around here. Giants fever has hit every corner of Northern California and it’s hard to quell. People who have never watched a baseball game in their life are suddenly rabid fans, paying exorbitant prices for tickets and talking about Buster Posey and The Panda as if they’ve known them since childhood.  

The fever is so unruly that I have friends who tell me I should root for the Giants no matter what, which is a little like telling a Mets’ fan to root for the Yankees. It doesn’t happen. And since I’m feeling some loyalty to the Texas Rangers Manager, Ron Washington who was with the A’s for 11 years, I’m leaning toward the Lone Star. After you follow a team and get to know the players and staff, they become like family. When they move away, you wish them well, follow their journey, and applaud their success. End of story.

No matter who ends up in the World Series, it is always a good show and a great way for true baseball fans to end the season. However, one thing that is always tough on fans in any World Series is the announcers. Typically, the local home team TV announcers don’t cover the games. That means the familiar voices you’ve listened to all season are not heard. Because these games are nationally televised, the announcers are selected from the national pool. The local announcers will be in the stands like everyone else.

Of course, there is no denying that these elite announcers are top shelf. With their booming voices and strong physical presence they can call the game with skill, speed, and agility; however, their color commentary is sometimes not so colorful. Because they don’t know the players, the names don’t roll off the announcers’ tongues quite as easily, background stories are read from a script instead of “known” and relayed by heart, and everything sounds and feels a little less personal. No matter who wins, this one aspect is always a loss for diehard fans.

From my living room, this long-time baseball fan and public speaking coach will watch the announcers closely to see what they do and how they do it. I’ll listen for their vocal and verbal delivery, and take heed of any interesting turn of phrase. I’ll make notes and learn lessons that I can pass along to my clients in some way. At the end of the game, I’ll watch the player and staff interviews as the winners and losers speak about their experience.

Ultimately, only one team will win it all. Whoever does will be fine with me. I’ll just be capturing a few public speaking lessons…and waiting for next year.