I joined Toastmaster’s International (TI) in the fall of 1989. The first ten speeches required to reach Advanced Toastmaster level are a well-thought, very logical path of training and development for public speaking and thinking on your feet.

The first two speeches a new TI member must make are introducing yourself to the audience and making a speech with conviction.

Brilliant way to start the communication education process. These are the two easiest things to do when speaking in front of an audience the first few times. Furthermore, the latter (conviction) is also the easiest route to take when I’m experiencing a creative block in my weekly column.

The key to success for preparing the 6- to 7-minute speech demonstrating conviction is choosing a topic where the resulting speech is about something that ticks you off.

I had writer’s block this week, and I recalled an article in last week’s Weekender discussing the success other experienced NFL analysts and commentators expected Tom Brady to have.

The game commentary is hard. The play-by-play broadcaster needs to have a nice lead and move toward telling he viewer what he or she just saw on the gridiron. The analyst, color commentator - whatever you want to call the “other” person in the booth – has a tough job.

An NFL broadcast requires the ability to fill in seamlessly at least 140 times per game before the play-by-play broadcaster sets up the next play for the viewers.

Former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon (who won a Super Bowl with the Raiders in the early 2000s) was quoted in Sam Farmer’s (Los Angeles Times) article in the 05/14/2022 Times-Union Weekender – Page 4B. He conveys quite well what ticks off a broadcaster, and the network producers, and me personally for that matter.

The following excerpt is from the aforementioned article. Gannon discusses a postgame discussion with a producer who challenged Gannon’s self-awareness.

Gannon thought his game was hard to call – low-scoring, boring – but he thought the game’s lack of thrills affected what he thought was otherwise a good job in the booth.

His CBS executive, Tony Pettiti, replied with the following:

“Well, here’s my thoughts. It’s either one of two things. You don’t the mechanics and the pacing and the timing of the broadcast. Either that or you don’t have anything interesting to say.”

I get pretty ticked off when someone at any level of sports believes merely playing the sport will smoothly transition into him or her into having at least 100 interesting things to say about what is going on  within the pitch, the diamond, the field, or the hardcourt.

The result is the analyst being caught off guard. Radio is even worse, because dead air is, well… death.

My hat goes off to Warsaw senior Dane Koontz, who worked with me for most of my four seasons on radio/video simulcasts. He played football, baseball, and ran track so he I was intrigued by his interest in covering a varsity sport he was not playing in his four years of high school.

Koontz improved with each contest, took notes, and within his first season started using MaxPreps and other media to build a cheat sheet to not only describe the “why” of what just happened on the court, but he’d modify a player with something like, “Sanner, who’s shooting greater than 70% from the free-throw line – pretty good for a center - knows she has to convert those shots when she is contested inside.”

Koontz was compared, and never complacent even when he made greater-than-expected progress. He listened well, and he even told me when my unsolicited advice didn’t work well for him, and how he subsequently found a better trick of the trade than I offered him.

For the Warsaw Community High School students who are looking to fill the openings Dane is leaving, I’m going to offer a very skewed assignment for understanding how timing and having something interesting to say are the goals you’ll set for yourself behind the mic.

Watch some late-night talk shows and see how some incredibly famous TV and film personalities are flops as talk show guests. Then take note of how some not-so-famous guests kill it on the talk show circuit.

The difference is they are prepared to tell great stories about the trade or issue where their experience is vast, and their convictions are strong.

I’ll also provide an analogy for a local football analyst who only covers Tiger football on occasion, but he seems like a guy who was born for commentary. He’s like the example of the lesser-known talk show guest I mentioned who knocks his or her appearance out of the park.

Jeremy Kilgore, NewsNow Warsaw’s fill in for Tiger Football color analysis broadcasts, reminds me of a good talk show guest who’s great because he can tell a story or explain the action in an appealing manner the way David Spade – although he’s not a Hollywood A-lister – is a must-have talk show guest because his wit is quick, and he knows how to tell stories about his experience in an interesting manner.

YouTube Spade. While you’re add it, also YouTube lesser-known Scott Thompson, a Canadian actor/writer/comedian who kills on talk show appearances. Can you transition what you’ll observe into a sports commentary role? You now have your assignment for the summer.