Advancing Technology Advantages

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Gary Laubach stole my thunder in his blog the previous week in which he talked about the new technology we started using in our first “all-remote” edition of the “RCN SportsTalk Show.”

In observing the health requirements and mandated safety procedures of the times, we started broadcasting the show with all of our guests remaining in their homes.

For our next “SportsTalk” show, we took things up a notch. Utilizing my RCN high speed internet (a huge shout out to my colleagues out in the field keeping it going strong), the show originated from my home to connect with members of local high schools spring sports programs.

In scheduling that episode’s guest list, I thought the experience would be therapeutic for our guests as coaches and players could express their frustrations in talking about their seasons being cancelled but additionally give viewers some unique perspectives on how they are dealing with their canceled seasons during the pandemic.

Another benefit of this particular program was allowing senior athletes to not only break the monotony of their quarantine but also to reveal some very heartfelt stories about their playing days, with some realizing that their sports careers have already come to a premature end.

Initially, I thought doing the show from my home might be an advantage over our usual setup. Instead of trying to find interesting guests who had to be available on Thursday between 6 to 8 p.m., I suddenly had great flexibility in scheduling.

Sure enough, the first three groups I contacted were eager to be on the show.  When hearing what time would work for them…the first said mornings work best, the 2nd said another day at 2pm was ideal and the third said they’re not available until sometime after 5pm.  Normally this would be a major problem, but now, this was not an issue.

The days leading up to the program recording date were rather nerve-wracking for me. I have been spoiled for the last 15 years of having eight or more incredibly capable crew members putting all the technical aspects of the show together.  While grateful to be given the responsibility to try something new, I realized I now was pretty much on an island by myself.  Any significant technical glitch would reflect badly upon my ability to be the pseudo – director / audio person / cameraperson / floor manager, et al for this project.

I had actually been testing the equipment for weeks with various people, some who had utilized similar technologies while picking their brains in order to properly prepare for this first day of recording.  As a television veteran, I also knew that I had to prepare for every possible thing that could possibly go wrong. (Murphy’s law frequently applies in TV productions:  “If it can go wrong, it will go wrong.” The trick is not to let people know at home that it does.)

But very early in the proceedings, I started to realize something I had never considered before.  Let me explain.

One aspect of hosting the show that I feel I have done a very capable job of over the years is to make guests feel relaxed. Well-established speakers can easily sit down and talk on a live television show for 60 minutes without hesitation.  I realized very early in my career that even veteran athletic directors, administrators and other people who do a fair amount of public speaking on their own, can very easily freeze-up when the bright lights click on.

I relish the challenge of having people arrive at our studio, terrified by the thought of the TV cameras focusing on them when they first arrive, and making sure they thoroughly enjoy the experience and want to return again by the time the show is over.

But by utilizing the equipment from my home to connect with high school athletes speaking from their own living rooms, I could sense right away how relaxed they were and how quickly they opened up and expressed their feelings and revealed heartfelt stories.

Although I’d like to think I come up with some pretty good questions from time to time, they made my job rather easy this week, wasting no time in providing emotional responses for the situation they and many other student-athletes are dealing with right now.

I also like to think a great interviewer knows when to be a good listener while helping them to find ways to express themselves as they deal with their own stresses.  Again, a skill I’d like to think I have an abundance of, was hardly necessary on this occasion.

When one of the coaches called me immediately after we completed recording this week’s show to thank me for the opportunity, I didn’t pause in my response.  I told him that it was not only a very enjoyable experience for me as an interviewer, but probably, in terms of evoking emotional stories, one of the best shows we have done, and the kids themselves deserve all the credit.

I know coming into a television studio and sitting under the bright lights for an hour is a unique experience not very many people ever have the opportunity to experience.  I look forward to the time we can do the show again, live, with guests joining me in the studio.

But I think this week’s program shows that there is also something extra special in talking with people in their natural environment.  One that can provide even greater personal insights we might not have gotten otherwise.

Either way, it’s nice to know that we here at RCN TV keep finding new ways of serving our customers, especially during these unusual times in our society.

You can see last week’s “SportsTalk” show featuring local high school athletes and coaches discussing how COVID-19 has affected their sports seasons, through RCN’s Video on Demand.

We’ll be continuing our “all – remote” editions of the program for at least the next few weeks.  Coming up this Thursday, Tom Housenick of The Morning Call will sub for my usual co-host, Keith Groller, to talk about Major League Baseball’s hiatus and rumors concerning its return, plus high school wrestling off-season news.  We will also have Mike Hofmann, a local historian, previewing his new book on high school football.

Chris Michael About Chris Michael

Chris handles play-by-play for RCN sports events, including baseball, football & basketball games and produces/hosts the station’s 60-minute live call-in show. Among Chris’s other responsibilities include reporting on local news & sports stories, conducting “Take 5” interviews with community and political leaders, producing commercials, voiceovers and promos; and generating blog entries and videos on the internet. Click here to listen to the weekly Sports Talk podcast.

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