When he took to the mic at the recent Winter Challenge event in Richmond, B.C., DJ Rhyno brought the event to life.
Quick-witted and knowledgeable-as words rolled off his tongue gracefully, effortlessly-the crowd was kept informed and made to laugh on multiple occasions.
Although he makes announcing and DJ-ing a throwdown look easy and natural, Ryan Jarvis-aka DJ Rhyno-admitted it’s not as effortless as it looks. There are some basic guidelines and loose rules a good announcer must learn in order to deliver a quality performance, he explained.
Jarvis, who has been announcing and DJ-ing at various CrossFit competitions- such as the Canada West and West Regional events-and local throwdowns for a number of years, offered his top-five tips to becoming a successful CrossFit announcer.
Jarvis says it’s crucial to get to know the athletes you’re speaking about. Don’t show up on game day with a cheat sheet and hope to put it all together in the moment of battle, he warned.
“I pride myself on knowing at least 75 percent of athletes without having to look at my heat cheat, and usually I will have the names committed to memory before the end of the competition,” Jarvis said. “It slows things down and takes away from the action if the the announcer is having to check the sheet.”
While this is often easier for individual competitions than team events, Jarvis said it’s not enough to refer to a team solely by their team name.
“It makes it more personal and intimate if specific names are being used during a team event instead of just the team name,” he said.
The second aspect of knowing names is being 100 percent sure on the name’s pronunciation.
“Nothing is worst than hearing your name pronounced incorrectly over and over on a microphone,” he added.
Mispronouncing a name is one of the deadly announcing sins; a monotonous voice that lacks clarity is another. While some people have better natural announcing voices than others, a successful announcer will work with what he’s got to maximize his voice abilities, Jarvis explained.
“I don’t consider my voice as good as most announcers, but I make do with what I was given and make sure I talk as clearly as possible as much as I can. I know when the action gets more intense, I tend to talk louder and faster,” he said.
Part of working with what you have includes finding your own, authentic voice. Don’t try to be someone you’re not, he explained. It’s important to develop your own style in order to provide good energy without sounding forced.
“Sounding overly cheesy and fake, kind of like a DJ in a strip club, is bad,” he said, adding it’s also important to know where to draw the line when it comes to humor. While bad or tasteless jokes should be avoided, Jarvis warned, “some good humour is always welcome.”
Many local throwdowns don’t have live scoring, but if the announcer can keep the fans and athletes informed about things like times to beat from previous heats, to where athletes stand heading into an event, the crowd will become more interested and engaged.
Keeping fans up-to-date goes a long way in keeping them watching until the end. Part of this includes making sure you know exactly what the workout is, Jarvis explained. It can even be useful to explain the event in detail to the crowd.
“Announcers who don’t know the WOD…make it tough for the crowd to follow properly,” Jarvis said.
While everyone has different tastes in music, Jarvis said he believes it’s important to represent broad interests in his music selection.
“I started as a DJ, and still am, and then transitioned to an announcer. I’m still passionate about the music,” he said. “I try to still play a mix of everything showing no favoritism to anyone. I play a mix of house, rock, rap, rock, metal, and anything else that will help in the given WOD.”
He added: “A bad DJ will play only one genre or what he or she likes.”
It’s also important to mix it up when workouts are long, so people aren’t stuck listening to music they dislike for a 20-plus minute workout.
“I’ll try to alternate the genre of the songs in a WOD if the time cap is more than five minutes,” he said.
Since most announcers at CrossFit competitions and throwdowns are probably also CrossFit athletes, it’s easy for the announcer to start wondering how he or she would stack up out there.
The crowd doesn’t want to hear about the announcer’s physical abilities or insecurities, Jarvis warned. He said he has heard some announcers relate everything on the competition floor to themselves, which ends up sounding “egotistical and self-absorbed,” he said.
“(This) goes for color commentators, as well,” he added.
Although the seasoned Jarvis makes it look easy, it has taken him time to hone his skills and become a knowledgeable announcer and DJ-one who knows the athletes on a personal level, who shows up prepared and has a deep understanding of the workouts, who considers his music selection in keeping the crown engaged, and who has developed his own DJ Rhyno style and voice.
His goal is to always be “an announcer who tries to get the most out of the crowd and the athletes, and ideally, gets them to feed of each other,” he said. “That is always my ultimate goal.”