People

One Final Lesson From the Voice of God

A few different associations that I've worked for have used the same term to describe the unseen announcer at their meetings who asks attendees to take their seats and then introduces the first speaker: the Voice of God.

It’s as good a name as any for someone who is authoritative, omnipresent, and unseen. The name was also given to Bob Sheppard, the longtime, legendary public-address announcer for the New York Yankees, who died on Sunday at age 99. (It’s been a tough week for the Yankees. The team’s equally legendary if not quite so longtime owner, George Steinbrenner, died yesterday.)

 
In its obituary, The New York Times describes Mr. Sheppard’s “precise, resonant, even Olympian elocution,” and if you ever watched a ballgame at Yankee Stadium between 1951 and 2007, when Mr. Sheppard was on the job, you know what they mean. His delivery was distinct and memorable, with a sort of low-key grandeur. (Click on the video above to listen to him recreate the starting lineups for Game 6 of the 1951 World Series.) But Mr. Sheppard also knew enough to stay out of his own way:

“A public-address announce should be clear, concise, correct,” he said. “He should not be colorful, cute, or comic.”

Meeting professionals probably know what he means, since their jobs tend to be about setting the stage and then receding into the background. Because when you’re the Voice of God, you don’t need to take a bow.

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso is executive editor of Convene.