I met Jon through a mutual friend who referred me to him because she knew he’d be someone great to talk to regarding his role as the In-Arena and Digital Media Host of the San Jose Sharks. When Jon was in Toronto to shoot some stuff for the Sharks website and social media platforms, we had a chance to meet and discuss all things career related. He’s an infectious, positive guy and he has some really great advice, enjoy!
Taylor Shold: Tell us a little about yourself, who are you and what do you do? How did a guy growing up playing football become in In-Arena Host of the San Jose Sharks?
Jon Root: My name is Jon Root and I am the In-Arena and Digital Media Host for the San Jose Sharks. I do everything from emcee all game entertainment to host my own show that features players and coaches.
I’ve always loved to entertain and put a smile on people’s faces. I grew up playing football, basketball and baseball. I finished my playing career playing football at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California. I was born in the Bay Area and always loved the Sharks. I always knew the sport of hockey but never played it, which made the transition not as smooth as I would’ve like. I would say it was a tough learning curve because of the lingo. I always wanted to make sure when i interviewed players or spoke about the game that I had the right verbiage. In general, I was able to get into the swing of things rather quickly. In this industry, hosting jobs are so far and few between so there was never a hesitation to get into hockey. My broadcasting experience in college, internships at multiple news stations and hosting for a minor league baseball team prepared me well for this opportunity.
Taylor: SMG is all about networking, how has it helped your career?
Jon: Believe it or not, the role I have with the Sharks was the first job I ever got without knowing someone that worked for the team or knew someone that knew someone. Networking has lead to mentorship, opportunity, and so much growth in my career. Every time a new episode of my show comes out I send it to a connection of mine for feedback. I reach out to other host about effective ways to engage crowds better and learn from them. I’ve been able to build a network that is connected to so many other networks, which has proven to provide exponential career growth.
My advice would be to find others that you admire and reach out. Tell them you’d like 15 minutes of their time to chat about who they are and how they got into their role. People love to talk about themselves whether they’ll admit it or not. That’s a great way to start. Show interest and admiration. From there you can build trust, ask questions, sell yourself and have a connection that you can constantly learn from and fight for you in your career journey. Networking is essential to success in sports media. Those with hiring power want to know you’re knowledgeable, trustworthy, genuine and a valuable asset to their company. When you have experienced professionals in the industry as a reference for that, your chance to get that job skyrockets.
Taylor: Competition is stiff in this industry, how can people stand out in this business when applying or auditioning for jobs?
Jon: Other than making solid connections and networking like I just mentioned; BE GENUINLY YOU. When you continue to move up (or try to move up) in the industry, people can see through fakeness. What I mean by this is, don’t try to be someone you’re not. There’s only one Kenny Mayne, there’s only one Scott Van Pelt, there’s only one Sam Ponder.
Admire others and use that to make yourself better but how you get ahead and noticed to by being yourself and showing others there’s a uniqueness to you they can’t find anywhere else. There’s only one you. Don’t try to be someone else. That job is already taken.
Also, build a great website, demo reel, LinkedIn and social media profiles. Those are the first impression most people get of you and can lead to more opportunities so make sure those are as unique and polished as you are. (Editor’s Note: You can check out Jon’s Website at jonrootlive.com)
Taylor: In your opinion, what makes a great on-camera person?
Jon: Someone that is prepared, confident and in-tune with their audience makes a great on-camera personality. When you are prepared, words flow, stand-ups take fewer takes, questions formulate the way you’d like on the spot and your improv skills will be on point. Preparation leads to confidence knowing that no matter what happens during a game or video shoot, I’m ready for it. Confidence leads to trust and engagement with an audience. When you’re looking straight into a camera an audience will know if you’re confident in what your going to say or how you’re going to act. Whether it’s in an arena and it leads to a crowd making noise or an audience being drawn in by a fast-paced man on the street video, they can tell whether your confident in your craft or not.
Taylor: Building a rapport with players is important in the In-Arena Host role, what is the best way to do that so they are loose during segments/features that are supposed to be more lighthearted?
Jon: I’m very blessed because there are not a lot of in-arena hosts that have been able to expand their roles where they are involved in segments and features with players.
Heck, I even have my own show I host now. I’m very honored. I believe the Sharks provided me with this opportunity because I proved it with our minor-league team, the San Jose Barracuda. I would interview players during intermissions and post-game. Sometimes we’d have themed nights where I’d be in a Santa costume or an American flag suit but I would still have a great interview with players and coaches because I’ve built trust and earned respect even though I looked silly. How I earned that was engaging with them like I would would anyone I’d meet. I treat them, like everyone else I meet, with respect. From there I’ve earned trust, which allows them to open up to me more when the camera is rolling. They’re people just like us. They just have amazing athletic ability (and maybe a couple more dollars than us).
When it comes to features and segments there are definitely certain athletes that are more reserved. I just try to push them a little to get out of their shell. I throw feelers out there like a funny one liner, change the inflection of my voice and/or body language so they know it’s a safe space and they can let loose around me. On the other hand, there are athletes that are big personalities and that is where I know when to sit back and let them steal the show. I’ll throw a little fuel to the fire (so to speak) so they can do their thing. I’ll try to find ways they can show off a side that audiences don’t usually see. That can lead to a connection with audiences like they’ve never had before.
All in all, when I work with players it’s not about me. It’s about the players. I want the audience to feel like they can be in my shoes every segment and feature. I want them to feel the moment not just listen and watch the moment.
Taylor: Who do you look up to in this industry and what have you taken away from what they do and applied it to your work?
I love the comedy and lighthearted side of sports. Kenny Mayne is one of my favorites in the industry. For so many years he has remained true to his form and provided audiences with a laugh, sarcastic comment or fantastic facial expression that is a breath of fresh air.
Ernie Johnson is another person I look up to. He knows how to hit you to your core when it comes to tough conversations and situations affecting the sports world. The way he handles the other personalities of Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaq is extremely impressive. He is a wizard with words. He’s a Christian (like myself) who is a stand-up individual on and off the camera.
I have admired those two for a while and have incorporated many of their techniques into my work. Kenny Mayne made you feel like you could walk in his shoes because he was real, genuine and never gave a sense that he was into himself. When he interacts with athletes; you feel like you were too. With Ernie I have respect his character and apply that to who I am on and off the camera. I want people to know I work hard, engage audiences well and that I am a someone that is a pleasure to work with.
Taylor: Finally, what’s your best advice for those looking to work in front of the camera?
Jon: Don’t be in front of the camera because you want to be “famous” or have notoriety. I don’t find value in my status as an on-camera personality. Everyone that wants to take this career path needs to know why they want to do this for more than just the face recognition. From there everyone needs to find mentors and network. You can learn so much from the experience of others. You’ll get a lot of phone calls not returned, no replies from emails and no’s to applications but that should only motivate you to work smarter and harder. Get internships, work for your school writing and broadcasting for the sports information department. Finally, practice, practice, practice. Get in front of a camera and experiment with your voice, body language and script writing. There’s always more to learn and ways to improve.
MUST READ: So You Want To Be On TV?
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