How to break into Smash commentary

As originally posted in 2019 on the new-defunct SmashAdvice blog.

Are you an aspiring commentator who would like to snag more gigs at Smash tournaments? In this blog post, we’ll be sharing advice on how to get the best commentating jobs! But first of all, I want to thank X1 for the great advice she shared with me when writing this post.

Start small, dream big

Local tournaments

Of course, when you want to become a commentator, you usually dream of commentating majors. We get it! But just like a player has to start with grinding their local weeklies before getting top 8 rankings at majors, you’ll need to gain both experience and notoriety at local tournaments.

If your local weekly is streamed, offer to commentate every week. You can do this alone, with another aspiring commentator, or with different people who want to commentate just for one day. All of these are valid – the point is that you get your weekly workout.

Just as importantly, casting regular local tournaments will allow you to build a relationship with your local streamers. In turn, they can recommend you when they stream a larger tournament because they know they can rely on you to be on time and to do a good job.

Not a native English speaker?

Having another native language doesn’t have to be a handicap! It can mean getting even more experience with fewer language barriers. Don’t be scared: reach out to every major tournament you can find and and offer to host a foreign language re-stream from your home. This way, people from your region get used to seeing and hearing you on stream and you start building relationships with organizers of larger tournaments.

At the same time, don’t forget to practice your English: the better you speak, the easier it will be to find commentating gigs in English. The fact that you’re already known in your local language will help you further!

Experience, experience, experience

Don’t only commentate during tournaments with people. Most of the work is going to come from practicing at home. We’ll be doing a whole post dedicated to that soon, but find out what works for you: being an analyst? A storyteller? More about the hype, about the play-by-play? Casting is a skill, and it takes practice. Your personality or your brand won’t be able to carry you if your skills are not up to scratch.

If you want even more experience: what about commentating other games you care about? It broadens your skill set, allows you to practice with more people, and will also let you have even more commentary opportunities! It also means that you’ll get valuable insights from other esports or sports – watch games from all disciplines anytime you can.

Always ask for feedback when commentating. At smaller tournaments, ask the Twitch chat or people around you; at larger tournaments, post feedback threads on Reddit. You’ll receive constructive criticism, and more people will see your name!

Making your commentary highlight reel

Making a commentary highlight reel is very important – it’s your resume. Invest in a quality headshot to use as your video cover, and then create your reel!

In the first 3 seconds, the TO watching your video must be reminded of your face, your tag, and the sound of your voice. So make sure you include all that immediately. In the following seconds, add a scene that shows your personality. Then, add the best of your commentating.

Keep the reel short – under 2 minutes at all cost. Don’t forget to include your contact information!

Here’s a good thread going into more detail about highlight reels:

Leveraging the snowball effect

Build relationships with other casters so that your duo works well together. If one gets hired, they can refer the other because of their great dynamic: it gives two casters for the effort of one and is beneficial to both commentators and tournament organizers. Think Scar and Toph, Phil and HMW, Chelly and Chillindude… Being an established pair can add value and allow you to build chemistry with your co-caster, rather than having repeatedly develop new dynamics with each partner.

It’s very important to network with established commentators, not just a regular partner from your area. First of all, at majors, less experienced commentators will usually be paired with a household name, so knowing how they work and having done commentary together will help. Secondly, they have great connections with tournament organisers. Their recommendations can carry a lot of weight.

Managing your personal brand

The key to being a great commentator is that you should be known for your personality. Make sure people will recognize you: keep a consistent appearance with personal branding (for example, a certain piece of clothing) and a consistent commentary style. We’ll talk about this in more detail in an upcoming blog post!

When on stream, always ask the streamer to make sure that the video will feature your name and social media accounts. Of course, because of this, be active on social media and especially on Twitter. This way, you can stay in people’s minds between tournaments too.

Now, one last thing before I let you go: favor tournaments that announce their commentary lineups. They build hype, are a sign of good planning, and showcase you, so you should encourage that! You’re not just a commentator – you’re an influencer too now.

Good luck for booking tournaments as a Smash commentator! We wish you all the best.


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