Before going out to California for my taping, I read everything I could find on the internet about buzzer strategy. There seemed to be a uniform consensus as to the proper technique: Listen to Alex's voice, and try to match your buzzing rhythm to that of the production staff member who unlocks the buzzers when Alex is done reading; never wait for the lights, or you'll be too late. Although this can obviously be effective, my own experiences and observations suggest that this advice can be problematic for some people.
As I discussed in my previous post, there are things about the Jeopardy! set that are not at all apparent to the home viewer, or even to most of the studio audience. One of these things is a particular monitor on the table where Maggie, Robert, and Corina, the contestant coordinators, sit. (I don't remember if Glenn sits there or not; he just seemed to sort of materialize when needed.) This monitor is not visible at all from most of the studio audience, and is never shown on television. It is, however, clearly visible from the seats where waiting contestants sit. Said monitor shows a live view of the contestants, but more importantly, it also shows their buzzer status. All three buzzers are represented with three indicators: one that shows when the button is being pressed, one that shows when the contestant is locked out (from buzzing too early), and one that shows when a contestant has successfuly "locked in" and earned the chance to answer the question. I noticed this monitor while watching the second game on my first day, and spent much of the next three games watching it closely. The conclusion from my observations is that many players who struggle with the buzzer, especially the younger or more nervous ones, have a terrible problem with ringing in early.
My experience in the practice sessions on my first day suggest that I am among those not well-served by the conventional wisdom on ringing strategy. I waited for Glenn (in his role as the Alex of the practice sessions) to finish the clue, then timed my ring for what seemed like a reasonable period of time afterward. This led to me getting outbuzzed half a dozen times. So, I extended my wait period. I waited until it felt as if an eternity elapsed after the end of the clue before I pressed the button; this technique got me in a couple of times before I was rotated out. My second round of practice was a little better, but there was no doubt that the buzzer was going to kill me unless I changed tactics.
For the third round of practice, after lunch, I decided to discard the conventional wisdom and wait for the light. As a twitchy, high-stress, highly-caffeinated individual who has logged several thousand hours playing reflex-intensive action video games, I figured that my reaction time might be fast enough to make this work. So, I adopted a new strategy: When a new clue was revealed, I'd read the clue, decide if I was going to answer, then ignore Glenn and focus on the light. This yielded immediate results, as I got in several times in quick succession. Maggie, seeing that I'd found my swing, told me to sit down. The next morning's practice sessions netted similar results, so I felt good about my new technique going into real competition?
How did this work out for me? Tune in tomorrow to see...