I listen to lot of public speakers and eat a lot of rubber chicken. I’m not sure there’s a solution for the chicken problem, but I’m out to save the world from the most heinous public speaking blunder: flubbing the use of the microphone.
The mike is a tool that keeps you connected with your audience. If they can’t hear you clearly, they don’t benefit from your brilliance. So it’s worth making the extra effort to be sure you are using the mike correctly.
There are three types of microphones. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
A lapel mike avoids all the problems the other mikes have, so I always prefer a lapel mike. However, one might not be available, or it might not work with your wardrobe. The big risk is that you’ll forget to turn the thing off. You’ve probably been in a meeting when the unfortunate speaker forgot to turn off his lapel mike when he started having a private conversation or, worse, when he went to the bathroom. Ouch!!
A stationary mike is attached to a podium or a stand. This is the worst type, because it keeps you glued to one spot (and standing behind a podium is a bad spot because it keeps you separated from your audience). Avoid this if possible. Most mikes can be detached from their stand, so experiment and see if that’s possible for you. If not, be sure to adjust the location of the mike so it’s close to your mouth and you are comfortable. You shouldn’t have to contort yourself or stand on tip-toes or hunch over. Make the mike do the work.
A hand-held mike is the most common type. Perhaps because it’s so common, I’ve seen a lot of speakers do a poor job with a hand-held mike. Many speakers seem to think that holding the mike in their hands is all they need to do. Not true.
The mike has to be very close to your mouth to pick up your voice. Observe any singer who uses a hand-held mike and you will see how the mike remains within millimeters of the singer’s mouth. To illustrate, watch Justin Timberlake in this one example on YouTube.
Novice speakers make these common mistakes:
- Holding the mike too far from your mouth. The most common error is to hold it chest-high.
- Holding the mike in front of your body, even as your head (and hence, your mouth) moves to the right and left.
The mike needs to be right in front of your mouth. And as your mouth turns, you have to remember to move the hand that holds the mike so it stays close to your mouth. This requires a lot of coordination. But it’s worth paying attention to, to have the impact you want with your audience.
Paying attention to how you use your microphone can pay huge dividends in staying connected with your audience and getting your message across.