Master the Stage – Microphone Techniques – Proper microphone use
Can you hear me now? How often have you been at a conference or meeting and been frustrated by the poor use of a microphone? For all our advances in technology, a lot of bad sound is simply the result of talkers who don’t know how to use a mic.
Here are tips to make sure that your speaking voice is heard during your next special event or conference.
- Allow time for a sound check—A great public speaker still needs great sound. Remember that one bad element of the event—harsh or inadequate lighting, uncomfortable temperature, background noise from fans or equipment—can tank all your hard work in preparation. A sound check is done BEFORE attendees arrive. In my speaker contract, I schedule a sound check time 30 minutes before starting time.
- At sound check, speak normally into the mic—listen for the full tone and know the difference to say more bass, adjust high tone, less reverb and more volume. When a room is full of guests, you’ll need more volume.
- Keep away from pointing the microphone towards the speakers—This creates that loud feedback high pitched sound. Nothing says “we’re amateurs” like that all-too-familiar screeching sound and very bad for the ears.
- Use the mic—Microphones are a powerful way to control the audience. Handheld are easier to adjust by speaking directly into them. Lavalier mics (often called lapel mic) need to be attached to some sort of belt or waist band, and the cords need to come up under the clothing. This is something you need to address and handle backstage.
- Return the mic to the stand—This keeps the mic positioned in one known place, the stand when you go up to the stage, and for the next speaker. I’ve seen mics walk off stage and not found at that perfect moment after an introduction.
- Positioning is key—The person speaking should be no more than about two widths of the hand from the mic. Too close to the mic, and sound will be “boomy” (known as the “proximity effect”). On sensitive condenser mics, “p-popping” will be more prevalent. Too far from the mic, and the level of voice pickup will be too low—you’ll pick up more room sound, and increase the chances of feedback.
- Standing at a lectern or podium is key—if that’s where your sound is positioned, and the microphone is stationed permanently. Room acoustics and sound reflections play a role in determining the sound quality that’s picked up by the microphone. At a lectern, standing too far from the microphone allows it to pick up too much room sound and sound reflected from the hard surfaces of the lectern. These reflections arrive at the mic later in time relative to the direct sound of the voice, and cause phase cancellations (seen as dips in frequency response, or “comb filter” effect) which can result in audible coloration of the sound. Standing closer to the mic allows it to pick up a higher percentage of direct sound, resulting in fewer phase cancellations and more natural sound.
- Don’t use a lavaliere mic as a hand-held—Clip it onto your clothing lapel; don’t bring it right up to your mouth, as this creates overload and distortion. Lavaliere mics have a power pack that clips on to the back of you. Position this before you go on stage. (backstage)
- If doing a panel discussion—have at least one mic for every two people. Sharing one mic is distracting and time-consuming, with a lot of handling noise as it is passed around.
- An audience mic is great to have—either a roaming wireless handheld or one that’s conspicuously located on a stand for audience questions. If yours is a public meeting where you don’t know who might wish to comment, be ready with a handheld mic; assign a “runner” in the audience beforehand to assist with questions.
- Know where the mic’s On/Off switch is located, and practice using it at your sound check.
- Practice using a microphone—get comfortable. Media training is great for this, along with coaching with public speaking. Using a microphone properly is something you need practice with using.
Learn to see where the sound speakers are positioned and where in the room the voice sound will be broadcast out. Note how the speakers are positioned; are they pointing out towards the crowd, or off to a wall. I’ve had to walk over to adjust a speaker on a stand to point towards the audience. In hotel ballrooms, the house sound often comes from the ceiling – not great for voice clarity. Podiums sometimes have a built in sound that comes out from the speaker built inside facing front of the podium; this works for a small room, but a disaster for larger rooms, plus clarity, volume, high and low sound adjustments are not available.
About LynAnn King
LynAnn King partners with successful small businesses and empowers entrepreneurs to deliver compelling marketing communications, special events promotions and media campaigns. She brings her visionary leadership in rolling out creative marketing campaigns that create visibility and media coverage. Her clients partner with KingSings PR as their marketing and branding expert.
LynAnn King has been a singer for decades and had to Master the Stage in producing sound systems for the quality of her voice, and the overall experience for musical events.
PR: KingSingsPR.com | Singing: KingSings.com