4 Tips for Using the Microphone Effectively
by Gilda Bonanno
Many people who speak in front of groups could be more effective communicators if they used a microphone. If the audience has to struggle to hear you, it will be difficult for you to communicate your message effectively.
Many things can make it difficult for the audience to hear you, such as a noisy air conditioner or a loud group in the adjoining room. Hearing and understanding you can also be difficult if the people in the audience are not native speakers of the language you're presenting in, or if you're presenting new and technically complicated information.
Using a microphone effectively can help you overcome all of these obstacles by allowing the audience to hear you without difficulty.
Here are four tips on how to use a microphone effectively:
1. Don't Ask the Audience if You Need the Microphone
This is one of the most common mistakes I see speakers make. A speaker stands up in front of the group and asks, "can everyone hear me?" Now let's be logical; if people in the audience can't hear you, how can they answer that question? The only people who can answer are the people who can hear you anyway. And sometimes, even if people are having difficulty hearing you, they won't admit to it in front of everyone else. Check out the sound system ahead of time to determine whether you will use the mike or have someone designated in the back of the room that will let you know if you can be heard.
2. Rehearse With the Mic
If you don't rehearse with the microphone, it will be difficult to use it effectively in front of a live audience. Rehearsing will allow you to get used to the sound of your voice coming through the speakers and find out if there is any feedback coming through the speakers (that awful, high-pitched whistling sound that will have your audience scrambling to cover their ears).
If you're going to use a handheld microphone, practice holding it close enough to your mouth so it picks up your voice while holding your notes or PowerPoint remote in your other hand. If you're using a clip-on or lavaliere microphone, plan how you are going to wear it. Ideally, clip it to the center of your shirt or jacket where it can pick up your voice regardless of which way you turn your head. And the rest of the unit can clip to your waistband or slip into your pocket, with the wire coiled so it doesn't get in your way.
3. Know How the Mic Works
Before you use a microphone, ask the meeting organizer or the person responsible for audio-visual to show you how it works. Find out how to change the battery and keep an extra one handy; nothing is worse than having the battery die in the middle of your presentation and not knowing where to get a replacement or how to replace it. Also get comfortable with the on/off switch; I've seen speakers get flummoxed because they can't figure out how to turn it on.
4. Remember to Turn Off the Mic
Remember to turn off the microphone when you're finished speaking or during breaks. At a training program I facilitated, a fellow instructor forgot to turn off her lavaliere microphone when she took a quick break while the participants were quietly working on an exercise. Through the sound system, I heard footsteps and the sound of a door – and I realized in horror that she was headed to the restroom. I dashed out of the room, ran down the long corridor and ripped open the door to the restroom, where she stood washing her hands before she used the facilities. I mouthed the words, "your mic is still on!" while gesturing wildly towards the green light on the microphone unit clipped to her belt. Thankfully, she turned it off before the situation got worse.
If you have the option of using a microphone for your next presentation, consider using it. Follow these four tips for using the mic effectively and you will make it easier for the audience to hear you which in turn, will make it easier for you to communicate your message to them.
Gilda Bonanno is a speaker, trainer and coach who helps people from all walks of life improve their communication and presentation skills.
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