Microphone It In

By Malcolm Fleschner

Feedback from an audience can always help improve your presentations. Feedback from a microphone, however, is generally less helpful. To guarantee you use this most important piece of presenting equipment to amplify your voice, but not to magnify your troubles, consider the following tips from author Jeffrey Jacobi, excerpted from his book, How to Say it with Your Voice (Prentice Hall, 2000).

1. Tune In
Before opening your mouth, check to see if the microphone is plugged in or if there’s an on/off switch. Then say a few words, either by counting or uttering some other innocuous syllables, in a normal tone to make sure it’s working properly. Don’t blow into or tap on the mike.

2. Check In
If possible, do a sound check ahead of time. If there’s a sound engineer or someone else with some expertise on hand, take full advantage. Determine the best distance between you and the mike so that you can be heard without potentially piercing anyone’s eardrums.

3. Think Different
Bear in mind that not all mikes are created equal. What might be the perfect distance with one may cause feedback from another. Don’t assume anything about the mike you’ll be using.

4. Don’t Blow It
A sudden rush of air, whether from a particularly exuberant exhalation, a cough or a sneeze, can sound like a tornado blowing through when amplified by a microphone. If you sense any of these coming on, turn your head in anticipation. In general, it’s a good idea to speak across the mike, not directly into it.

5. Be Practical
As with any skill, practice helps. When you rehearse your presentation, do so with a microphone. If you don’t have one already, buy a small mike that plays into your cassette player. Then get used to hearing the sound of your amplified voice.

6. Don’t Use It
In some situations, you may be better off foregoing a mike entirely. Practice speaking so that your voice carries to the back of a room. Audiences will be impressed by your stage presence if you can present to a large room without benefit of a microphone.