At some stage in your public speaking journey you will have to us a microphone. Be aware that using microphones or rather the incorrect use of microphones has brought many a public speaker to grief.

Preparation and familiarisation will help to avoid some of the common pitfalls of microphone usage. The most common issues are: not knowing how close to speak to the microphone (especially with fixed microphones), the angle of the microphone can cause a popping sound, if you are wandering around the stage you can get feedback (caused by the mike picking up the sound from the speaker and trying to re-amplify it) and with lapel mikes you can have problems caused by the type of clothing worn and/or jewellery.

There are 3 main types of microphones – fixed, hand held and lapel. Each has its own strategies for optimal usage. The most important thing to do when using a microphone is allow your self time to practise and to get used to any idiosyncrasies. Always take a few minutes to test the volume and where you can walk. Have someone down the back doing a sound check with you.

Fixed microphones are fixed in one place. They may be on a stand or be hooked up to the lectern. his is determined by the distance of the mike from your mouth. Just a small change will make a great deal of difference, and will probably be accompanied by a lot of helpful advice like “Talk into the microphone you fool” You need to maintain this microphone at a fixed distance from the mouth, and if you turn your head even a little, the mike turns with you. To avoid that popping sound speak across the top of the mike, just angle the microphone slightly downwards so that the air rushed across the top and doesn’t affect the membranes.

Hand Held microphones, whether cable or wireless, tend to be the dynamic kind, and so require constant vigilance about how they are used to maintain adequate coverage, and to avoid constant helpful remarks from your audience.

Because the hand held mike allows you to wander around your speaking area, you can come across the danger of feedback – that dreadful werewolf howling which chills the soul. It’s caused by the mike picking up the sound from the speaker and trying to re-amplify it. The simple solution is not to stand forward of the speakers, and if the speakers used are the ceiling type you could be in trouble. It is best to try a walk through prior to the presentation and if necessary mark the “no go” area with chalk on the floor.

Bea aware that hand held and fixed microphones will impact on your body language and gestures. Practise smoothly moving the microphone from one hand to the other so that you can incorporate the appropriate gestures to add impact to your presentation.

The more modern microphone now used is the lapel type. These are really good for large stages, and are a favourite with professionals as they allow the most freedom. However there are a few things you need to be aware of with these.

You to need to consider the clothing you are going to wear because, being the wireless type they will consist of a clip-on microphone capsule, connected with a thin wire to a transmitter box. Ladies in particular, be aware that you are going to need somewhere to clip it onto. Dresses can be most awkward.

Also, take care where the mike is clipped, don’t use chains, or necklaces or pendants or even chandelier ear-rings – they make a dreadful sound when amplified through a lapel mike.

So next time you are speaking make sure you check out your microphone. Be aware of the different types of microphones, the issues found with each microphone and take the appropriate steps to ensure that you have a great presentation and avoid microphone mishaps.

Trish @ Trischel

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