Seven tips for using your microphone effectively

People who aren’t used to speaking, and even some who are, seem terrified of microphones. Others don’t respect them enough (a client told me about one of her people who wound up with chewing gum stuck to a stage microphone!). They’re tools. That’s all they are. But they are good tools, especially when used properly.

Here are some things to remember when you’re speaking with a microphone.

  1. If it’s available, actually use it. Whether out of fear or misplaced macho, a lot of people wave off the microphone. “I don’t need one of those things.” You may not need one, but your audience needs you to use one. Some of them have hearing difficulties. Even those who can hear you will hear you better if you use the microphone.
  2. Figure out where the microphone “hears.” A microphone only picks up sound in certain places, called the acceptance angle. Before your audience arrives, figure out the angle for the microphone you’re using, and stay within that (usually) cone-shaped space.
  3. Don’t tap it or blow into it. If you need to test for sound, lightly tap the body, not the screen. Tapping or blowing into it makes sound technicians scream as they hear the microphone lose lifespan.
  4. If you have a choice, I recommend either a handheld or a headset mic. A handheld gives you the greatest control, while a headset is the least intrusive. Your preferences will vary, but figure them out.
  5. Position the mic about 4 to 8 inches from your mouth (between the distance of a clenched fist and the distance from thumb tip to little finger tip of a fully opened hand). Angle it below the path of your breath about the level of the bottom of neck, pointed at mouth. It will pick up your voice without picking up “pops” when you say puffy words. Do not eat the microphone—you’re not a rock star. Do not hold it at waist level—that’s your belly button, not your speaker.
  6. If you get feedback, get closer to the mic, not further away, and point it away from the loudspeakers (and learn where they are).
  7. If you’re using a lavalier, clip it in the middle, pointed at your throat. Placing on a tie is perfect. You don’t have to have a tie—just place it where you would have one. Don’t clip it to one side, and don’t let it tilt to one side. As you move, your voice will come and go as you move your mouth into and out of the angle of acceptance.

Don’t be afraid of a microphone, but don’t treat one casually, either. When you’re using one effectively, your audience won’t even think about the microphone. They’ll just be hearing your message easily.

What have you learned about using a microphone? Had any bad experiences?

Photo by comedy_nose via flickr

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Author: Donn King

Donn King works with people who want to forge top-notch speaking skills to increase their influence and impact so they can advance their career or business. He is associate professor of communication studies at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee, as well as a speaker and writer. His background includes ministry, newspaper, radio, small magazines and other publications, as well as co-authoring a textbook and blogging.