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How To Give A Great Speech: Microphone Technique 101
Imagine you’re an elite athlete, at the peak of your fitness, and paid a quarter of a million dollars a year by a top premiership-winning team.
You’ve had the game of your career against your hometown rival in one of the biggest games of the year.
You are exhausted, energized and asked to come up to the podium to accept the man of the match medal.
With a live, nationwide television audience watching, including millions of children for whom you are a role model and hero… you utter the following words in your acceptance speech…”Let’s have a great year…”
It was West Coast Eagles midfielder Michael Braun who was recently fined $5,000 for swearing in public after receiving the Ross Glendinning medal after the Western derby in Perth.
This one remark, uttered in the adrenaline rush of the game, has caused irreparable damage to the brand and reputation of both the West Coast Eagles Football Club and the Australian Football League (AFL).
That’s why the AFL Commission met with the Eagles to deal with issues related to player conduct off the field.
The Eagles have been given notice that if they appear before the commission again, they will be subject to the full force of Rule 1.6 misconduct which may result in fines, suspensions, draft picks or loss of premiership points.
So what’s the point of sharing this story with you, especially if you have no idea what the AFL is, who the Eagles are and who Michael Braun is?
Well, this shows the importance of choosing your words carefully when giving a speech.
Reminded me of the golden rules of microphone technique.
Here are ten tips on microphone technique to maximize your message and not ruin your reputation when giving a speech.
1. Never swear in front of a microphone
I learned this golden rule when I was a broadcaster at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Never swear in front of a microphone because you never know when it’s on!
This mistake may cost you money, such as $5,000, but your personal or professional reputation is priceless.
Remember you can never take it back so it’s best to be disciplined first.
2. Use a microphone if there are more than 30 people
The human voice is a delicate instrument.
Be respectful. Don’t stretch it because you can do long-term and irreversible damage.
Always ask for and use a microphone if there are more than 30 people in the audience.
Explain to the organizer what type of microphone you want before you speak.
I usually have a set of AV requirements that I send to the conference organizer at least six weeks before I present. This includes my preferred microphone, lighting and how I want to set up the stage.
3. Build the best microphone for the situation – impact, peace of mind and hassle free
A podium microphone will give you maximum impact for a presidential-style presentation where you use the podium as an anchor point.
The benefits of using a podium microphone are peace of mind and hassle-free speaking because you can set and forget.
4. The best microphone for the situation – impact, freedom and dynamics
A lapel microphone is very small and uses a clip to attach to the presenter’s clothing.
It replaces a more fixed-position microphone if you want to move away from the podium.
A lapel microphone is plugged into a console that attaches to your belt and can amplify your voice without you having to hold it.
They are usually wireless and connected back to the main PA system.
This is my preferred style of microphone.
As you become more experienced, you learn to ignore the microphone and even use the tilt and angle of your head to change your voice, tone and timbre into the microphone.
A trap for people. If you use a lapel microphone, make sure you turn it off before you go to the restroom.
I’ve heard that the entire audience listened to everything only to find that the speaker was just relieving himself because his lapel microphone was still on and broadcasting throughout the auditorium!
A headset microphone is a variation but I find headsets a bit bulky and intrusive to work with.
5. Work out the best microphone for the situation – effects, effects and effects
Without a doubt, a hand-held microphone gives you the greatest sound range and control.
That is why it is so popular among entertainers and artists.
As a professional public speaker I find that I like to use my whole body for kinesthetic speaking and a hand-held microphone hinders my body movement.
6. Familiarize yourself with the “on and off” switch
Even seasoned professionals can get caught out and it reflects badly on you as a presenter.
Spend time familiarizing yourself with the on and off switches. I’ve lost count of the number of times a speaker looks unprofessional when on stage saying “how do you turn this thing on” or some variation.
7. Look for feedback
Feedback is really annoying for the audience.
Move around the stage and room for feedback spots and adjust accordingly.
8. Use the clenched fist rule
Again, I learned this from legendary broadcaster and speech coach Arch McKirdy at ABC.
He told me the best way to position the microphone in relation to your mouth and lips is to make a tight fist and that is the optimal distance of the microphone from your mouth.
9. Speak directly into the microphone
Broadcasters hate being “off mic” because the sound quality is poor.
Always speak directly into the microphone. Use a windsock to prevent outside noise or popping with the letter “p”.
10. Always sound check
Do a sound check Before You submit.
Check the entire stage for feedback spots.
Be respectful of professional sound crews, introduce yourself and clearly state what you want to do, and rehearse for particularly complex presentations.
Thank them later. Once you’re ready to go, turn on the microphone.
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