Microphone Tips and Usage

The microphone can either be a speaker's best friend or his worst enemy. The benefits are obvious but the ill-prepared speaker might face some unsettling problems that could be easily obverted with the knowledge and techniques that are offered here.

1. Know the power of your voice

How far and how long can you project comfortably without becoming raspy or hoarse? Once this is discovered, you will realize that a microphone is not always needed but is a good accessory to keep handy if conditions change, either by way of cold or noisy surroundings.

Learn the abilities of your voice indoors and out. The only way is to try it out with a friend. Place a marker where you'll stand. Have your friend blindfold you then start speaking with a projected voice (without straining). Then, have them move around to see how much area your voice covers (note: the blindfold prevents you from seeing where he / she is and adjusting your modulation accordingly). Have them then place markers where your auditory levels drop below a comfortable level. Estimate the amount of people that the area will comfortably hold. This gives you a rough idea of your capability, so you can use this information to decide if a microphone is needed to reach the people you want to.

2. Know the microphone

Microphones come in many different types and styles, including handheld, mounted, lavaliere and headset. Some have on / off switches, while others don't. Familiarize yourself with the equipment so you won't be faced with the embarrassment of wondering why you can't be heard.

A) Unidirectional

A unidirectional mic or "uni" picks up from only one angle. A person using this type of microphone would have to stay near it and avoid turning their head while speaking. Uni-directionals are good for controlling feedback, as well as producing clarity of voice and musical instruments, but it is easy to drift out of range.

B) Omnidirectional

An omni directional mic or "omni" can pick up more sound. It's not necessary to be directly on top of it in order to be heard and it can even pick up a group of people if the volume is properly adjusted.

C) Corded

A corded mic can get tangled and limit mobility, but it generally offers better sound quality.

D) Wireless

A wireless mic offers freedom of mobility but since the signal is being transmitted, some unique problems can occur. For instance, a speaker's amplified voice might drop in volume occasionally and the receiver may pick up unguarded signals. Fortunately, technology has improved and the problems listed are ones you shouldn't concern yourself with if you can afford a good one.

E) Handheld

A handheld mic is the most commonly available device because of its versatility. However, it does take a little time to get used to.

F) Mounted

The mounted mic is usually attached to a lectern or table and it cannot be removed unless you can handle being tied to the said table or lectern. I would not suggest it as being a prime choice.

G) Lavaliere

A lavaliere is worn about the neck and offers freedom of mobility. The styles vary from the tie tack variety to the gator clip. They are small and generally go unnoticed if, that is, they are of the wireless variety. The one problem that can (and often does) occur is when the speaker turns his / her head in the opposite direction of the mic.

H) Headset

The headset mic is worn over the head of the speaker and a boom extends the mic out near the speaker's mouth. Although it does give the greatest freedom of movement and the speaker doesn't have to worry too much as to mic placement, the headset and boom can be distracting to the audience, since your face will be partially blocked.

3. Rehearse

No matter what type of microphone you'll be using, whether it's supplied by you or by the facility, you will have to test it out in the area you're going to speak. This will help you determine the best placement of the mic in regards to controlling feedback, as well as its proper distance from the lips.

4. Don't blow it

Often a person will test a microphone by hitting the top or blowing into it. Neither one is truly acceptable. Generally accepted and less obvious methods are; tapping the side just under the mouthpiece, jiggling the cord or to simply begin speaking as the applause is dying down, listening for amplification.

Additional Notes:

It is not entirely uncommon for a speaker to travel with their own microphone, along with assorted adapters to fit available equipment. If you really want to be sure you will be heard, you might want to invest in a portable sound system to bring with you, therefore, you don't have to be entirely dependent on the one available (if one is available).

Remember, the microphone can be a powerful tool for amplification, so the speaking level should be slightly louder then normal volume. In other words, let the mic work for you. If you're holding it, remember its proper usage and avoid gesturing with it or letting it drop too far away from your lips. If a mic stand is near you, keep in mind that it is a support for the mic, just as with a lectern. Don't use it to hold onto for support.

Information and thoughts on this page were submitted by William Corey,DTM.
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