Mind Your Microphone Manners Please!!!
Have you ever seen anyone fumble with the power switch on a wireless mic?
Have you ever heard anyone blow into a microphone?
Have you ever heard anyone tap on a microphone?
Well….think again if you ever do. Here are three rules of proper microphone usage.
Unless you are in complete control of your own mic system all by yourself, don’t touch the power button for any reason. Most likely, the technical team is aware that you are using the mic and should have ample battery power to last for the duration of your talk. Plus, they will make sure your mic is muted, if need, or turned up if you are talking.
Never blow into a microphone. Blowing into a microphone usually sounds pretty cheesy and may actually damage the diaphragm in the microphone capsule.
Don’t tap on the microphone. Just like blowing into the microphone, tapping a mic can be awkward for the audience to hear and can potentially cause damage to the diaphragm element as well.
Basically, if you need to check the audio in a mic system, just start talking…saying something like maybe thanking the audience for being there. This will give the microphone technician a chance to tweak your mic and then you’re off and delivering your fabulous keynote speech!
We have all been in an audience listening to a speaker and half-way through the speech; we realize we have no clue as to where the speaker was taking us. We have heard speeches that seemed to jump from one point to another with no apparent rationale. We have sat in lectures given by seemingly knowledgeable professors but we have no idea what it all means. The analogy for all presenters is to imagine driving down a winding road where every few miles we see road signs directing us to our destination. Speeches are no different. We need to let the audience where we are going and similar to driving down a road, connect our points together. However one problem that happens to many speakers is when they think of an impromptu idea. They have prepared their speech but they decide to thrown in this additional impromptu ideas or points. These ideas in conjunction with the rest of the ideas all makes sense to the speaker. But to the audience it gives the impression that the speaker is not staying on track. The audience feels that the speaker is jumping around and not providing any sense of direction. The solution is simple. You must stay on track. In your preparation know how you want to proceed in your speech and then in your presentation you need to stay that way. Otherwise, do not be surprised when your audience has the look on their face as if to say; “Where the heck is he going with this?”
For thousands of years, story tellers have been bringing events to life. As children we looked forward to our mom or dad reading us a bed time story and as parents, the nightly ritual of reading our child’s favorite bedtime story is something we all remembered and enjoy. In our adult years we all gravitate to people who can tell a great story. Stories let us relive someone else’s vacation, trip or a funny mishap. The ability of telling a lively story is important to all speakers. The better we are at telling a story; the easier it is to make a point and hold your audience’s attention. As speakers it is far easier to make a point with a story than to make a point without a story. The key to bringing a story to life is your use of descriptive words and phrases. You could say, “It was a hot day on the beach.” Or you could say, “It was a hot, humid, sultry afternoon on the white sandy beach that borders the clear blue shimmering ocean waters.” The English language has many words that can turn the ordinary, boring story into something that is alive and vibrant. For us speakers it is a simple as looking into a dictionary. The dictionary is full of words that will enrich any story. Of course you must first begin in your own mind reliving your story. Focus on trying to describe in great detail on what you see. The more you can vividly see your event in your mind, the easier it becomes to find the right set of words to describe it to your audience.
When you are organizing your speech, you always have to think of your audience first. As a matter of fact, you need to think of several “Whys” concerning your planned audience. Why this particular audience? Why this particular audience at this time? Why this particular audience at this time with this topic? The more you begin by asking questions about your audience, the greater the chance you will start to organize your speech in a way to give your audience the greatest benefit. Many speakers think of their content only and not worry about their audience at all. They assume their audience will love the content regardless of what interests the audience. Maybe the content is such that everyone will like it. Of course it also may be that the audience will not like it. Your content could be relevant to everyone but it might require that it be presented in a different way. For example, if your content is personal security, audiences of teenagers versus the elderly have each different concerns and needs. Your overall theme might be personal security but the specifics can be different. You may have the expertise of retirement planning. However, the need of a twenty year old is totally different than of a sixty year old. So start to look at your audience first and then compare your audience to your content.
Putting together a list of the average age and sex of your audience is a good starting place. You will also have to consider education levels of your audience. Are you planning to speak to mainly to managers or is your audience non-management personnel. The more you know about your audience the greater impact you can make with your speech. You will go from being unknown and forgotten to someone that is remembered for a long, long time.
Every time you open your mouth to speak, you are a speaking professional. Whether it is in front of a meeting of your peers or at your company’s coffee stand, you are a speaking professional. Most people do not realize that the better you are at speaking, the more positive people’s judgment of you becomes. People instinctually make judgments about each other in the first 10-30 seconds of hearing each other speak. Even though we have been told never to judge anyone till you get to know them, the reality is that for most of mankind’s existence our very survival depended on a quick assessment of any stranger that you met. We may not make a conscious effort to pre-judge but the reality is that somewhere in your mind, a judgment call is being made.
First, we must accept this reality. Secondly and more importantly, how can we use that to our advantage? Let us confine our discussions to the business world. The more you learn on how to become a better speaker, the easier it will be to give the impression on being a very knowledgeable business expert. With practice and hard work, most people can give a prepared speech very well. The true test for anyone is when you are asked to give an answer to an impromptu question at a meeting or on a one-to-one situation. If your answer is given in a precise, knowledgeable and comfortable manner, most people will assume that you are an excellent business person. However if your answer is rambling, disjointed and stumbling, people will judge you not very kindly. Think of a job interview. If you are hiring the replacement for your assistant and are down to the final 2 candidates which candidate would you choose? Candidate one who answered all your questions with poise and confidence or candidate two who was nervous and stumble at answering most of your questions. Most of us will say candidate one. If we are really honest with ourselves we will admit that we want someone who speaks well and may lack a little knowledge versus someone who is an expert but speaks very badly. So, the key is to learn and practice. You can learn from books, mentors or coaches about the art of speaking. You can then put this knowledge to use by practicing every time you get a chance to speak. Whether it is at the water cooler, at a business meeting or just with strangers, use your knowledge to practice your speaking skills. Who knows, you might like to speak even more!
One problem most speakers have concerning the content of any speech they present, relates to the level of detail they should give to the audience. Many times speakers have an either or approach. Either they make the content very detailed oriented and a great amount of it or they take the bird’s eye view of their content and just do the generalities with limited detail. I believe both extremes do not work very well. For example, if you have a speaker with 30 years of experience, they just might be attempted to give a very detailed explanation to any major idea they present. Of course there is so much information; it is hard for the audience to decide what is important versus what is just fluff. To any audience member it all sounds important. The best way to see this in action is to watch how your audience takes notes. Many audiences that are in a very detailed presentation are writing furiously as not to miss anything. After a while the audience begins to become overwhelmed and then they simply tune out. The other end of the spectrum is the speaker just gives a bird’s eye view of what they are speaking about with the bare essentials. The speaker assumes that the audience will understand. The problem is that the audience doesn’t understand. Or they understand just part of what you are presenting but they cannot grasp key sections of your speech.
Every speaker must walk the fine line between these 2 approaches. They have to present detail to their audience but now in a way that will overwhelm their audience. At the same time, they need to give an overview of what they are speaking about but give add enough detail that it all makes sense.
A way to test if you are doing it correctly is to present your speech in front of a select test audience. Your test audience maybe fellow speakers or it can be a person whose judgment you trust. Feedback is the most crucial information you need. This feedback will guide you to find the perfect balance.