BLOG: Speaking Volumes: Simple audibility tips to get the
best results from your speaking opportunity
So many top executives ignore one simple, but vital component
without which their corporate event just becomes an exercise in
flushing money down the drain… The microphone.
A phenomenal amount of thought and work has gone into creating
your corporate event. You’ve made the effort to select that perfect
getaway venue for your group, carefully chosen cutting edge design
elements and blended them with sophisticated décor to enhance your
message. Soon it will be your turn to communicate with your
employees, partners or clients.
As a topflight executive, this is your opportunity to let the audience
know why they should have confidence in your leadership, it’s time to
honour the hard work put in by your dedicated team and inspire
everyone to even greater success in the future.
So why am I, your comic MC for this prestigious event, standing on the
periphery, gritting my teeth in frustration? Because many top
executives ignore the one simple, but vital component without which
the occasion just becomes an exercise in flushing money down the
drain. The microphone.
It’s not that the mic has been forgotten or is broken. The mic is
operational, switched on and waiting. I know, because as MC I’ve been
using it throughout the function to keep proceedings flowing smoothly,
energise the audience and reinforce your messaging. The mic is lying
unused, because the most important speaker of the event has chosen
to be inaudible.
Neglecting or refusing to use a microphone does not make you a plain-
spoken, no-nonsense, man-of-the-people type CEO. It makes you
background noise. And yes, I’m afraid it’s usually men who spurn the
mic. Female executives hardly ever make this mistake and, as a
result, their communication is often quantum leaps clearer than their
male counterparts. I don’t know why men do this, but I suspect it’s
the speech maker’s equivalent of not asking for directions. And we all
know how well that usually works out for us, guys.
Some execs have expressed a reluctance to use a microphone,
because they think they lack “microphone technique”. Luckily modern
mics are so much more unobtrusive, efficient and easier to use than
before. You don’t need to use a hand-held or a lapel mic anymore.
Your sound technician should be able to provide you with a headset
that comprises of an almost invisible wire that loops over one ear, lays
flat along your cheek and is tipped with a microphone the size of a
cotton ear bud. You can even use it comfortably if, like me, you wear
spectacles. Pop the small battery pack into your pocket and you’re
good to go. After a few seconds you wont even feel it. If the
technician isn’t able to provide you with the choice of microphone
that you find comfortable, use a different technical company.
Modern short attention span audiences are another reason why it’s
imperative that you use a mic. You may see yourself as a general
marshalling his troops… that often reminds me of this famous photo of
General Eisenhower speaking to soldiers about to take part in the D
Eisenhower is the epitome of a blunt, tough leader. The photo
perfectly captures the enormity of the occasion and the high stakes
involved. But he’s actually reaching about a dozen men. Twelve. Out
of an invasion force of three million! Although it’s a great propaganda
pic, it’s not exactly the most efficient way to communicate. And if
you look again at the photo, you’ll see that in those days, nobody had
a smart phone. Today, any speaker has mere seconds to grab and hold
his audience’s attention before their phone comes out of their pocket
and your corporate event becomes a very expensive opportunity for
everyone except you to check what’s happening on their Facebook
time line. Social media, email, etc. are ubiquitous, seductive and
loud. Be louder. Every smart phone is potentially a powerful
distraction. And you have only your wits and the power of your voice
to compete. You need to use every competitive advantage you have
So use a microphone, even if you are speaking to a smallish group. As
a rule of thumb, if there are more people in the room than you have
around your dining room table, use a mic. Remember, you don’t just
need to be heard, you voice has to fill the room, physically, but also
psychologically and emotionally. You need to accomplish all of this
effortlessly, without shouting or straining, without worrying about
audibility, so that you can devote all your attention to what you’re
saying, not how it’s sounding. Besides, even if there are only a few
people present, if you’ve gone to all this trouble to set up an event
for them, I’m guessing they’re all pretty important to you, too
important to leave audibility to chance.
Here are a few simple audibility tips to get the best result from a
Arrive early and do a quick sound check, even if it's just to get
used to the sound of your amplified voice in that space. It's
natural to be a bit thrown by your voice booming through a PA
system. But don't fret, this feeling passes within seconds. Rather
let those uncomfortable seconds be in a rehearsal than in the
crucial first moments of your speech.
Take a moment yourself or have your assistant brief the sound
technician to make sure the mic is switched on, not muted, and
that the channel is opened as you take your first steps on stage,
so that when you want to, you simply begin to speak.
Speak naturally, as if you are not using a microphone. Let the
sound technician adjust levels to get your voice just right. You
have enough to think about without worrying about changing the
way you speak.
It’s also very important to insist that the technical team uses
fresh, fully charged batteries in the microphone. Take the
trouble to insist and any professional worth their fee will be
happy to comply.
There is no advantage to be gained by tapping the mic, blowing
into it or plaintively enquiring “Is this on?” You don’t see Barack
Obama doing it, so don’t do it either.
It’s great if you can walk around and speak extemporaneously,
but often the occasion calls for you to refer to notes, so use
them openly and without excuses. It’s much better to be at a
podium and have your facts straight than to wander around
blithering nonsense. (That’s my job!)
If you really hate the idea of paper notes that rattle in your
hands as you speak, why not use a small tablet computer? My
iPad Mini is just the right size and I have downloaded a free app
that has an autocue function. If necessary, I can scroll through a
long script automatically or with a flick of a thumb. It looks
professional, it’s up to date and if an attack of speaker’s nerves
gets the better of you, a tablet doesn’t betray you with the sight
of a trembling sheaf of shuffling paper.
Feel free to chat to your MC about any concerns or special
requirements you may have. Is the tone right? Would you like it to be
more serious or light-hearted, more energised or calm? Do you want to
be introduced in a particular way? Should certain information be
included or avoided? I am here to help make your event a success and
to give you every opportunity to be the best speaker of the day. Use
your MC, but please also use the mic.
For stand-up comedy and MC duties at your next event, please feel
free to call Al Prodgers at 011 462 9322 / 074 580 6040 or
9th September 2015