Microphones are very helpful when presenting to a large room and to an enormous number of people. I’ve experienced both cases where I’ve used microphones and when I struggled to project my voice and speak louder because of outside noises or the room configuration, making me wish I had a microphone. Microphones are beneficial, but it takes knowledge and strategy to use them properly.
1) In my own presentations to local associations and business groups, I have always mention that it is a strategy to use a microphone and thus you must know how to use a microphone, much like using any other tool. Part of knowing how to use a microphone is knowing to talk like normal while using a microphone. If a presenter is using any type of microphone, they must talk like they do everyday to friends, family, and colleagues.
Presenters who are not used to using a microphone and thus are not used to hearing their voice amplified tend to lower their voice to a whisper, causing the technicians to raise the volume on the microphone to hear you which then causes the presenter to lower the voice again and it’s a vicious cycle. On the flip side, it is also important to know that projecting your voice and speaking loudly is also not necessary, the microphone does that for you. It is the presenter’s job to know what to talk about and talk normally.
2) Depending on the type and size of room, sometimes the presenter is challenged with an echo. This is one of the reasons that a presenter should check out the room prior to the presentation. An echo requires a strategy of it’s own, especially for faster speaking presenters. To compensate for an echo, the presenter must speak slowly enough that the echo is minimized and the words flow out of the microphone are seamless. This is easier said than done initially, but becomes second nature with some practice.
Sometimes it is not the echo in the room that matters, but the delay it takes from the time you say the words to the time those words come out of the speakers. It also takes strategy and focus, mostly for the fast speakers to slow down and compensate for the delay.
3) Identify where the microphone will be. Oftentimes the microphone is inside the podium and even if you don’t want to, the podium must be used even if it is solely for the use of the microphone. Using a microphone on a stand in the middle of the stage is also common, but if you are using your hands for a demonstration then you will not have the opportunity to move around.
4) In my experience at the zoo, sometimes the microphone isn’t for the entire audience, but just for one person. I presented each year at a school that had students that were hard-of-hearing, requiring me to wear microphone that wirelessly amplified my voice into their hearing aids. Those were the microphones that I enjoyed the most because I knew that I was helping those students. Like any other microphone, it takes strategy and technique. I had to focus really hard not to speak too fast and even though I succeeded with speaking slower, the message was delayed getting to the hearing aid and those students would laugh just a little after the rest. Be aware of the microphones that only help individuals.
I give you these recommendations, not to scare you, but to empower you to be prepared when given a microphone. Remember it is just a tool and your audience wants to hear you.