Thanks, Wikipedia! Now what do we really need to know? Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
My name is Doug – I am a sound guy. I know a lot about sound and have made a living reproducing it as a live and recording studio sound engineer for almost 30 years. I have been on tour with international musical acts, worked on Grammy nominated recordings and been a moving part in some of the biggest and best technological productions that are happening today. Through these experiences, I discovered that the one thing that can stop even the greatest performance… is improper microphone usage.
As speakers, you are now performers. You will be using the same exercises and techniques that any million-dollar celebrity has learned, projecting the presence that TMZ can’t wait to hook.
As with all great successes, there will inevitably come guaranteed fails. I am hoping to prepare you for the pitfalls of live audio, so you can confidently go into your session, and speak in appropriate terms with the basic knowledge needed to communicate with even the most jaded hotel “professional technician”.
At any event I have been a part of, there is a crew. A crew is 2 – 4 technicians (“techs”) hired by the client to be vigilant in making your presentation the greatest presentation your audience has ever seen. In general, you will get:
Sound Person – Dedicated to all things sound. Microphones, music playback, audio recording and connecting into the sound system.
Video Person – Loads graphics and videos onto the computer then walks you through your presentation to make sure you understand what they have set up for your event.
Lighting Person – Controls the brightness of the lights in the room including those blaring lights that blind you if you look directly into them. (Don’t do that, it hurts.) Speak to the Lighting Person if you need the lights adjusted.
Stage Manager – A Stage Manager’s job is to make sure everything is running as scheduled. If you have 10 minutes left on your presentation, figure out a way to end it in 9. He/she will pull the plug on your segment, so make sure you have completed your point before they give you the hook.
These techs want nothing more than to help you succeed. If you do well, we do well.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Get to your presentation early. If you can, enter the room during a break and introduce yourself to the crew. Tell them your name and try to remember their names as well. They may be dealing with something at the moment, so be patient. You are not being ignored.
BTW – The sound person is not “Hey DJ!!”
Let them know when you are scheduled to speak and ask when it would be a good time for you to come back, get a microphone and talk about your presentation.
Lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency for the techs. Try to get all your changes completed in your room. During the event is not the most opportune moment for commandeering one of the show computers.
Whenever a presenter comes to me I have my checklist of questions for them:
- What are you going to do?
- Are you animated? Do you prefer to utilize the whole stage or stay mostly in one place?
- Do you want a lavaliere (Lapel Mic) or do you prefer to speak from the podium?
- If you are a mover, I highly recommend a lavaliere. The podium mic will lock you into the lectern and not pick up your voice is you waiver from that 2’ area.
- Will there be Q&A ?
- Questions and answers can be very helpful in steering your closing, but remember that it is not a debate. If you are not solid in your presentation goals this can be a slippery slope.
- Is there any audio in your presentation?
- Some people like to include videos clips in their presentation; others include sound effects on designated slides. Using the headphone jack, the sound person can amplify this through the PA.
- Are you a mumbler or do you ever shout for emphasis?
- It is important to project to your audience at all times. The mic can only replicate the energy that is put through it. A louder voice equals strong, mumbles come through the sound system as ringy and are harder to control.
- Do you need to use the restroom before I give you a mic?
- Your lavaliere will be attached to some part of clothing usually around your waist. If there is to be any raising or lowering of that area prior to your time on stage, please do that first.
This information is not to insult or doubt your ability as a presenter, but is in preparation so that you and your techs are all on the same page. From now on this is a team effort and all of these things can make or break our show. It is a show for the techs, just like a concert or theatrical performance. We will treat you in a direct reflection of how we perceive that you are treating us.
- Wear sensible clothing with something to clip the mic on. A turtle neck, beautiful blouse or loose fitting shirts do not work. Ladies, If you are wearing a dress, plan on a belt. If there is no place to clip the lav pack, a bra strap is the next best area. Some people may have an issue with a stranger putting hands in your top. Plan Ahead. There is no room for fashion in good mic placement.
- Lapel mics only work sideways or upside down on TV. The mic must be directly in line and facing where the sound comes out…in this case, your mouth. When you turn your head away from the axis you are altering the energy exchange and this will result in your volume becoming louder or softer with no control from the board.
- Let the Sound Guy mic you up. They are the one who needs to control the volume to make you sound the best, this will make the most successful result. In my experience, people are very creative in mic placement and I have seen what is absurd to me seem an acceptable option to the talent. The mic must be preferably 6 inches or less away, directly in line with your source of sound.Whenever I get a client that says: “I give presentations all the time, I’ll put the mic on myself“.::BUZZER SOUND EFFECT::This is My BIG RED FLAG!!! It has burned me in the past. If you have the opportunity to work with somebody who does Audio Visual every day, let him/her help you. You might even learn something.
- Some folks prefer a Hand Held microphone. These work well in situations with more volume needs. They can be turned up louder and have a larger diaphragm to collect even more sound. However, they must always be held up to your mouth. If you use your hands to talk, this microphone is not a great choice. Too many times a Hand Held is requested then the speaker holds the mic by their stomach. Epic Fail.
- It doesn’t matter what type of microphone you choose to get your message across. This is NOT a phone conversation. Always project and always speak to the last row. If you are included in a panel, you are still presenting. Don’t speak only to the moderator next to you. Answer to the audience. A microphone can only collect a signal. If no power goes in, then no power comes out.
OWN IT !!!! WE WANT TO HEAR WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY
I hope that these tips helped put additional thought into the preparation of your next awesome presentation. Let me know when you see me on the show and we will knock their socks off together.
About the Author:
Douglas Murphy is owner and operator of Sweet Jean Media Services, Inc. Established in 2009, Sweet Jean techs are the technical reinforcement behind such events as concerts, sports and charity fund raisers.
A multimedia consulting firm, shifting the paradigm of corporate events, Sweet Jean Media also assists meeting planners and event coordinators by supervising the onsite needs of even the most particular client. Twenty years experience in technical management; we are confident that our abilities will make your next event a great success.