Planning for and Using Microphones: 7 Tips
Here are a few lessons learned about planning and using microphones at meetings and events, gleaned from my own experience and experiences from other meeting planners. I hope you find them useful!
If you’re a planner, consider the Rule of 30: If your event:
– involves more than about 30 people,
– has a layout with more than about 30 feet between the speaker and the most distant audience member, or
– will last more than about 30 minutes,
then you’ll find some degree of voice amplification will help make your meeting or event more effective.
When establishing the agenda, consider whether there will be people in the audience that will need to make statements, ask or answer questions, or be recognized. Does your speaker (or panel) have a question/answer session planned? If so, put at least one microphone on a stand in the audience, or have a runner with a handheld microphone ready to move around the audience.
Some people feel resistance to using the microphones, but if the meeting is being recorded most of them will go ahead and use the mics. Encourage people to use the microphones so that their questions or comments will be on the recording.
By default, try to get your speaker to wear a lapel mic. Infrequent speakers have a tendency to look away from a fixed lectern microphone to see slides while commenting. As they move their heads away, the sound level drops. Likewise, inexperienced or distracted speakers may unintentionally go off-mike while gesturing with the hand holding a handheld mic. Lapel mics help keep speakers consistent in both volume and distance away from the microphone.
Experienced speakers almost always prefer the freedom of movement that comes with a wireless microphone, but note that they may wish to use a handheld wireless microphone if they intend to interact with individuals in the audience.
The pros put fresh batteries in their equipment for every show for a reason: it’s worth it. Start with fresh batteries for each microphone or transmitter pack. Have a replacement set on hand for every microphone. It can save your meeting from disaster.
If your group is in a room with large bare walls, or if you are only taking up half of a large room, consider adding some noise-dampening materials to the walls. Even pipe-and-drape can be effective. Closing off part of a room not only helps the event to feel better attended, it also helps the acoustics of the room and can require a lower gain on the microphones. This reduces noise and the risk of feedback.
You can easily avoid the most common sources of feedback. First, performers should remember not to walk in front of a speaker with a live microphone. As a planner, you can help your platform presenters by getting to the venue early and putting down tape to establish a “no mic” zone. Your AV team may be able to tape off some areas in front of the speakers so that there is a visual reminder. Also – if you can’t get the presenter to wear a lapel mic, remind her to hold the microphone within 6 inches of her mouth and speak in a conversational tone. The audio technician will adjust the gain, but if the mic is too far away then the elevated gain makes unpleasant feedback more likely.
(You can find more helpful conference audio tips here.)