You may do GREAT speaking one-to-one or even to a group – but do you have a fear of the microphone?
I’m not going to try to psychoanalyze why you have this fear – I’m not trained to do that, and it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that you either want to be able to use a microphone without the stress you are currently having, or you are required to, regardless of how you feel. So, lets get on with how to manage that fear and do it anyway (check out the book “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” by Susan J Jeffers).
Things you need to keep in mind:
- It’s not about you.
- Practice for you.
- Practice for your Audience.
It’s Not About You
The microphone is being used so the whole audience can easily hear you. You have an important message to share, but if they cannot hear you clearly, they will miss it. When people have to strain to hear a quiet speaker, they will only continue for a short time before they are worn out and stop trying. Then they will start thinking of other things, maybe talk to the people around them (ensuring that they cannot hear either), and the effectiveness of your presentation will continue to decline the longer you speak without being heard. That microphone is a tool to help you be more effective.
Practice for You
Learning to use a microphone effectively takes time, just like any “tool of the trade.” A carpenter was not skilled when she first picked up a saw or power drill – she had to practice. So get a microphone to practice with, or make time to practice at the site where you will give your presentation. There are different kinds of microphones, so find out what kind you will be using, and practice with that style (or a toy replica).
Become comfortable incorporating gestures and vocal variety while still using the microphone effectively. I’ve seen speakers hold a microphone in their dominant hand, then every time they used gestures, they moved the microphone away from them and their words were lost. Holding a microphone at the same, consistent distance may become uncomfortable, but better you be uncomfortable than your audience. If you need to switch hands, be sure you’ve practiced and know how to hold it effectively in either hand.
Know the speaking space. If your microphone is stationary, you may need to re-think the body movement you were going to use to convey a long distance traveled because you need to stay in one place. If you can move, but have a cord connection, know how long the cord is, and where it lies. Be precise in your movements so you don’t over stretch or stumble on the cord. Can you work it into your presentation, or at least if you need to adjust it, do it intentionally and seamlessly.
With wireless microphones, test speaking and walking around the room. Often you’ll get feedback (terrible screeching) through your microphone output when you are too close to another microphone, the speakers, or other equipment. Mark the floor with tape if you need to remind yourself where your boundaries are.
This may sound like a lot of extra effort when you already are putting time into practicing your presentation, but not feeling competent in any of these areas can throw you an unexpected interruption. Those interruptions often derail an otherwise well-presented speech. Practice.
Practice for Your Audience
When you are comfortable and in-charge of the room, your audience will feel comfortable too. (Watch Cesar Milan the “Dog Whisperer” who teaches about how our energy communicates with dogs – it works for us too!) Now that you are feeling more comfortable with using a microphone, take your practice a level deeper and consider your audience. How do you sound through the speakers. I know I need to speak more slowly and be more articulate in my enunciation. Whatever kind of microphone, it needs to be below my mouth, so the sound comes out and across the top, or from high on my chest (clip style). Test with some tongue twisters like “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” Of you get feedback – like “popping” your P sounds – change the location or angle of the microphone.
If you have a point in your speech where vocal variety is key, practice that section. If you get too loud you may overpower the sound system. If you whisper, it may still not be able to pick up what you say.
You may never like using a microphone, but practicing so you become more comfortable using one and your success using one will help your fears diminish.
Keep at it – and please, post your success!
(c) 2012, Peggy Kimmey. Peggy Kimmey is a public speaking coach for business people. She shows clients how to take the “eek” out of public speaking and become more effective communicators.
Contact Peggy at www.kimmeyconsulting.com