5 Reasons Why Presenters Won’t Use a Microphone

Often, I have seen people refuse to use a microphone when they’re presenting, whether at an office meeting, community event or industry conference. Yet, using a microphone correctly can make it easier for the audience to hear you and understand your message – which is the whole point of your presentation.

Here are the 5 reasons I hear for not using a microphone – and how you can overcome them.

1. You Don’t Think It’s Necessary
You may think, “my voice is powerful enough and I don’t need it,” but often, that is not the case. Realize that it may be difficult for the audience to hear you, given the size of the room and the amount of surrounding noise. Also, according to a 2009 study by the Better Hearing Institute, the number of Americans with hearing loss has grown to roughly 11 percent of the U.S. population – and six out of ten of them are below retirement age. So it is likely that there are people in your audience with some level of hearing difficulty.

2. You Aren’t Used to Hearing Your Own Voice
The more you listen to your own voice, the more comfortable you will get listening to it. Almost every computer and smartphone has an audio recorder, so use it to record yourself and play it back, so you can get used to how you sound.

3. You Don’t Realize It Can Protect Your Voice
Most people don’t project well without a microphone (unless you have been trained in singing or acting). So you end up shouting when you try to project, which can leave you with a sore throat, laryngitis or vocal cord damage.

4. You Don’t Know How to Use a Microphone
This concern is legitimate and can easily be addressed by practicing with the microphone. Ask the AV staff or a techie friend to help. You want to find out things such as: where to clip the microphone or how to hold it; who will control the volume; how to avoid ear-splitting feedback (don’t point the microphone at the speakers) and where to get an extra battery. Then get in the room ahead of time and practice using it.

5. You Think It’s Too Formal
You may think that using a microphone is only for professional speakers on a stage in front of thousands of people and that it would be arrogant to use it in a smaller setting. Not at all. Used well, a microphone can demonstrate that you’re a smart and respectful presenter who cares enough about your audience to use every tool at your disposal to ensure they can hear and understand your presentation.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Presentations

Every day, so many tens of thousands of innocent clients and employees are bored to tears by presentations that it ought to be considered a crime against humanity.

Are your presentations guilty of the following sins?

  1. Illegibility. Know the size of the room, screen and audience before you create a presentation. The person at the back of the crowd should easily be able to read your slides. If he or she can’t, they’re going to tune out. Pick a clearly readable font that’s large enough for the potential decision maker at the back of the room to read. And make sure to keep your slide backgrounds simple and clean.
  2. Information Overload. Presentations are supposed to support what you’re saying, not tell the whole story. Otherwise, why should people listen to you? Use the outline of your presentation to pick and choose the main points on the screen. If you are going over a complex document, give your audience a handout to which they can refer.
  3. Bullet Point Abuse. Slide after slide of bulleted text will have your audience sliding into REM. Break up the text with an image, video, chart or other illustration that is relevant and that will crystallize your main point.
  4. Lost in the Wilderness. In longer presentations, take the time to put information into context. As you complete each section, flash back to the bigger picture for a moment so the audience knows how all the information fits together. This will also keep your presentation on track because if you can’t fit a section into the bigger picture, it doesn’t belong there.
  5. Selfishness. In sales presentations, it’s easy to slide into the trap of telling talking about your product or service, instead of what it will do for your customer’s lives. Internal presentations, be they about sales activities or manufacturing output, should also take their audience’s concerns into consideration. In presenting to your boss, keep the goals he’s set for you and the bigger picture in mind. In presenting to staffers, reinforce the positive reasons why they should be paying attention.
  6. Poor Branding. Using a template, especially one that is at odds with your corporate branding, will make it hard for people to recall who presented what, especially if you’re competing for attention. Make sure the design, layout, colours and font used in your presentation could only have come from your company.
  7. Copyright Violation. Sure it’s tempting to grab a graphic from a Google Image Search, scan a Dilbert cartoon or use a track from your favourite music CD to spice up your presentation, but guess what? It’s illegal. Even if you’re only putting together an internal presentation: if you didn’t commission the material you wish to use or get it from a royalty free source that allows business use – it’s against the law to include it. You might not get a knock on your door from Sony music or Scott Adams (the guy that writes Dilbert), but if your boss or client is sensitive about protecting intellectual property and is reasonably savvy, you could (at best) end up embarrassing yourself and at worst lose a major account.

Interpretation Perfected by Presentation – the Berlin Mendelssohn Trio in Palau Altea, Altea, Spain

One of the great, even reassuring, things about what the CD shops ignorantly label “Classical Music” is its freedom, its liberality, its democratic principles. Yes, it has its stars. Yes, it has its forms and conventions. But in “Classical Music” these aspects never dominate. The music is always the prime focus. Anyone can learn any piece, anyone can play it, and anyone is free to interpret the composer’s intentions – as long as those intentions are respected, of course. And all of this is done unencumbered by wires, microphones or amplification, since real sound and real experience are always the goal. Performance, therefore, becomes a form of communication, a presentation of the music, itself, plus often much more. Contrast that with some other genres where commerce and celebrity are the raisons d’ĂȘtre, where the music is merely a secondary, often irrelevant accompaniment. Never mind the quality of the lip-sync, feel the width of the show.

Critics of “Classical Music” often cite a lack of bravura on behalf of the performers. This, of course, is to misunderstand both the medium and the content, since the passion is always in the music and good performances should always highlight the music, not themselves. Not all performers perform well, of course, but then that is true of every staged activity, not least of other genres of music than “Classical”.

So when a performer is exceptional both in terms of interpretation and delivery, an occasional flaw or inaccuracy passes by unnoticed. So it was with the Berlin Mendelssohn Trio in Palau Altea, not that there were many flaws to pass by. They offered their audience seven pieces, including an encore, one of which did indeed happen to be “classical” and four of which were presented as a single item, not really because the composer necessarily intended it, but because it made musical sense. The commitment and energy that the group displayed was quite remarkable.

They opened with Beethoven’s Opus 11 trio. If Schubert always sings, then Beethoven usually dances, and this trio hopped and pranced with energy, always, of course, with Beethoven’s musical tension showing through.