During today’s episode 66 of WPwatercooler titled Tips for WordCamp Speakers I mentioned towards the tail in of it that some speakers presenting at WordCamps lack mic control, there is a right and a wrong way to hold a hand-held mic so let’s discuss.

What is a hand-held mic?

The term “hand-mic” or hand-held mic generally means any microphone held in the hand that picks up anything the holder is saying. Typically when someone says microphone they are talking about a hand-mic. I’ve seen quite a few people do an awesome presentation at a WordCamp visually but lacked mic control so no one could hear them.

How do I use a hand-mic?

It does take a bit to use a mic properly, but it’s not too hard to learn. Here are some general rules and techniques to use a mic:

  • Ask the sound operator what kind of mic you will be using and how should it be held, more on the types below.
  • Hold the microphone firmly, the audio being picked up will broadcast to the  PA system for the audience to hear as well as be recorded for WordPress.tv, make sure you aren't messing with the mic while you are holding it this creates noise. A firm grip is best.
  • Hold the mic at a constant distance and angle from your mouth, if you change this the sound will change in the recording so consistency is key. If you hold the mic to far from your mouth your voice will be weak, if you hold it too close you'll create "plosives". A plosive is usually heard on words with Ps and Bs at the beginning. This type of sound sends out a strong blast of air, which generally travels forward and down from the mouth. This noise isn't pleasant to the listeners ears so run a few tests before you go live. P's and B's are used in many words so 30 minutes of you beat boxing on stage when you didn't mean to wouldn't be good.

Did you know there are different kinds of mics?

Each mic pick-up sound differently so make sure you know what kind of mic you are holding. Mics come in 3 general categories and a few variations.

  1. Omnidirectional Picks up sound evenly from all directions.
  2. Unidirectional Picks up sound from one direction.
  3. Bidirectional Picks up sound from two opposite directions.

What mics will I be using at a WordCamp?

  • Handheld. With this mic, keep the ball of the microphone below your mouth an inch or so from your face and pointed toward your nose so that the air travels over the mic and not directly into it. You could also just touch the ball to your chin and keep it there.
  • Lavalier or lav mic. This is a mic that clips to your lapel or collar of your shirt, and usually is wireless with a transmitter/battery pack that you attach to your waistband. Take a moment and hide the wires so you look like a pro. Make sure the transmitter is on and run some test with the sound guy. When using it speak normally as if you are speaking to a small group without a mic. The mic allows you to move around freely, but try not to turn your head too much. Quick tip, if you need to constantly turn to look at a screen, clip the mic to that side of your lapel. But you really shouldn't have to  look at the screen, you're a pro remember!
  • Podium mic. Point the mic at your mouth about two hand widths away, and speak across the mic, not into it. This will keep those plosives from getting out of hand. Also don't walk away from the mic, no one will be able to hear you! But if you have to adjust the mic, bend the neck without touching the mic itself to avoid really loud feedback.

Things you shouldn't do when holding a microphone

  • Don't put the mic close to your lips. You could get shocked or start popping p's and b's. The word plosive sounds like a fun word to say but the powerful sound that the word makes is what your audience will hear.
  • Don't walk around the stage with a handheld mic, if you have to make sure the mic stays pointed up and isn't close to a speaker. Nothing ruins an awesome talk more than feedback coming from the speakers.
  • Don't choke the mic, hold the microphone at the base or halfway up, and never on the top where you speaking. Hold it firmly, but no so tight you can't move at all.
  • If you are wearing a wireless mic be sure it's off when not presenting people will be able to hear you before your presentation.
  • Don't ever go to the restroom with the mic on your person, it's too easy to leave it ON on accident or drop it in the water.
  • It might be a cool metaphor but don't ever drop a mic on the ground. The good ones aren't cheap, and you'll just look like a douche.

Ok what else? Learn from the best




Photo by visual dichotomy