Have you ever seen someone speak into a handheld microphone and yet been unable to hear them clearly? You’ve probably been tempted to blame the PA system. But what if I told you that the cause of this all too common problem is the presenter’s poor microphone use, not the technology.
Bad microphone technique is like bad breath. You don’t know you have it, and no one else is going to tell you that you do
It’s almost certainly not all your fault. Probably nobody has ever taken the time to pass on the tips I am going to pass on in this post.
1) Microphone Directionality
The primary cause of poor microphone technique is a lack of understanding of a property of microphones called directionality, which relates to the direction from which they best pick up the sound. The microphones used with PA systems for speakers and vocalists are normally classed as unidirectional. That means that they pick up sound in one direction only, normally from the front. This means that if you speak over the top of the microphone, or into the side of the microphone, your voice will not be picked up and amplified. To use a unidirectional microphone properly, you MUST speak directly into the microphone as shown in the picture.
Speak into the microphone, not over the top of it
2) Microphone Distance
The second most common reason for poor microphone technique relates to how far you hold the microphone from your mouth. Hold it closer than one finger’s width, and you’ll get popping. Hold if further away than three fingers and your volume will tail off. It’s all too common for inexperienced speakers to start off with the mic nice and close but then to unconsciously move it further and further away as they continue to speak, resulting in a gradual tail off in volume. Keeping a consistent distance is a skill that requires repeated practice in order to become automatic.
The ideal microphone to lip distance is 1–3 fingers’ width
3) Microphone Synchronization
The third most common cause of poor microphone technique is speaking “off mic.” This problem happens when you move your head to speak to the side but you fail to follow your head movement with the microphone. Remember what I said in tip 1 – for the microphone to do its job, you need to be speaking into it.
Always keep your mic and your mouth lined up
Again, this is easy to say but not so easy to do, especially when you are not used to speaking with a handheld microphone. The answer, as in tip two, is practice and feedback.