Recently I was at an event where the speaker used a lapel microphone (also called a lavalier) to project his voice. However, the sound interference from the microphone was bad. Really bad. Eventually the speaker turned the mic off and spoke without it.
There are few things more frustrating for both a speaker and the audience than poor sound quality during a presentation. However, many issues with lapel microphones can be resolved with just a little knowledge about how they work and some preparation ahead of time. Use these three tips so your mic can do its job without interfering with yours.
The job of a microphone is to pick up and amplify sound. In situations where a speaker wants to move around but still needs to be heard in a large room, this type of mic offers a great solution. The problem is, it doesn’t distinguish between the noise made by the human voice, and say, dangly, beaded earrings.
You’ll want to minimize anything that might interfere with the mic’s sound or cause unwanted sounds. If you know you’ll be speaking with a lapel mic, dress thoughtfully. Avoid things like dangly earrings, necklaces, neckties, or even hard-soled shoes that might rub up against the microphone or make extra background noise.
While you are speaking, avoid any gestures, such as placing a hand on your heart or clapping which would be amplified by your lapel mic. If you don’t speak with a lapel mic often, you might not realize how many of your natural movements would create annoying or distracting sounds when magnified. So keep these in mind when you practice and weed them out of your presentation.
The quality of the sound also has a lot to do with where and how you place your lapel microphone. Whenever possible, aim to place your mic in the center of your body. And then place it around your sternum (which is about even with where you place your hand when you cover you heart). The correct placement is about 8 inches below your chin.
This will give you good placement for picking up sound. It will also prevent the mic from catching some of the wind noises that come from certain letters. For example, when you say the “p” sound, there is a burst of air that might “pop” in the microphone.
Some sound techs recommend clipping the mic upside down on the speaker to avoid catching noises like air pops, heavy sighs, or even lip smacking. This trick works because most lavalier mics are omnidirectional. This means they pick up sound from any direction, not just the direction they are facing.
One final tip for making sure your lapel mic can do its job is the stability of the mic. The trade off for mobility is sometimes stability. But it doesn’t have to be if you are prepared.
Lavalier microphones use a battery pack, so you’ll need to wear something that can hold this. When I’m going to speak with a lapel mic, I always wear pants that have rear pockets. This allows for me to place the battery pack securely in a pocket. I even like to turn it around so that it’s in my pocket with the belt hook clipped to my pocket. Side pockets are okay, but they can look bulky or interfering with gesturing.
Next, you have to keep the cord in mind. If the cord is loose, you risk catching it on something during your presentation. So after placing the mic in your back pocket, run the cord up through your shirt so it’s not hanging loose on the outside of your clothing. Then bring the cord out the front of your shirt. Button up shirts or jackets make it easy bring the cord out and clip the mic to a central point.
Place a “broadcaster’s loop” in the wire before clipping it to your shirt. This gives the mic extra stability while also providing protection from noise interference. Check out how to form a broadcaster’s loop in the video below. When you think you’ll be using a lapel mic, wear something that makes both placing and securing the mic easier.
These three tips should help you use a lapel mic like a pro. This information and some simple forethought about how you dress on presentation day will help your presentation to go off without a hitch.
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