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David Pibworth | The Blog


The Art Of Public Speaking: Your Friend, The Microphone

It's nothing to be scared of ...



I've once again been called upon to do some workshops on public speaking. It's a funny old area and something that does frighten many people, and with good reason if you're not used to it, and have no experience ...

They may be all part of the show for musicians and actors, but when public speaking, you shouldn't draw attention to the microphone.

They may be all part of the show for musicians and actors, but when public speaking, you shouldn't draw attention to the microphone.

copyright: nexusplexus / 123rf stock photo

Public speaking even frightens people who are used to it, so you're in good company. I've got a pretty long track record of speaking in public and acting on-stage and I've never stood up in front of an audience without suffering from nerves.

"It's what makes you good at it."

So I'm compiling some notes for tips on public speaking, which I'll share here over the next few weeks. I've tried very hard to bring it to a very easy achievable level, as there are rules within it which any new speaker would do well to adhere to. However, it is like driving in so far as you can bend some rules when you get good enough and are in total control, but not before.

I'll cover the microphone today as it can cause a lot of problems if not handled well. Firstly, remember that the microphone is nothing more or less than a tool to help you being heard. It's not a prop to be fiddled with. If you are speaking to a room of, say, 50 people, then you should be able to do without one. If you can project your voice, then do so.

An odd thing worth pointing out here is that if someone else has used a microphone to talk before you, then I'm afraid you'll have to use it, as audiences, once used to hearing the first speaker using one, will automatically think you are speaking quietly if you don't use it. So, it is worth discussing with other speakers at the event if you really need to use it.

The other rule, which isn't negotiable at all, is getting to the venue early to sound check. A sound check isn't one of those awful things that bands go through "Hey, man, I've not got enough bass coming through my monitor" etc. It is purely for you to check what sort of mike it is, how to switch it on and off, and to check that it is at the right level of volume for the room to hear you.

If there are a number of speakers talking at the event, then you all need to get it right, and if you have a sound engineer there, then he or she will do this for you and help. But it isn't rocket science. You need to talk through it and get someone to listen to see if it is at the right volume. And then make sure no-one fiddles with the sound levels.

Speaking into the mike is something that needs to be covered. My view is to speak about 2 inches away from the mic, and speak normally. So many people do have a tendency to shout into it, when the very reason you are using it is so that you don't have to speak any differently, which is why I refer to it as your friend.

"It is there quietly helping you to put across your message normally."

Never fiddle with the mic, as this is a sure sign that you're nervous and new to public speaking. If people don't notice it then it's doing its job. Obviously, you will see singers or comedians using a microphone differently but they have put it into their act specifically, and until you can do it with the aplomb of Freddie Mercury, I'd advise you to give it a miss.

Remember that every single thing you do when standing in front of your audience is seen and must be part of the act or presentation and done with confidence. Fiddling with the microphone just lets it all down.

The most difficult position you may find yourself in is if there is no mike stand. Always try to get a stand, as this allows you not to think about it. If you're holding the mic, then the less experienced will forever be moving it away from their mouth and the volume will go up and down and this isn't a good experience for the audience; plus it is visually distracting.

Sometimes you will get a wireless microphone which can be a slight problem, as unless they are expensive, then are not as good as a standard one with a lead. But the same applies for them. Get a stand, and if there isn't one then be very careful to keep it 2 inches from your mouth at all times, which does take some practice.

If you are offered a head microphone, which is the type that goes over your head and just sits at the side of your face - take it. They may seem odd at first, but you can really forget about it and get on with the job in hand.

"Are you just starting out with
public speaking?"

If you need any advice on public speaking and in particular, microphone technique, then I have all the microphones and PA's you will ever need to cover these matters and am happy to come out to give advice and practical training or you can visit our office in Olney.

Call me on 01234 241357 if you'd like a chat about this.

Until next time ...


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More about David Pibworth ...

David is the owner of David Pibworth Productions (DPP) which provide corporate entertainment and also actors for corporate training and development.

Having worked in the Light Entertainment field for many years and produced shows for Al Murray & Joe Pasquale amongst others, David is in a position to advise on well-known comedy and musical acts. DPP also represent Ray Galton and Alan Simpson's scripts which include Hancock's Half Hour and Steptoe and Son.

He is the director of MK Theatre of Comedy who are very well known locally for their stage adaptations of classic comedy scripts such as Fawlty Towers, The Vicar of Dibley, Allo Allo and many others.

He is a long-standing member of Equity and the Directors Guild of Great Britain and has acted in, and directed, many productions over the years, mainly in Light Entertainment, but with occasional forays into Shakespeare etc. Every Christmas he is contracted as an Ugly Sister in Cinderella, currently with 'That's Entertainment' who also use him as a director.

He teaches eccentric magic for The Pauline Quirke Academy and MKTOC also run a youth drama school in Olney from the DPP offices.

David maintains his busy lifestyle is a surefire way to avoid being on any committees. He is married to Julie, and they have one daughter, Esther and live in Clifton Reynes, surrounded by dogs, cats and horses. They live so close to the church that David has instructed his daughter - when he dies and not before - to fire him over the wall from a circus cannon.