You’ve practiced your speech a million times in your office, in the car and even in the shower. You’re ready to deliver it. You step to the stage and someone hands you a microphone. But you haven’t practiced with a microphone. The first thing you do is bump the microphone against your body making a loud noise that irritates your audience. You nearly trip over the microphone wire. Then you hold it up to your mouth and everyone can hear you breathing loudly into it. You begin to speak and your voice is far too loud. Your speech is off to a bad start before you have even begun.
So, how do you avoid microphone mishaps? Follow these tips to master the microphone when public speaking:
Find out in advance what type of microphone you’ll be using – handheld, lavaliere, lectern-mounted?
If you know you’re going to speak with a handheld microphone, practice with one in your hand (or at least with some similarly shaped object in your hand) so that you get used to gesturing properly.
If possible, practice your complete speech with the sound system to uncover any problems well before your presentation.
Arrive at least 30 minutes early and perform a sound check. Just saying “check one, check two” isn’t good enough. Say a portion of the actual speech so that the sound technician can equalize the range of your voice.
Determine the appropriate distance from your mouth the microphone needs to be to sound good.
Beware of distracting vocal noises (popping sharp consonants or heavy breathing) or nonverbal sounds (hitting the lectern or ruffling papers) that might be amplified.
Get as familiar with the microphone as you can. Where is the on and off switch?
Be careful not to make private comments. Always assume a microphone is on.
If you will be speaking with a lavaliere microphone, wear a belt to clip the transmitter on or have a pocket to put it in. You also may want to wear a suit jacket or a blazer to hide the wire.
Use a high-quality microphone that doesn’t make you sound muffled.
A microphone can be a great tool to help your audience hear the nuances of your voice, which can help you to better connect with them. If you follow the tips outlined in this post, your microphone will enhance your presentation and allow you to deliver a great speech.
I was honored to be spotlighted as an adjunct faculty member at the Art Institute of Phoenix in a recent article. I am currently teaching two public speaking courses to the incredibly talented students there.
The Art Institute teaches photography, film production, graphic and web design, interior design, game art and design, and culinary arts. They are a fascinating bunch of creative minds and I enjoy helping them discover public speaking and business communication skills that I know will help them throughout their personal and professional lives. Read the Article
Whether to use PowerPoint or other presentation software is an important decision when planning out a speech or business presentation (as discussed in Public Speaking Tip #34). If you do decide to create presentation slides make sure they are done correctly and convey the right image for you as a public speaker or business presenter. You can get some great ideas for content and slide design from SlideShare.net (as discussed in Public Speaking Tip #35).
I love the following two videos for the Do’s and Don’ts of using PowerPoint and other presentation software. The first video, done by comedian Don McMillan, is mainly for fun but does make some great points about what not to do. The second video, done by the Presenters Toolkit, gives some great tips to keep in mind when making slides. I hope you enjoy them both.
Sometimes it can be challenging to think of how to convey an idea visually for a PowerPoint slide for your speech or business presentation. One great place I get ideas from is SlideShare.net, which is now part of LinkedIn. As the name suggests, SlideShare.net contains thousand and thousands of slide decks.
On SlideShare.net, you can search for any topic and usually find hundreds if not thousands of slides on that subject that might help your speech or business presentation. While not all of the examples on SlideShare.net are great, there are many gems that just may spark the visual idea you need. You also may find content ideas you haven’t thought of.If you’re in a rut or looking to
If you’re in a rut or looking to take your presentation slides up a notch, SlideShare.net is a good place to spend a few minutes.
Should you use PowerPoint or other presentation software in public speaking or business presentations? My rule is this: if slides enhance your speech or business presentation, then, by all means, use them.
Sometimes we need a photo, a chart, a graph or some visual representation to better understand a concept or to make an emotional impact. A well-done PowerPoint can help you convey important information. And given that most people are visual learners, it can be a powerful complement to your presentation. But a poorly done PowerPoint can harm your credibility as a public speaker or business presenter.
If you use PowerPoint, it must not become your on-screen presentation outline and you should not simply read bullet points to your audience.
Another consideration in deciding whether to use PowerPoint or not is the size of the screen your slides will be projected onto. Is the screen too small to make a visual impact? Also, what about the lighting — will you have to turn off some or all of the lights in order to see the screen? You don’t want to be standing in the dark. If you are trying to engage your audience, they’ll likely need to see you.
You’re the Star of Your Presentation
You need to be the star of your own speech or business presentation. PowerPoint and other visual aids should be cast in supporting roles. Sometimes writing on a flip chart or a whiteboard can be more engaging to your audience. Even more engaging is instructing the audience to draw something or asking them to write important information on their own notebooks. You may want to think of something creative, as demonstrated in Public Speaking Tip #32.
The Choice is Yours
You’ll need to make a decision on the pros and cons of using PowerPoint or other presentation software for your speech or business presentation. Don’t automatically think you have to use presentation software. Some of the greatest speeches of all time didn’t use PowerPoint. Consider creative alternatives.Once you’ve thought everything through and weighed all the options, you will emerge with a more effective presentation.
Once you’ve thought everything through and weighed all the options, you will emerge with a more effective presentation. And your audience will thank you.
Visual aids (such as the one described in Public Speaking Tip #32) and handout sheets can be a great enhancement to a speech or a business presentation. But they also can be a giant distraction if they aren’t handled correctly.
Once a visual aid or handout starts going around the room during a presentation, the audience’s attention is diverted to the object or handout. Much of what a speaker is saying will be lost while visual aids and handouts are being passed around.If you do distribute a visual aid, it is usually best to do s0 at the end of your presentation. That way, you won’t distract your audience during your presentation. Once an item is being passed around, all eyes are focused on it and not on the presenter. This is true for handout sheets as well.
It is usually better to distribute visual aids or handouts at the end of your presentation. In the case of a visual aid, you might want to show it to your audience and let them know that it will be available to them after the presentation is over. Here is an example a presenter showing what acupuncture needles look like in the midst of her informative speech. In the case of handout sheets, you might want to announce that they will be available at the end of your talk and briefly describe what’s in them.
However you use them, make sure your visual aids and handout sheets are enhancements to your speech or presentation and not a distraction. By making them available at the end, you will have a better chance of keeping your audience’s attention and delivering a more memorable presentation.
A student in one of my public speaking classes recently gave a persuasive speech about the declining honey bee population. At the end of her presentation, she distributed a straw filled with honey to each member of the audience. Attached to the straw was signage that read “Save the Honeybee.”
The Honey Bee straw was a nice ending to a wonderfully presented speech. It also was a great reminder that in public speaking and business presentations, applying a little creativity in your choice of a visual aid can help you stand out and help make your point more memorable.
Credibility is the most important characteristic in all communications, especially public speaking and presentation. Without credibility, nothing else you do matters — not the clothes you wear, the words you use, the passion you bring to the presentation, nothing.
This has always been true, but more so now than ever. Thanks to reality TV, YouTube, Facebook Live, Snapchat and a thousand other contributing factors, perceived authenticity and sincerity have risen to the top of the way we evaluate the credibility of all message, including speeches and business presentations. Messages that are not deemed authentic or sincere are immediately dismissed as unimportant by audiences.
In public speaking and business presentations, if you don’t have credibility, you don’t have anything.
The best speeches and presentations are stories and the best stories are stories from the heart. Everyone has thousands of stories to tell — unless you’ve been living in a cave your whole life in which case, I want to hear all about the cave!
Despite all the new communication technology we have available to us, face-to-face communication and storytelling are still the most powerful methods we have of communicating, engaging and persuading our audiences. That has been true since the dawn of humans.
Why are stories so powerful? Data makes us think, but stories make us feel. Data is important to bolster credibility but stories create an emotional bond and that is what drives us to get our butts out of our chairs to take action. Supporting data combined with compelling stories are an unstoppable combination.
Telling the stories of your business can have a powerful effect on your customers, employees, shareholders, community leaders and others.
I once saw the Chairman of the Board of a large retail chain move a group of store directors to tears when he told stories of how the company was disappointing customers over and over again due to the poor layout of the stores. He made a solid case for change using data, but it was the storytelling that moved the store directors to embrace the changes and take immediate action.
In another example, I once helped developed employee safety communications for a global mining and manufacturing company. We were able to present lots of data to make the case for following safe work practices, but it was the story a widow told about the tragic accident that took her husband’s life that made the biggest impact on the employees.
In public speaking and business presentations, it is important to remember that data feeds our brain but stories feed our souls. So speak about your passions. If you speak from your heart, they’ll listen with theirs.
So you’ve just given a great presentation and you’ve moved into the Q&A. Someone asks you a question and you don’t know the answer. What should you do?
Make up an answer?
Admit you don’t know but promise to find out the answer?
Throw the question to the audience?
Let’s look at each course of action:
Make up an answer?
Never make up an answer. It’s not ethical and it will catch up with you eventually. Don’t fall into the trap that you have to know everything because you are the speaker. You’ve already proven your expertise in your presentation. Remember: nobody likes a know-it-all. You don’t have anything to prove, except perhaps your humbleness.
Admit you don’t know but promise to find out the answer?
This is an acceptable way to handle the situation but be sure that you do indeed follow up with an answer and that you do so in a timely manner.
Throw the question to the audience?
I believe this is the best of the three choices. It engages the audience and often provides an insightful discussion. You can say something to the effect of “That’s a great question. I don’t have an answer. What do you the rest of you think? How would you handle this?” I sometimes throw questions to the audience even when I do know the answer just to see what others think. “I have an idea but I’d really like to hear what everyone else thinks.”
The Q&A in public speaking and business presentations is a great way to engage your audience and a great opportunity to be inclusive with other ideas and other points of view.