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Don’t Rough Up the Mic: Tips for Awesome Presentations

By Laura Spencer, Member Services Coordinator

Speaking at association conferences can be daunting—especially for those of us who don’t do it every day. Beyond preparing the material, there are a number of audio, visual, and logistical considerations that can truly make or break a presentation. As an audio engineer and podcaster, I’ve become keenly aware of these concerns over the years. Here are a few tips I give to new and experienced speakers before their big day.

  • Be aware of the space. You may not be able to choose the location of your panel, but you can work with what you have. Do your best to control noise so that your audience can hear you. Close the door if you can. Request phones be set to silent or vibrate. If you’re in an open expo, be cognizant that only a small, intimate group will be able to hear you.
  • Be aware of the mic. If you aren’t wearing a microphone, you will likely be talking into a stationary one. Test out where you need to be in relationship to the mic so that the people in the back can hear you at all times. Be aware that if you turn away from the mic, people will not be able to hear you.
  • Be gentle with the mic. “Dropping the mic” is a powerful symbolic act. However, the microphone is an expensive piece of equipment, and it typically doesn’t belong to you. Bumping, clattering, or dropping the mic (even by accident) doesn’t sound pleasing to the audience either. Treat the mic with respect.
  • Address interruptions. Things happen. Microphones get unplugged. Laptops overheat. Announcements must be made. Sometimes the only thing you can do is chuckle about it, get it fixed, and move on. Make sure to keep your audience in the loop. Simply saying, “Sorry for the interruption, folks,” lets your audience know that you’re on top of things and you haven’t forgotten them.
  • Stay on target. We all know people can go on unrelated tangents based on the news of the day and personal experiences. Keep the conversation focused on the topic at hand. If you have a moderator, they should be able to steer the conversation back toward relevant topics. An agenda is a helpful tool for staying on topic and on time.
  • Don’t forget Q&A. Open the Q&A session simply with, “What questions do you have about this panel?” Try to have one or two microphones available for audience members to ask their questions. This helps everyone to hear both the question and the answer. If this is not feasible, make sure to repeat the question into your own mic before you answer.
  • Post slides online. Slides and visual aids are great compliments to a panel, but printing them for every attendee can be cumbersome and costly. So, make sure the visual aids and slides are available to download before the panel begins. Then, don’t forget to mention at the very beginning of the panel that the information is available.

As a speaker, your knowledge and expertise is a huge benefit to your audience…but not if they can’t hear or see what you’re presenting! Follow these simple logistical tips and your message will ring clear every time.

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