Speaking Without Microphone-bia: “a fear of microphones”

Do you suffer from “a fear of microphones”?

The symptoms include sweating, a dry mouth, a blank stare and a squeaky voice.  Some people regard public speaking as a fearsome pursuit – hand them a microphone and it turns into a phobia.

Why does this simple metal device inspire so much horror in so many?

Would it be so scary if it were rainbow coloured with streamers hanging off the end? Would you then be able to hold your self back from grabbing that microphone to sing, “We Are The World” and get everyone waving their hands in the air like they just don’t care? There’s no way you could ramble and go blank with that much love in the room.

A microphone is a magical device.  It takes sound energy (your voice or instrument) and transforms it into electrical energy.  This electrical energy can then be amplified or recorded, so that everyone can hear you.

And I guess that’s the scary part.  What if you don’t want everyone to hear you? The amplification makes your voice bigger than you, potentially takes it beyond your control. And equipment can be unpredictable – what if it makes that awful screeching sound, or your voice booms out something inane. Ah, why are we so complicated?  Why so many fears?

Fears are often imaginative and based on worry.  One way to deal with fear is to drag it into the light and examine it with keen scientific detachment.  OK, so let’s break it down into facts:

Microphone Facts
The clip on shirt mike or the madonna mike (headset) are the least invasive mikes and you can just speak naturally.  Be careful with expressive hand movements and don’t knock it flying when you make a dramatic point.  Make sure you are wearing a belt or pockets for the power pack.

A lectern or floor mike is the most restrictive as you are stuck behind a large immovable object.  Great if you want to hide or if you have a lot to read.  Not so good if you don’t want to be mistaken as a character out of The Thunderbirds.  Find out in advance if you can unhook the microphone from its stand and if so, practise unhooking and using in advance.

A handheld mike with a cord is great for practising your skipping, while a wireless handheld mike is easier to use.  However, it means you only have one hand available for notes, props or waving that hand in the air.

What Could Go Wrong But Probably Won’t
Simply turning up earlier and practising can alleviate most things you worry about. Knowing exactly how to adjust the microphone height, how to switch it on or even knowing where you will stand, will free up your mind for concentrating on being with the audience rather than being with the equipment.

To avoid getting lots of blowy, sssyyy sounds with a lectern, floor or hand held microphone, aim to speak 5 – 10 cm across the top of the mike, not directly into it. Practise with a carrot at home. The carrot will never laugh at you of course, only with you.

If the microphone screeches, there may be another mike switched on nearby causing interference (switch it off) or you may be standing in front of or under the sound system speakers (move around until all is quiet).

Asking for help is a good idea – do it quickly and smile at the audience, don’t ignore them. They will wait if you are honest and gracious.

If you feel anxious about using a microphone, prepare in advance:  Take 3 deep breaths. Now simultaneously, imagine yourself using the microphone with ease while you are breathing deeply and calmly.  Practise this visualisation a few days ahead of time.

If someone hands you a microphone unexpectedly, try this: Hold it away from your face, stay still for a moment, take a deep breath, connect with your audience with your eyes, and when you lift the microphone 5 – 10 cm from your mouth, remember, it’s only a carrot.

The Microphone Is For The Audience

As much as you may fantasise about looking good on stage in tight leather pants and screaming fans, the microphone is not there for your benefit.  It is there so that others may hear you without having to lip read and so that no one will go home, bereft of your wisdom.  Who are you to deny them?

Well all right, a microphone does benefit you too.  If you’ve gone to all that trouble to put together a speech, argument, case, submission, idea, you need the right people to hear you, and the right equipment to make sure they hear it loud and clear.  Otherwise, what a waste of your time, effort and fear.

As a speaker, you have the opportunity to wave a powerful magical wand to transform the hearing of mere mortals.  Don’t let microphonebia hold you back any longer! Step forward onto the stage of your life and speak!!!  Wave that microphone in the air like you just don’t care!

(c) 2010-11, Geraldine Barkworth. Geraldine Barkworth is a public speaking coach for women in business. She shows clients how to connect with any audience by being real, raw and authentic, rather than perfect, polished and “powerpointed.”

Contact Geraldine at www.goddessofpublicspeaking.com.au

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