We've all been to events where the person giving a toast can't be heard, or to a karaoke night where the singer has no idea how to use a microphone. These little disasters can be easily prevented with a little practice and a few speech and microphone tips. If you'll be speaking or singing in front of a crowd anytime soon, take note. Here are some Dos and Don'ts for your time in the spotlight that will have you coming off like real pro.
DO prepare and rehearse your speech.
What could be worse than listening to speaker who didn't bother to prepare what they were going to say? Being unprepared can lead to pointless blabbering and painful, dragged out endings. You don't have to write out your speech word for word. You can create a list of bullet points and speak extemporaneously. Just be sure to have a solid idea of your beginning, your middle, and your end. It's often recommended to start with a joke. It breaks the ice and puts people (including you) at ease. Make sure the length of your speech is appropriate for the setting. And wrap up with an assertive statement or proclamation. If you're giving a toast, don't forget to bring your glass to the stage so that you can raise it when the time comes.
DO use a microphone (no matter how loud you think your voice is).
Whether you're the CEO, Maid of Honor, Best Man, or Guest of Honor, the #1 mistake in giving speeches is refusing to use the microphone. DON'T be the ignoramus who proclaims, "I don't need a mic." Understand that the mic isn't FOR you. It's for everyone in the back of the room who, no matter how loud your voice, will struggle to hear you at best. Or worse...they'll not be able to make out one word you say. Microphones are designed to capture the volume of your voice and disperse it evenly into the sound system. So no matter what direction you are facing or how wide a gap in your vocal dynamics, the mic will pick up every word and send it across to the back of the room. This means every member of your audience will hear you, and isn't that the point?
DON'T bang on the microphone with your fingers. And DON'T yell into the mic, "Is this thing on?"
Few people realize how sensitive a "live" microphone is. No one wants to hear you testing a microphone by banging on it or yelling into it. These are sure signs of an amateur. When your DJ hands you the mic, it is understood that the mic is on (aka "live"), and that it is set appropriately for a person speaking at a normal volume. If necessary, the DJ will adjust the volume up or down after you begin speaking. If you feel that you MUST test it before you begin, a simple "tsk" into the mic will do. You will hear it over the sound system without startling your guests, and you will have peace of mind knowing the mic is indeed on.
DO hold the microphone about one inch away from your lips.
A microphone is useless if it's held around the area of your heart while you're speaking. For some reason, many people who are not comfortable using a mic will hold it there, despite repeated requests from their guests to raise it to their lips. If this is you, it will be worth your while to spend a few minutes practicing with the microphone before the party begins. Ask your DJ to help you get comfortable with it. Stand where you will be standing during your speech and address every area of the room. This means your head will move from side to side and you must remember to move the mic along with it. Once you get used to the idea that the only words heard by your guests will be the ones spoken directly into the microphone, you'll realize that the mic really is your friend. Practicing beforehand will also help you get used to hearing the sound of your own voice amplified - something you'll need to overcome if you're going to give a speech.
DO hold the microphone horizontally in front of your face.
While there are omni-directional microphones (the ones that pick up sound from all directions), it is highly likely that the microphone your DJ will hand you will be uni-directional. This means that sound is only picked up from the top of the mic. So if you hold it vertically (even if you hold it the suggested one inch away from your lips) it will not fully pick up your voice. A simple test for this is to hold it vertically and say, "check one two" over and over again while you slowly raise the microphone into the horizontal position. You'll hear an immediate and unmistakable difference in volume once the mic picks up your voice. This is why it's important to develop the habit of holding a microphone to your lips in the horizontal position at ALL times, and especially when you move your head from side to side. (Note: some mics are powerful enough that a 45-degree angle will do the trick.)
DO introduce yourself.
There are times when this won't be necessary (such as a family event where you know every single guest personally), but if you're speaking at a wedding or corporate event, it's important to introduce yourself. Mention your relationship to the bride and groom or your state your title if speaking in front of colleagues or employees.
DON'T tell inside jokes.
When speaking to a crowd it stands to reason that inside jokes (those that only the few people they're intended for will understand) make the majority of your guests feel excluded. If you must tell an inside joke, explain the back story to the crowd up BEFORE you tell it, so that everyone can enjoy the humor in it.
NEVER stand in front a speaker.
We've all heard that horrible noise - a sudden loud ringing coming through a speaker. It's called feedback, and it can range from annoying to downright deafening (which is dangerous). It's not necessary to understand how feedback occurs, only to know how to avoid it completely and at all times. Thankfully, it's pretty simple. If you are holding a microphone, NEVER EVER stand in front of a speaker.
DO remember that your mic is LIVE as you return it to your DJ
After you're finished speaking, stay mindful of the fact that your microphone is still LIVE. Be careful not to say anything you don't want the whole room to hear. If your DJ is not standing right there to take the mic from you, walk over and hand it to him or her before you do anything else. DON'T put the mic down on a table. DON'T hand it to someone other than your DJ. And DON'T allow it to bump or brush up against anything. Treat it like the sensitive piece of equipment that it is.
DON'T cover the ball of the mic with your hand.
You may see rappers do this, but know that they have multi-thousand dollar microphones and have practiced getting the best sound with the help of their crew of sound engineers working in real time. The real pros carefully keep the top of the mic uncovered (as in the photo above). If you want "the look" without the problems, cover the sides of the mic with your hand and leave the top area open. Getting comfortable with this mic-holding style goes a long way so practice every chance you get.
DON'T scream into the mic.
It's the microphone's job to amplify sound. Screaming into one will cause distortion and once again give you away as an amateur (not to mention the pain you'll inflict on your audience). If you can't hear yourself, position yourself in the path of one of the speakers (BUT NOT DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF IT - as expalined above) until you can hear yourself better. If that's not possible, ask the DJ to turn up your mic. Speak at a normal volume into the mic as he or she slowly raises its volume, and give them a thumbs up when you can hear yourself. Now you won't feel the need to scream.
DO pull the mic away from your lips if you project a note with more power than others.
Learning the dynamics of your own voice is a skill you must learn if you want to sound like a professional singer. Practice moving the mic away from your lips and back to your lips as you hold a note. This will help you decide what distance is appropriate for different parts of your song. Before long your attention to this detail will become second nature, and audiences everywhere will appreciate you for it.