PSU Insight

Effective Microphone Usage

Effective Microphone Usage

The best way of polishing your microphone skills, of course, is through practice… practice… and more practice. But there's another way of learning that's sometimes even more effective....

and that's by observing professionals in action!

Observing other professional speakers use their microphones is one way of learning by observing. But don’t limit yourself to professional speakers. Another great group of professionals to watch is… TV news journalists! (The great thing about watching TV journalists is that it’s easy to find a news program to watch. And it’s free!)

Here are a few of the things that you can learn about microphones by watching the TV news —

  • Notice that TV reporters in the field usually use handheld mics. A lavaliere mic would work equally well, but a handheld mic separates the journalist from other on-camera people. (Refer back to our earlier discussion on the handheld mic as a symbol of authority.)

    And TV journalists sometimes need to interview someone standing with them. A handheld mic works better in this situation than a lavaliere.

  • On the other hand, TV news anchors seldom use a handheld mic — they don’t need to show who’s in charge, so a lavaliere or a headset mic works fine for them.

    It can be difficult to see a TV anchor’s lavaliere mic, but since you know where to look for it, you can often spot it. And if they stand up and turn their backs to the camera (like a weatherperson occasionally does), you can sometimes spot the radio transmitters clipped to their belts.

  • However, it’s more enlightening to watch journalists in the field use a handheld mic. Notice how they hold the mic — not in front of their faces, but slightly below it. Notice also that if they turn their heads to the side, they move the microphone as well.

The late, great professional speaker Joe Charbonneau once told me, “If you want to become a master at anything, observe the masters, and do what they do.” You can learn a lot about using microphones effectively by watching the pros. And you’ve got an endless supply of such “training videos” on the TV news each night. As Joe advised, watch the pros… and learn!