Working with Equipment

Learning Objectives

Identify techniques for effective use of equipment.

Now that we’re prepared for the speech and the unexpected in our presentation circumstances, let’s discuss how best to work with the equipment on site.

Audio Equipment

Audio equipment is what is used for the amplification of the speaker’s voice. If the audience size is less than 30, it most likely isn’t needed at all as long as the speaker projects well. In general, if a microphone is offered as an option to you, take it. It will save some strain on your voice. Remember that you still need to project your voice even when using a microphone.

A lavalier microphone

A lavalier microphone

Microphones come in varying shapes and sizes. Some have cords and some are cordless. A handheld mic can be problematic for a public speaker as they have to juggle their notes and the microphone. Some handhelds may have a stand for the microphone to rest in. A stand can help when you have notecards and want to gesture with the free hand.

A lavalier mic clipped to a t-shirt collar.

A lavalier mic clipped to a t-shirt collar.

Lavalier battery pack clipped to a pocket

Lavalier mic battery pack clipped to a pocket

Lavalier microphones are often given to public speakers. They are small and clip on the lapel of a shirt and often have a battery pack that wires run to for energy as the speaker speaks. The battery pack may have a belt clip which holds it in place and frees up the speaker’s hands.  When using a lavalier, be aware of the positioning of the microphone. If it is on one side of your shirt then the voice projection may be lost when the speaker turns from one side to another. Practice with it so you can test the sound quality. Be aware of your movement and how it affects the microphone’s sound. Note that when wearing a microphone, any tiny sound can be heard from scratching to coughing, etc. Also, make sure you know how to turn it on and off so that if you are sitting in the audience waiting to come up to speak that they aren’t hearing anything they shouldn’t be! Save the comedy for that opening joke you plan to tell.

Visual Equipment

The visual equipment you will be using is generally a computer console with a projector screen. Some spaces will have this capability and some will not. It is very important to find out what you have access to and what you need to bring to make sure you are able to use visuals. We know that our society is visual and having visual aids is one of the best ways to engage them, so plan to incorporate them into the speech whenever possible. If computers are not accessible, then consider bringing objects, photos, posters, handouts, etc.

When presenting a slide presentation, it is best for the speaker to have control of the slides. This may mean having to stand near the console to hit the next slide. If the distance from the computer is far from the audience or in an odd place for the speaker to speak from, then asking another person to operate the slides is a good choice. When another person is operating the slides on your behalf, try to rehearse with them in advance whenever possible. They should have a copy of your outline in front of them to use as a guide. You can also number the slides on the outline so that they can easily follow along and keep up. When rehearsing isn’t an option, use language such as “next slide, please” to signal the operator to move on. Be professional and treat the operator as a colleague. If they make a mistake, just simply say, “can you go back one slide, please” or something similar. Keep calm and don’t panic if something doesn’t go well. Guide the operator with what you’re looking for. The audience will stay engaged if you are calm, cool, and collected.