Speaking from the Podium

Posted on September 27th, 2012 - Written by: Josée Daigneault

Should you speak from the podium or wander with a wireless lapel microphone?

Many presentation experts tell presenters to get away from the podium because it’s too restricting and the presenter will be more casual with the audience by being on the floor rather than the stage (among other reasons). Those same presentation experts don’t seem to understand about how open microphones work with different sound systems.

First off, when it comes to sound system configurations and room designs, there are many possible combinations and wireless lavalier mics don’t work well with all combinations. Some systems are in the ceiling, some at the front left and right of the room, some in the middle of the stage, etc. Some rooms are dead-sounding, some lively and bright, some have low ceilings and some have flutter echoes (those repetitive echoes between hard, parallel surfaces – clap your hands in any room to find them).

Second, when it comes to presenters and public speakers, there are many different loudness levels, clarity and dynamic properties of the human voice. So, if a person doesn’t speak loud enough or very clearly, wireless lapel microphones won’t do much good. A presenter needs to be loud and clear, especially with wireless lapel microphones, because the microphone is under their chin and not directly in front of them.

A good podium microphone has the advantage of being directly in front of a speaker’s mouth as well as being perfectly stationary, in an optimal, fixed position, away from loudspeakers; any roaming microphones will present problems if they are too close to a loudspeaker.

Let’s look at the advantages of being behind a podium versus being on the floor in front of the audience:

Presenting from behind the podium

  • ·         you can hide your notes
  • ·         you can have a computer screen right in front of you
  • ·         the microphone is right in front of you
  • ·         there are no batteries to ever worry about
  • ·         a podium light can illuminate your face so you are visible from the back of the room
  • ·         you are a foot or so higher than the audience, so everybody can see you
  • ·         you can take your shoes off (okay, I threw that in just for a laugh!)

Presenting from the floor, in front of the stage

  • ·         wireless lapel mics may feedback when too close to a speaker
  • ·         you are not lit properly, sometimes (in larger rooms)
  • ·         if you don’t project and enunciate, people at the back won’t hear you well
  • ·         if you move your head to the side, you will be further away from the mic (because podium mics are right in front of you, you will never forget they are there; not so with lapel mics)
  • ·         if the batteries on the body pack die, well…
  • ·         if you make a point by hitting your chest, you will hit the mic
  • ·         your wardrobe or jewelry can hit the mic intermittently
  • ·         if you put it on your lapel, it is off centre, and therefore you are more likely to be ‘off mic’
  • ·         if you forget you have it on, you might be in the bathroom with a live mic!!

Anyway, hope this helps shed some light on the benefits of speaking from behind the podium. There is nothing wrong with speaking from behind the podium. If you must be wireless, a hand held microphone is a great option, because you are pretty much forced to keep it directly in front of you. Cheers!!

Buck Moore, Live Event AV Specialist with direct experience from over 4,000 events

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