Reflections of a Middle-Aged Intern: Picking the Right Mic

640px-sennmicrophone(photo by ChrisEngelsma via Creative Commons Attribution-SA 3.0 Unported license from WikiMedia)

Each week during my summer internship at ViaSat, the company would schedule weekly Tech Talks, similar in content to presentations from Google.  These were internal, online teleconferences from the home office in Carlsbad, California to all the satellite offices in the United States. The perk of attending the Tech Talk was getting free lunch from a local food truck parked right outside the building (P.S: If you’re ever in the Denver area, please be sure to track down the Crock Spot food truck. Plenty of tasty couscous dishes!). The presenters covered a variety of topics, including wireless internet networks, market demographics, data visualization, and the future of ViaSat. Each speaker was highly qualified and extremely knowledgeable about the weekly subject matter. Often times, however, it was difficult to hear what they were saying.

Having moonlighted as a mobile disc jockey at weddings, I understand the importance of using a quality sound system. In situations such as a wedding toast, a hand-held microphone (like in the above photo) works best. On the other hand, in a lecture-style format, like the weekly Tech Talks, the hand-held proved to be not the best option. Generally, presenters need to have their hands free to both engage the audience and highlight details in a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation. A lavalier microphone, which is commonly used in broadcast journalism, does free up a speaker’s hands, but is ineffective when the person moves his or her head and talks away from the microphone. The best option would be a thin, headset microphone (see image below) that is often used by stage actors and church officiants. Wherever the presenter turns his or her head, the mic follows. It’s an investment all companies should consider when delivering meaningful presentations.



(photo from website under fair use law)

Granted, there are other factors that a part of an effective virtual presentation, but a good microphone will maintain the attention of the audience. Having created live webinars in my eLearning Design and Development graduate classes at University of Colorado-Denver, I’ve seen how bad audio (feedback, low recording levels, etc) can wreck a well-organized presentation. Sometimes during the ViaSat Tech Talks, my fellow interns would become disengaged from the videoconference because they could not hear what the presenter was saying.

In the end, if the audio elements in a presentation are neglected, the visual elements will be irrelevant.


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