Thursday, April 6, 2017

The mic and the woman speaker: Practical tips

Last week, I shared an article that got a huge response from readers of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook: Titled Switching to men's clothing taught me that the world doesn't want women to get too comfortable, it hit on something that goes double if you're a woman public speaker or presenter.  And you can double that again when it comes to wardrobe choices on stage and the speaker's most important tool, the microphone.

That's because microphones, like so many other things speakers wear, often work best with men's outfit choices. A male speaker is typically wearing plenty of things on which you can hook a lavalier mic: Lapels or a tie or a jacket breast pocket for the mic that goes in front, and a belt and pant waistband on which to hook the battery pack in back, or a pocket to put it in. A jacket to cover all. Using the headset mics made popular at conferences like TED? Men aren't wearing earrings that can make noise or get in the way of the headset. And the headpiece won't do too much to their simpler hairstyles. Yes, there are conveniences to the male uniform, particularly when they're getting mic'd before they speak.

Women speakers, with more varied wardrobe options, have to think ahead and plan for microphones when they plan what they're wearing for a speech or presentation. Here are the practical considerations that will save you time and angst backstage:
  1. Know which mic you'll be using, or state a preference: This should be high on your list of logistics questions for the organizers, so you can plan accordingly. If the organizer offers options, let her know your preference and dress accordingly. If they want a consistent mic for all speakers, find out what it is and what they recommend for wardrobe to accommodate the mic. It's this step that most speakers skip, making assumptions that their preferred mic will be available. Don't be that speaker.
  2. The easiest mic for any wardrobe is the wireless handheld mic. No wires, no clips, and you can wear almost anything. Old-fashioned and effective, it makes for the easiest choices.
  3. For lavalier mics, your outfit will need something on the front to which the mic can be clipped, such as a lapel, collar, or neckline. Your outfit also needs to have a defined waistband that can hold up the battery pack/transmitter in the back. And while we've all seen plenty of battery packs hooked on the backs of people on television, you generally want something that can cover that so it's not a distraction. That means a pocket to put it in, or a jacket to cover it, with plenty of room for the wire to wind around to the front. For a defined waistband, separates are your friend: A pant- or skirt-suit with jacket will work best. If you prefer to wear a dress, it will need a solid belt--not a fabric sash--to hold the battery pack.
  4. For headset mics, it's your jewelry that can get in the way. Dangling earrings make more noise than you realize--and your test for what constitutes noise is not whether you can hear it, or whether the audience can hear it, but whether it will be picked up on the audio or video recording or feed. Your solutions are simple: Wear earrings with non-moving parts, or remove the earring closest to the mic side of the headset. No one will notice you're wearing one earring, trust me. Keep necklaces simple, and avoid bangle bracelets, which also contribute to unwanted noise. A smart strategy is to bring with you some options for earrings, and discuss them with the technician who'll get you wired backstage. Your headset mic also has a battery pack, so all the advice about waistbands above applies here, too. 
(Creative Commons licensed photo by TED Conference)

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