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Giving yourself one more thing to do can certainly make you more nervous. Nowhere is this more evident then when you start using a microphone for the first time. The microphone makes many nervous and novice speakers super sensitive about their nonverbal behavior. It doesn’t have to be this way. By following some simple principles, you can be very confident knowing that your voice will be projected effectively using a microphone.

As a microphone refresher, their purpose is to amplify your voice so others in the room or those listening remotely (be they live or recorded) can hear you. To maximize the effectiveness of a microphone, you need to keep it six inches below your mouth, regardless of if you’re using a handheld or lavaliere (lav) microphone. If you are using a handheld microphone, then you should root the elbow of the arm holding the mic next to your body. This positioning will keep the microphone at the appropriate distance from your mouth. A lav mic will be attached to your clothes at the proper distance. With both types of mics, the trick is to make sure that when you turn your body to connect to your audience that your head does not turn alone — You must turn your entire body to keep the distance from your mouth and the microphone the same. If you simply move your head and the distance between your mouth and mic increases or decreases, your voice will sound as if a train is rapidly approaching and then moving away.

For a handheld mic, it’s important to switch hands every once in a while for gesture variety. When switching hands, bring the hand not holding the mic to the hand that is and then release the mic as you switch.

For lav mics, the tricky part has to do with snaking the mic cable in your clothes so it’s not hanging out in front of you. Also, you must make sure that you are wearing clothes that you can clip a battery pack onto (e.g., pants or belt).

I highly recommend that you ask in advance of your presentation what type of microphone you’ll have. When you practice your presentation, mimic having the actual microphone. A paper towel roll makes a nice stand in for a handheld mic, where as a tie clip or bobby pin can be used as a stand-in for a lav mic. If possible, get into your room with a sound technician prior to your presentation to be sure to get wired up and actually hear what your voice will sound like on the speakers projecting it.

With a little forethought and practice, you can become an expert at using a microphone.