Another reason to use the microphone

[Hamburg, 29 September 2011]

Every now and then conference speakers want to avoid using a microphone; they dislike the introduction of technology into the speaker/audience relation, perhaps, and sometimes they are so confident of their ability to be heard in the room that any suggestion that they might use a mike is almost an affront to their lung power. (Are these last class of speaker always male? Well, usually, I think.)

I have been told on good authority that users of hearing aids benefit a good deal from amplification of the speaker’s voice; that’s a good reason to use the microphone.

But sitting here listening to a very interesting speaker who is completely ignoring the microphone, I am reminded of a different reason: for purposes of speaker amplification, non-native speakers are effectively hard of hearing. When the speaker strays into range of the podium’s microphone and happens to be facing the audience, I can understand every word he says; when he faces away from the audience or wanders over to the side of the room, I am missing at least every fifth word, which makes the talk into a kind of aural cloze test. That’s OK for me (I pass the test, more or less, though I missed that nice joke everyone else laughed at). But for my neighbor (for whom German is not a second but a fourth or fifth language), the experience is clearly a real trial.

If you are attending an international conference and want to be understood by people who are not native speakers of your language, then there is a simple piece of advice:

Use the microphone.

Enough said.

2 thoughts on “Another reason to use the microphone

  1. Hi Mike,

    This is totally off topic, but I hope that you will read on. And just to remain somewhere in the realm of this blogget….it’s nice to see that your sense of humor is still intact! I agree totally….use a mike!

    I hope you remember me…we went to grade school/middle school and high school together….it’s Susie Aronson. I am on a personal mission to contact as many CHS ’72 classmates as possible prior to the reunion come 2012.

    It’s probably a silly thing to do, but I am amazed at the power of the internet and this is just my own little experiment. It’s turning out to be an exercise in the six degrees of separation. You were not an “easy nut to crack”. I was a bit fooled by the images I found on Google, and the hyphenated last name did arouse the curiosity in me (which you explained in another blog post). But when I did peek behind the mustache I realized that it was you…and this is my way of reaching out!

    So, there you have it. And just as an aside, I’d like to personally thank you for your part in developing this thing we have learned we cannot live without….the worldwideweb.

    Ciao! Susie

  2. Nice point of view. But I personally prefer to talk without the use of a microphone. The command of being audible without a technology aid gives a real boost to the confidence.

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