The types of microphones you use for your event might not be something you ever think about. You might be thinking, does it really matter which types of microphones I use? Will it really impact my event? The short answer to those questions is yes! The type of microphones you use will make a difference on everything from sound quality to the speakers level of comfort and performers ability to perform. In this episode of Whiteboard Wednesday, Will Curran will guide you through the 3 types of microphones and the pros and cons of each! Let’s jump in.


Video Transcription – What Mic Should My Presenter Use?

How’s it going Endless fans? Will Curran here from Endless Events. Today is a cloudy, rainy day in Phoenix, Arizona. So, I’m wearing a hoodie. It’s today we’re talking about what type of mic should my presenter use? Believe it or not, this is actually a really commonly misunderstood question as far as the types of microphones to use and when. We want to make sure our presenters sound great. So, there are a couple different types of microphones. I’m going to talk about three different types of microphones. I’m not going to talk about models, I’m not going to talk about … I’m going to talk about the different categories, and what they’re for.

Handheld Microphones

It’s fitting today because I will explain a little bit how you can get really good quality audio. Let’s start with some microphones and jump right on into this week’s Whiteboard Wednesday. The first type of microphone that you can bring in and that everyone has heard of is the handheld microphone. Everyone’s heard of it, everyone’s seen it, you use it, you talk into it. Sometimes it has a switch that you can turn on and off of. Well, a lot of times, these are not going to be the greatest types of microphone, which we’ll explain the other uses for them. But the great uses of handheld microphones are for when you want the presenter to have full control over when they are heard and not heard.

For example, let’s say you have a panel of four people sitting up on a couch. You might not want to put Lavaliers or headset microphones on because you want the ability for them to put the microphone down, whisper something over into the other person’s ear or for them to laugh without laughing right into the microphone, right? You want them to have some control. A lot of times too, when we do handheld microphones, you get the opportunity to have a switch so they can turn it on and off and have that control. It just allows them to turn it away and everything like that.

The downsides of a handheld microphone is let’s be honest, most people don’t know how to hold them the right way. We see everything from the this to, for example, I love to cover the top of the microphone and it makes this muffled sound that sounds really weird. It sounds really like a DJ voice but doesn’t sound great. But I’ve also seen it where people start to hold it lower and lower and lower. You can’t even see the microphone in the frame but it just starts to go further and further away, which makes the audio engineer’s job very tough.

The reason why also that we’re talking about this in general, by the way, is that even though the audio engineer out there is going to do everything they can to make it sound good, there are some perfect conditions where you want it to sound really great. With that being said, even if the microphone’s way down here, it’s going to be really hard. They have to turn it up, make it really loud, which means that at any time if they’re going from a speaker or something like that, it can cause some feedback.

Another downside to a handle microphone is obvious, it requires you to use your hand. You have to hold the microphone the entire time. By the way, if you’re ever wondering the best way to hold the microphone, I’m jumping all around today, is like this. You want to directly point directly into the microphone. Almost consider your mouth like a laser shooting straight in, and you want it to shoot straight into there. So, you’re holding it like this and that’s the best way for it to capture.

The reason why is that types of microphones all have different ways that they capture audio and the directionality of them. For example, a lot of handheld microphones are designed to go shoot out like this, straight in front of them. A lot of people think they hold like this, that’s pretty good. It’s a lot better than this for sure. But a lot of times you won’t be holding it straight in front of you when you’re talking. It also doesn’t look that good. If I talk like this the entire time, you can’t see my mouth, all the sorts of things like that. Also, it doesn’t allow me to gesture and stuff like that. That’s where the second type of microphone that comes in. I think everyone’s heard of, is the Lavalier microphones.

Lavalier Microphones

In this case, I’m actually using a Lavalier microphone right now. You can actually see it, it’s right there. That Lavalier microphone is great because look at this, imagine this is the microphone, I can get my hands ready to go. I can have a clicker in one hand, I could go through, I can gesture. I also can turn around and keep talking and you still get the audio recording of it, everything like that. It’s so great because it keeps getting the audio.

Now, here’s what the downside to what a lot of Lavalier microphones are. Let’s start with the first one, because it’s only situated perfectly on one party body, if I turn my head this way, and if I talk like this for a while, I don’t know if it’s going to really pick it up really, poorly. But if I turn my head away from the microphone and talk away like this the entire time, it starts to sound really bad. You need someone who’s going to talk forward in the direction of Lavalier microphone the entire time. So, that’s one thing.

The second thing that also is the worst part about Lavalier microphones, and this is why I don’t recommend a lot of times for speakers, is that they aren’t really directional. A lot of times they are designed that they just capture a big bubble of audio. Imagine that the area it covers is as if I took a beach ball and put myself inside of it. It captures a little bit of everything within a circle of where the microphone is. So, you might be thinking to yourself, that’s great. Because then I can move my head around, everything like that. But that also means you’re more susceptible to the feedback. Gosh, darn it, feedback. We all hate feedback. We hate hearing that high pitched noise. You can obviously do a lot of things to try to suppress it and keep it from happening. But the most common reason why it ends up happening with Lavalier microphones is just because they are designed to pick up a lot of stuff.

If you have a lot of monitors, if it’s really loud in your venue, and they have to turn the microphone up to best hear you, it can sometimes cause feedback. Yikes. It’s obviously up to you to decide, hey, do you want to have a handheld so you have a little bit more control? Obviously, it reduces feedback because you have a lot more control over it. Do you want to do a Lavalier microphone? Obviously, it allows you to free up your hands, or you can go into the third option.

Headset Microphones

It seems that a lot of planners don’t know about this third option out there, which I think is extremely inexpensive to do, and will make your audio sound amazing. In fact, all audio engineers I know will recommend this whenever possible. That is the third type, which is headset microphones. You might have commonly seen these in, for example, concerts. For example one of my employees loves to call it the Britney Spears microphone because everyone sees it where it just comes down here and puts it right in front of your mouth or right off to the side. You also see these at TED Talks as well. There’s a reason why they sound fantastic. They get them microphone nice and close, which means they don’t have to turn it up really, really loud. So, it allows them to get good audio, has a lot less feedback.

Now, here are some downsides to this. You have to make sure your presenters are comfortable with it. I’ve seen a lot of presenters say, “You know what, I don’t like that. It’s annoying, it’s distracting, whatever it may be. It doesn’t look good, whatever it may be.” However, I highly recommend it. The other part that has a downside is for someone like me. If you know what that is, it’s the fact that I have a beard. If the microphone’s obviously coming down this way, you can sometimes tape it to your face a little bit to keep it from moving around. But when you have a beard you obviously can’t put tape right here, because yikes, I would lose my beared that way. But when you have it up here, it rubs against this as well.

A couple of videos ago, you guys saw I was starting to grow up that long beard. Even the Lavalier microphone sometimes got in danger of being brushed against right below here. You always have to be careful of the facial hair as well. But again, the headset microphone sounds fantastic. I highly recommend the headset microphone. Usually, in the order, I’ll do it as a headset microphone, a handheld microphone and then a Lavalier if I absolutely have to. Just because a Lavalier is a little bit more crazy.

When it comes to your presenters, obviously, talk to them, know what they are, know what they want to have. When you hear things like handhelds, obviously, it can be wired or wireless, Lavalier microphones are typically wireless. Headset microphone also can be called something called a Countryman as well. It’s the brand name for the headset microphone. But there’s a bunch of different choices you have. But now you know a lot more about them so you can make the right decision based on what’s best for you on stage, what’s going to sound the best, and what’s also going to cost you, or what do you want to spend your money on?

This has been another Whiteboard Wednesday. Let me know down in the comments below, what types of microphones do you prefer? Or do you have any horror stories about someone using a Lavalier microphone and getting a lot of feedback? I’d love to hear it down in the comments below. If you did enjoy this video, you learned something, give us a thumbs up. We’d love to have feedback. If you didn’t like it, feel free to give us a thumbs down, and in the comments, let us know how we can improve. If you really love this video, hit that subscribe button, that bell icon so you can get notifications. And we will see you next week, next Wednesday for another Whiteboard Wednesday. Adios everybody.


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Will Curran

Author Will Curran

Information junkie, energetic, and work-a-holic are just some of the words we can use to describe Will Curran. Aside from spending 20 out of 24 hours a day working as the Chief Event Einstein of Endless Events, you can catch Will ordering a chai latte or watching The Flash with his cats. He is also well known for his love of all things pretzels.

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