Whether you are hosting a conference, awards ceremony, or another event where you will have speakers or presenters on stage, you will almost certainly need a microphone to help your talent be heard.
Which microphone should I be giving my presenters?
Many people don’t fully appreciate just how important your choice of microphone can be for a speaker, and it is important to find the right balance of practicality and sound quality. Whilst your talent is the most important person in the room when it comes to giving a good performance, your audience outnumber them by a long way, and everyone needs to be happy to have a good experience!
Below are some of the different types of microphone and their relative benefits and drawbacks. Please note that this article is written in terms that make it easy to understand and may not be the most scientific or technical explanation.
Lavalier or ‘lapel’ microphone
This is the style of microphone you will often see on TV and news programmes. It is a small, discreet microphone that is often clipped to a tie or lapel (hence the name!). The benefits of this microphone are that it is small and comfortable to wear; presenters can all but forget they are wearing a microphone. It can also be connected to a wireless ‘beltpack’ so that they can move around the stage freely. Many presenters will expect or request a wireless lapel microphone as standard.
The drawbacks of the lapel mic are that it generally must be placed quite far away from the presenter’s mouth, on their clothing. This means that there is generally less audio ‘signal’ reaching the microphone, so it must be turned up higher than other mics. This can introduce undesirable effects such as background noise or, at worst, feedback. For this reason, lapel mics can be difficult for even the most seasoned professionals to use in certain venues or outdoors.
Many people immediately conjure images of Madonna or Britney when they think of a headset microphone. However modern headsets are discreet and high quality. Think TED Talk as opposed to instructional fitness video. Headset microphones are much better for reducing background noise and feedback, as they are generally placed much closer to the presenter’s mouth. They can still be attached to a wireless system, meaning they allow the presenter to remain free and mobile.
The negatives of a headset microphone are that they are more visible than a lapel microphone, only being available in a few colours such as beige, brown, or black. They can also introduce clothing noise if the presenter is moving a lot (particularly in a seated panel discussion). Some presenters do not like wearing headset mics as they are less comfortable.
The handheld microphone is probably the most recognisable and traditional microphone. Available in wired and wireless varieties, sometimes with an on/off switch for the presenter, and often in varying shapes and sizes. The handheld microphone is an item many people will be familiar with.
The handheld microphone can be used to achieve excellent sound quality. When used correctly, it is more effective and reliable than either of the other two types listed so far. The drawback is that it relies on the presenter to hold it close to their face at all times, not hold it incorrectly (blocking the microphone from picking up the sound properly). Even some experienced presenters have a tendency to forget that the microphone is not an extension of their arms and wave it around wildly, significantly affecting its effectiveness. However, other presenters view it as a comfortable anchor, and like having a fixed position in which to put their hands.
Handheld microphones are great for panel discussions as they act as a visual cue to the moderator that a speaker is talking. They also allow the sound engineer to ‘open’ and ‘close’ the mics when people aren’t speaking, reducing the risk of unwanted background noise.
Lectern/Table Top Microphone
The lectern or tabletop microphone is a microphone that is attached to a lectern or table top. Sounds obvious, right?
This type of microphone is usually on an extendable arm of some description, and is pointed in the general direction of speakers. There are a number of different types of lectern microphone and all have slightly different qualities. Generally, these mics are great in a ‘supporting role’ - picking up conversations when the talent may not be able to be mic’d up such as awards winners, or adding colour to the sound from the main mics.
At PYTCH we usually advise clients not to rely on these microphones for the main presented content where possible, as they can have similar issues with background noise and feedback as a lapel microphone. If presenters are different heights or distances away from the microphone, they can be heard at different volumes. These microphones are also susceptible to being banged or knocked by presenters.
Are you having an event where you need a microphone or sound system for your presenters? PYTCH are experts in audio and would be happy to talk further about the best options for your specific needs.
0333 022 0171