I was facilitating a roundtable discussion at an un-named conference recently and watched an A/V perfect storm – a confluence of events that, individually would have been no big deal. Taken together, it was severely irritating.
So what happened behind the scenes?
The A/V tech (who I believe was fairly inexperienced) did a sound check of the microphones, but failed to do a sound level. Big difference. Sound check means the microphone is working. Sound level is the setting on the A/V board for that particular speaker wearing the microphone at a certain place. Most A/V techs will mark the level on the board.
Furthermore, the A/V tech adjusted the audio levels each time a panelist spoke. If you have a crackerjack A/V tech who can forecast who is going to speak, this is a fine strategy. Didn’t work for this event.
Finally, the chairs were just too darn comfortable. Low to the ground with a deep, wide seat, the executives slouched in their chairs resulting in a very comfortable, low key conversation.
To prevent this perfect storm from happening to you, I suggest these following tips for audiences over 75 people.
Note: For audiences under 50 people, you may be able to get away without using microphones. Between 50-75, it’s nice to have. Over 75, use some kind of amplification system. Even if you don’t think you need it, other people will appreciate it!
I prefer to use a Samson E-50 headset that plugs into the lavaliere pack. The audio is fabulous and the Samson has three different plugs (Shure, Audo-Technica and Sennheiser) so it will plug in to just about any professional sound system. And it has a little band behind the ear so it doesn’t fall off!
I used to prefer the panelists to have a lavaliere microphone, but after watching this storm brewing, I think everyone should have a headset microphone, budget willing. If you don’t have that many headsets, I suggest all the panelists use a cordless handheld.
Make sure you sweet talk the A/V tech ahead of time and not only do a sound check, but a sound level for yourself and each panelist. Find out how the tech is going to adjust the sound levels. My preference is to keep the microphones “hot” throughout the panel discussion and only mute a panelist if he starts coughing, wheezing or other audio burbles.
Finally, advise your panelists to speak with energy and sit forward on their chair!
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Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator and high stakes meeting facilitator, shares her best practices for interactive, interesting, and engaging panel presentations. For more resources like this, or to have Kristin moderate your next panel visit the Powerful Panels official website.