If you are on a panel with more than 50 people in the audience, chances are you are going to have to use a microphone during a panel discussion. Whether you’re a panel moderator or panelist, you’ll want to know some tips to use a microphone during a panel discussion.
Check with A/V Technicians. Prior to the panel, touch base with your A/V technicians. Are they just setting up the system and then leaving the room or will there be a technician there for the duration?
Know what is ON/OFF. Make sure you know how to turn your microphone/pack on and off – or if the A/V techs are going to do it. We often assume the microphone is “off” when we get it, when it may actually be “on” and then we end up turning it “off”!
New Batteries. Ask if the microphone has new batteries – and if not, nicely ask for them to put fresh ones in the microphone. You don’t want to lose power in the middle of the panel! P.S. I always bring fresh batteries with me, just in case as I have had to search high and low for batteries!
Sound Check. Have the A/V tech adjust the sound levels for your voice. If you are going to be moving about the room, walk around and see if there are any points of feedback (usually close to the loudspeakers) or dead spots to stay away from.
No Tapping. Don’t tap or blow into the microphone to see if it is turned on. EmCee Expert Timothy Hyde says, “Microphones have a fairly sensitive diaphragm inside that collects up the sound and then converts it into electrical signals – and you can damage the microphone by blowing into it or tapping it. An alternative is to snap your fingers just in front or run your fingernail lightly across the top which will tell you if it is on or not.”
Turn Off Your Cellphone. Some microphones pick up the tiny signal a phone makes periodically as it checks into the network. Be extra safe and turn your phone “off” (not just silenced) for the duration of the panel.
Assume it’s Live! You don’t want to be that person that says something between friends and finds out it has been broadcasted throughout the room. Always assume the microphone is “on” and broadcasting.
But wait! This list of tips to use a microphone during a panel discussion gets even better as there are some nuances you need to know regarding each of your most typical microphone options:
Tips to Use a Lavalier Microphone During a Panel Discussion
Location to Clip. A lavaliere microphone has a small microphone with a wire that connects to the transmitter. The microphone typically has a small alligator clip that attaches to your clothing – somewhere. For men, that typically is the jacket or tie. For women, well, you need to think that through as you want to be able to clip it within two fists of your mouth. And don’t forget about clipping the transmitter – typically on your belt. But if you don’t have a belt, you’ll want to think that through too!
QuietJewelry. Especially for women when using a lavaliere microphone, think about your jewelry – does it move, clank, and/or clatter when you move? Those noises will be terribly distracting!
Bathroom Break. Make sure your microphone is “off” or disconnect the microphone from the transmitter before you take a bathroom break. You don’t want the audience to hear you tinkling!
Tips to Use a Handheld Microphone During a Panel Discussion
Distance to Your Mouth. As a general rule, hold the microphone about a fist or two away from the microphone. Closer and you’ll hear too many gurgles and pops. Too far away and why bother using a microphone?
Hold Delicately. Hyde says, “Don’t hold the microphone in a death grip or wrap your hand around the bottom half of the capsule like a rapper! With cheaper microphones, your hand grip around the barrel creates extraneous noise.
Be Dynamic. You can use a handheld microphone to lean in to tell a secret, use a deeper voice to accentuate a key point and create more energy to your words.
Tips to Use a Microphone on a Stand During a Panel Discussion
In/Out. Make sure you know how to get the microphone easily in/out of the stand, if needed.
Up/Down. Also know how to raise/lower the microphone stand, if needed.
Sharing. If you are going to be sharing the microphone on a stand between panelists, agree on how to “pass the microphone” between your fellow panelists.
Tips to Use a Lectern Microphone During a Panel Discussion
Stand Up Straight. These are very sensitive microphones. Adjust the height to be the same height as your mouth. Stand up straight and talk like a normal person. You don’t need to lean into the microphone.
Limit Paper. You may want to have some notes, but keep it simple as the microphone is so sensitive, it will even pick up the rustling of your paper!
Of course, there are other microphone options such as the headset microphone, a corded (or line) handheld microphone, or even a throwable microphone, but I find those are more the exceptions than the norm.
Please enjoy these tips to use a microphone during a panel discussion and share your ideas too!
For more information about how to moderate a lively & informative leadership panel discussion, check out our free 7-part video series on how to moderate a panel and other resources to help you organize, moderate, or be a panel member.
KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.