Event Audio: Sound and Microphone Basics

September 10, 2020
Hope Holm

Before getting into the audiovisual and events business, I had no idea how many nuances there are when selecting audio solutions. As a meeting planner, I would just let my audiovisual provider “handle it”. The truth is, many components determine the best audio system for an event. In this series, we’ll look at the importance of audio in events as well as microphone basics based on different event needs.

Planning your event audio goes beyond selecting a microphone, sound board, and speakers. Sound is the second most influential sense in learning, only behind sight. Sound enhances mood, can reinforce what you see, and can also supplement text that you read. Imagine a presenter emphasizing certain words as they speak to drive a point home, calm background music, narration in a video, or sound effects in an immersive space. Having the correct equipment in place to ensure you deliver the message you want your attendees to hear is key to your success.

Microphone Basics – Planning for Success

Let’s start with microphones, where not all are created equal. There is no “one size fits all” solution for every event. For example, you’d want to use a lapel microphone if your presenter tends to walk around; but a handheld or throwable microphone is preferable for question and answer sessions.

Are you planning a panel table discussion? Then you have a few choices available to you! To maximize quality, place a condenser microphone about 6-12 inches from each person on the panel. Doing so ensures that they can speak directly and clearly into the mic. Keep in mind that for every 1 foot that a panelist is from a microphone, you will want to make sure that the adjacent mic is at least 3 feet away. This concept is known as the 3:1 rule. It prevents audio distortions that make speech less intelligible. In certain situations, one mic can be shared between two panelists. We always coach panelists on proper microphone proximity when speaking, to help them maximize the delivery of their message.

If you plan on having entertainment, such as a band, they will typically request specific microphone types that are different from those used in standard meetings. Other accommodations to think about are stage monitors so the entertainers can hear themselves and processing equipment for FX and dynamics. These are just some of the microphone basics to consider when planning any event.

Next Time…

Microphones are just the very beginning of your ideal audio setup for a meeting. Just like an electric guitar without an amplifier is basically a prop, a microphone without speakers is just for show. Tune in to our next blog where we explore speakers!

Hope Holm
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