How to Mic a Guest Speaker

(© iStockphoto/Anthony Brown)

You could put a lapel mic on anyone in seven seconds. An ear-worn microphone might take a little longer. But this isn't a rodeo. You don't win anything for the fastest time. Most of all, the person being miked is already uncomfortable and a quick accosting just makes it worse.

Let's jump into the shoes of the guest speaker. You are Molly, a church member back from a mission trip to Uganda and asked to give a report of the experience. You are nervous. Enter the sound tech, whom you have never met, a few minutes before the service.

Tech: "Here's your microphone. Clip it on your shirt." [Tech walks away]

You are left holding the lapel mic and the wireless pack, now confused and nervous.

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Now, let's play out the scenario in a much different way.

[Tech comes up to you 10 minutes before the service.]

Tech: "Hi, I'm Chris Huff, and I need to set you up with a microphone. How are you doing this morning?"

Molly: "A little nervous. I've never talked in front of this many people before."

Tech: "I was told you're speaking about your Uganda trip. What was the best part of the trip?"

At this point, the tech is building a relationship with you and asking you about the event. They want you to know they've got your back and by you telling a story, you are relaxing a little bit, taking your mind off the idea of public speaking. Note they are asking for a good story, not "What was the scariest part?" Would you really want to recall a scary time when you are already nervous?

Molly: [Tells the story.]

Tech: "That sounds like a great trip, I can't wait to hear more. I need to set you up with a microphone and once I've done that, you won't have to worry about doing anything with it, OK?"

Tech: "I have a little microphone that clips to the front of your blouse. It attaches to this cable and this little pack that can clip to your pants or to a pocket or wherever you find comfortable. This cable can either run outside your shirt or inside, it's up to you. Hiding the cable gives a professional look." (Note the use of the word "you" so they feel they have control.)

Molly: "Umm, how does the cable go inside my shirt?"

Tech: "That's easy, you drop the cable down and put the end out. Then, you connect the wireless pack."

Molly: "OK, now where exactly should I clip the microphone?"

Tech: "I'll show you."

[Tech drops his chin to his neck, places a fist below and then puts his finger on the spot.]

[Tech hands you the lapel mic and cable so you can clip it on and run the cable.]

Tech: "If you'll hand me the plug end of that cable, we'll finish this up."

[Tech plugs cable into the wireless pack with the power on and muted on the console.]

Tech: "Here is the pack, where would you like it?"

Molly: "I'll just clip it to my pocket."

Tech: "Perfect. You don't need to worry about turning it on as I control all of that."

[Tech has either locked the transmitter in the ON position or placed tape over the switch.]

Tech: "I look forward to hearing more about your trip."

As a tech, miking a guest is part of our job. Put the mic on the guest, and then you're done. What the guest needs from us is trust and confidence. They need to trust the microphone will work when they talk, that it will stay in place, and that everything will be OK. Call it a pep talk. Call it a confidence booster.

Miking a guest isn't about turning in the "fastest miking time," it's about recognizing public speaking is the second-highest fear, just behind flying, and you have the opportunity to minister to that person before they step on the stage.  


Chris Huff is the author of Audio Essentials for Church Sound and writes on church audio production at behindthemixer.com.

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