If you said, "not changing the battery" then you have probably not been in the sound business very long. Sure, having a battery go dead in the middle of a show or presentation causes big problems, but with the advent of low current draw wireless transmitters and long-life alkaline batteries, this doesn’t happen nearly as often as it did just a few years ago.
No, the biggest mistake you can make is not giving the presenter a few tips on how to use a powerful tool thats easily misunderstood.
I recently provided a sound system for a high profile seminar hosted by the governor of a state that will remain nameless. When it came time for the governor to pose questions to panelists, rather than asking them to move a little closer to the table mics we had placed in front of them, here’s what he did: He unclipped his wireless lavalier and passed it back and forth among the panelists as they attempted a dialogue. Between mic handling noise, lavaliere element overload from holding the mic about an inch from their mouths and a couple of drops to the floor (not to mention tangling the lavalier cable around the arm of the chair) the audio was completely unusable.
The producer for the television production company that hired me was livid (his wrath was aimed at me, not the governor) and the audience was leaving the hall in droves.
I’d love to blame the governor, but I’m afraid that the fault is at least partly mine.
It was my responsibility to let the governor (or in this case, his assistant) know exactly how the mics on the stage should be used to handle the format of the program.
My assistant, who actually put the mic on the governor, could have easily passed along a friendly suggestion to him that he should take care to not actually touch the mic. It was a problem that did not have to happen.
Here are a few tips to pass along to the actual user of a wireless lavaliere mic when you are mixing an event. They’ll make your life a lot easier!
- Make sure that the presenter knows that you will take care of turning the mic on and off. They don’t need to ever do that and you should tape down the switch so they can’t even try it.
- Point out where you are positioned in the room and do all you can early in the presentation to make eye contact with the presenter. It’s a great confidence booster for both of you.
- Give some thought as to which way the presenter is most likely to turn his/her head when addressing someone else on the stage or in the audience. If you are unable to center the lavalier on a tie or shirt, then choose the side/lapel in the direction the presenter is most likely to turn their head.
- Take care to tuck excess lavalier cable out of the way so that it can’t become tangled on a chair arm or podium light. A little gaffers tape is great for making sure this cable stays where you want it.
- When possible, clip the transmitter/belt pack to the presenter’s belt or waistband. Resist the temptation to drop it into one of their pockets. You don’t know what else might be in the pocket. If the presenter sticks her hand into the pocket she may accidentally disconnect the mic or hit the on/off switch.
- If the presenter plans to wander around or present from several places on the stage or in the room, tell them what to do if the encounter a signal drop out. Even the highest quality wireless mics may encounter dropouts. Just a step to the side, or even a little shuffle, may solve the drop out so that the presenter can continue with minimum disruption to the show.
Next time we’ll talk about some tips for using hand held wireless microphones.
Got other tips for great wireless performance? Share them on our forum!
-Jeff Harrison is a sound person and special event producer who lives in works in Chapel Hill, NC. His most recent work includes producing professional school commencement exercises for the University of North Carolina.
He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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