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08 Sep

Can You Hear Me?

I recently had the opportunity to fill in for a phenomenal speaker who passed away. This speaker had been successful with the organization as the keynote annually for 15 years or more. I had heard him numerous times and he was truly second to none.
I was asked to speak on fairly short notice as there wasn’t time to take bids or get a big name. I was honored to take the responsibility and although I knew that I wouldn’t compare to my predecessor, I wanted to walk off the stage with my head held high knowing that I did the best I could and met the needs of the organization.
I put lots of time into planning what I thought would work for this audience of 4000 to 5000 participants. It wasn’t my usual crowd, so I pushed myself to pull together material and create an experience that would resonate.
On show day, I arrived in the afternoon for a sound check for the evening program. I have always used a lapel mike for larger venues and chose to do so on this day. One of the facilities staff recommended I use a headset, but I responded that I was most comfortable with the lapel mike and if the sound check went o.k., I’d like to stick with familiar equipment. The sound check went well and I think we all felt good about the audio choice.
You know where this is all heading, so I will take you there quicker than you anticipated. When I sat down after my 40-minute presentation, one of the organization members leaned up to my ear and said, “It was very hard to hear.” This was the first I had any idea that 4500 people were frustrated or checked out as they strained to listen. My husband who snuck in (I told him not to come, please) reiterated the audio challenge and even thought about getting me help.
I was so saddened and disappointed by it all. I fully assume the blame. I should have selected the headset, I should have worn the same thing to the sound check as I wore to the program (so I would have the same placement for the battery pack and the microphone), and finally and most importantly, I should have kicked off with my attention getter and then paused to ask the audience “can you hear me?”
So when you speak next time, don’t worry that you will break your stride or annoy your audience if you ask if the sound is good. Your audience guests deserve the best!