How to… Get Comfortable with the Microphone

It’s you, four walls, a lot of equipment, and a microphone. Push that fader up and that’s your channel open to your listeners, (and possibly the rest of the world!)

In real life you might be the chattiest person all your friends know, but speaking on the radio is a very different matter. And you might be the best at making speeches to crowds of people, but when you’re in a radio studio it can feel like you’re just talking to the walls, even though ironically the real situation is very much the opposite.

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When you’re starting out as a new radio presenter, the moment that red ‘mic live’ button switches on can be scary, (speaking from personal experience, I was so nervous I must have said my name three times in the same link, and spoken about 10 times faster than usual!) but never fear, the Community RA+Edio ‘How To’ guru guide is here to make getting comfortable with the microphone much easier.

For this guide, we’ve drafted in some expertise:

Sandy Warr
image used with permission from http://www.sandywarr.com/

Sandy Warr has had over 20 years experience in the radio industry. Among a long list of credentials, she has worked on air at numerous national stations- Capital FM , Talk Sport, and LBC to name but a few. She is also an accredited voice coach.

Here are Sandy’s top 10 tips on getting comfortable with the microphone:

1. Get used to working with microphones…a lot of what makes us uncomfortable at first is simply the fact that it is unfamiliar. The more you get used to talking into the lump of foam rubber the less strange you will find it!

2. Always take time to get physically comfortable – find the position you want to sit in while you’re on air, and then make the equipment move for you. Think about factors such being the right distance from the desk/ the right height for the mic etc. etc. So you can be relaxed and enjoy yourself.

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3. Don’t breeze into a studio and expect to be brilliant without preparation….there’s an old business coaching expression which is undoubtedly true – that failing to prepare means preparing to fail. If you have prepared you will be able to relax knowing you have enough material to enjoy your presenting.
4. Think about the purpose of every link you are making and ensure you add value at every opportunity – it should never be about filling time and padding things out …your presence on air should be more than just directing traffic from one item to the next.
5. Become your own best critic…. Notice what you do well as well as what can be improved …we need to learn from what works as well as what doesn’t. If you can build up a tool kit of your strengths you will be able to relax and enjoy.
6. Be interested in everything and everyone around you – that way you will find you never run out of subjects to talk about and questions to ask, and you’ll never be worried about drying up on mic leading to that dreaded ‘dead air’.  Listen carefully then you can relax and enjoy the conversation.

7. Get used to what you sound like – unless you want radical surgery there is only so much you can change. You need to embrace the strengths and weaknesses of your own voice. Almost everything people ‘get wrong’ about presenting is down to content and lack of preparation – rather than the actual sound of their voice – so relax and enjoy.
8. Smile – whenever and wherever you can.. it totally changes the sound of your voice and brightens the tone. Plus it is more likely to leave you relaxed and enjoying it.
9. Get out of your own way – the best presenters think about how they can communicate their content in the best possible way – it is not about you and your own shortcomings and self consciousness- it’s about you audience…. relax and you can enjoy the process of communicating
10. You may have guessed the theme already…above all RELAX AND ENJOY – and the rest will follow.

We also put the question out there on twitter. So to add the cherry on the cake, here are a couple of tips we really liked….

Margaret Mary Brown from HBSA radio suggested….

“just talk through the microphone like your actually talking to someone in front of you – that’s how I managed it!”

And Radio Warneford tweeted us saying…

“allow yourself the fact that you will make a mistake/s and laugh about it – on air!”

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That’s probably quite a lot of information to take in but if you only remember one thing from this guide then this is it: Radio presenting is supposed to be fun! Don’t take yourself, and the microphone too seriously, and let the rest just flow!

If you have any tips that you think we’ve missed then let us know- we want to hear from you. You can write them in our special section on the forum, tweet them to us , or see our contact page for other ways to get in touch.

Also, if you’re a new presenter on hospital or community radio and you think there is a topic you’d like a ‘How To’ guru guide on, then let us know and we will work our magic!

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3 thoughts on “How to… Get Comfortable with the Microphone

  1. Great tips…..I have been a presenter on our local community radio station(ALEXfm Goolwa SA) now for about 9 months and I love it!. The trick that I have found when I think that I am reading the live reads too fast is too start pronoucing the words more fuller. This seems to work for me and naturally slows down the read. I agree with being prepared but when your only doing your program a few times a week it is hard to keep up with what has been happening since you were last there. But I do find that since I get to the station 1/2hr before my start time this gives me enough time to set up the computer which I do my music format from (plus my back up cd all ready just in case we have a malfunction… heheheh… now that gets you thinking on your feet!) … do a quick scan of the live reads and flick through the local paper and see what can be joined up together to make a more fuller program. I put little notes on my running sheet to try to join songs and event comments together and the rest is done on a wing and a prayer! So far so good with the listener feedback… So I am pretty happy with my results.

  2. Thanks for adding to the tips! I think the great one that you brought out was about having back up! Unfortunately some days technology does just hate you so having that piece of mind that you won’t have to indefinitely fill airtime whilst trying to fix the technical problems is certainly a big help. Glad that your programme is going well and hope that you keep getting good feedback from your listeners!

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