There are essentially four types of microphones, each with a different pickup pattern. Cardiod mikes are perhaps the most common for use by speakers. They pick up what's in front of the mike, not what's behind. Since they don't pick up as much sound from onstage speakers or monitors, they tend to prevent feedback. Omnidirectional mikes pick up sounds from all directions. If several people are singing together and sharing a mike, you'll need an omnidirectional microphone. Shotgun mikes are good at picking up sound at a distance (think sporting events), while bidirectional mikes pick up sound from two sound sources, excluding all other sounds.
The In-House Option
For a reasonable price, hotels and conference centers often can provide a sound system that's absolutely fine — despite what an audiovisual rental company might want you to believe. But the only way to know is to test the system with your own ears during a site inspection. Be sure to walk around the room as someone speaks through the mike. Is the sound clear? Is there a technical person on-site to help you with any problems? This is also the time to test the soundproofing between rooms, especially those with partitioned walls.
Don't be Cheap
Make sure to work an audio technician into the budget for all but the most basic microphone setups. If you plan to have more than one microphone, an audience of more than a few hundred people, microphones placed in the audience, or several speakers, each of whom has a different voice level, it's critical to have a specialist on hand.
Your meeting — and your reputation — cannot afford to have trouble with the mikes. If you can manage to budget for backup equipment, do it. No one but you will notice the extra little gooseneck mike on the lectern, but everyone will notice if the sound goes out.
A Lavalier Trick
Lavalier, or lapel, microphones should be clipped to the speaker's clothing four to six inches below the chin. If you get clothing noise, one trick is to put an overhand knot just below the microphone, with the loop about the size of a 50-cent piece. This will cancel out clothing noise below the knot.
Sources: Merriam-Webster Online, www.m-w.com; United Visual, www.unitedvisual.com; The Writing Works, www.thewritingworks.com; Audio Visual Innovations, http://rental.aviinc.com/support/presentation-tips.asp; Financial & Insurance Meetings, “Can You Hear Me in the Back?”
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MICROPHONE (noun) 1. an instrument whereby sound waves are caused to generate or modulate an electric current usually for the purpose of transmitting or recording sound (as speech or music)