ASK PETE: What if people can’t hear me??

noun_6070_cc scaled“Hi. I always struggle with making myself heard and I’m worried that, when I get up to do my speech, no-one’s going to hear me. What can I do to make sure I’m nice and clear – should I ask for a microphone?”
-DJ, New Jersey, USA


Some people naturally struggle with their volume, just like others always seem to talk too loud. That’s not a problem – it’s just the way we are. But how do you find that magic middle of being just the right volume when you stand up to speak on the big day?

A microphone could be a good option if you really do struggle to make yourself heard. However, you should check that this is possible – some venues just aren’t set up for that, or the wedding budget might not stretch to it.

Also, if you’re using a microphone you should make sure that you practise speaking into it, holding it at a sensible distance from your mouth to avoid distortion or feedback. Today’s microphones are sensitive enough that you don’t need to hold it directly over your mouth. A good technique is to hold it so it’s resting lightly upon your chest bone. Anchoring it here also stops you waving it around and distracting people with the volume changing every other moment.

Above all, you should make sure that you speak clearly, as a mumble into a microphone is just a loud mumble. Have a few practise sessions while the room’s empty and get someone to give you feedback on what does or doesn’t work.

If you aren’t able to use a microphone, don’t worry – here are some ideas for you.

Firstly you should make sure that you practise plenty, using someone else to give you feedback on how you’re sounding. Stand a good distance from the person watching you practise and get them to let you know what’s too quiet and what’s just right. You’ll no doubt find that what they say is just right feels to you like shouting – remember this and try to replicate it going forward. Remember that public speaking is different to speaking to a small group of friends: we need to amplify what we do so it comes across to everyone in the room: this applies as much to your voice as to everything else.

Also try recording yourself practising your speech, with the camera far enough away to simulate how you could sound to others. Force yourself to listen to or watch this recording, and learn from what goes well or not so well. Bear in mind that no-one enjoys seeing or hearing themselves talk, and we’re all our own worst critic, so don’t let this destroy your confidence.

A key but simple thing which you can use is breathing: take a nice deep breath in and then use the out breath to deliver your lines. It’s a simple thing, but a few deep breaths at an opportune moment can really work wonders for your delivery.

On the day itself, get a friend to stand at the back of the room, ready with a pre-arranged signal (or signals) to prompt you to raise your voice or slow down if at any point you happen to slip into bad habits.

Hopefully this helps – good luck!

**If you have any comments, or questions that you’d like Pete to answer, feel free to comment below or on my Facebook page**




Peter D Oxley
Pete Oxley is a freelance writer and business manager who lives in the English Home Counties. He enjoys reading and writing in a wide range of areas but his main passions are sci-fi, fantasy, historical fiction and Steampunk. Influences include HG Wells, Charles Dickens, Neil Gaiman, KW Jeter, Scott Lynch, Clive Barker and Joss Whedon. Author of the non-fiction book "The Wedding Speech Manual" and the historical fantasy series "The Infernal Aether". He lives with his wife, two young sons and a slowly growing guitar collection. Probably a masochist: aside from writing and willingly speaking in front of large crowds of strangers, Pete spends his spare time playing music badly and supporting football teams that play badly.

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