I was at an event a few months ago, which was being hosted in the office of a large company. It was the kind of event where multiple people would get up, come to the front, and educate the audience about what it was they were doing. It was a good event. It had all the tech required working well, including a great PA system and microphone for the presenter. There were about 100 people in the room.
One presenter got up after a break, and so wasn’t handed the microphone by be the previous person that spoke – as had happened throughout the sessions. The speaker looked at the microphone, before booming across to audience. “I’m not going to use the microphone – you can all hear me.”
I was at the front of the room, and close to the presenter. I stuck my hand up, and simply told them that I’d rather they did, so we could all easily hear. The speaker was a little taken aback, but dutifully picked up the microphone and proceeded to deliver a really good talk.
Ever since I worked at Ai-Media, I’ve learned to acknowledge that accessibility is something a lot of us take for granted. My old boss at Ai, Alex Jones, use to talk about when he was at school and how he would struggle in class when the teacher turned around and wrote on the blackboard. Alex is deaf, and so would lose his ability to lip read when the teacher stopped facing him. Since working with Alex, I’m much more aware of the different ways we can be unaccessible to others without realising – whether on stage or not.
1 in 6 Australians are hard of hearing, and in a large room with multiple people and at an event that can run for a couple of hours, people can’t hear you if you don’t use a microphone.
Sometimes, it’s not possible to use one. I’ve organised my fair share of events, and most of the time securing a microphone is expensive and adds an extra level of complexity. But when offered the choice, I now always use it.