Recently, I attended a presentation held in a room with bad acoustics. A microphone stood next to the lectern but the speaker wasn’t using it, which made her words sound like the low murmuring of a buffalo herd.
I couldn’t understand a word she was saying. I looked around. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying the show. My hearing isn’t what it used to be, so I figured I was the only one trapped in mumble-hell. I fidgeted for a few more minutes before whispering to the person sitting next to me.
“Can you hear what she’s saying?”
“Not a word,” he whispered back.
I leaned over and posed the same question to the person behind me, a youngster whose hearing, I hoped, had not yet been downgraded by too many ear-splitting salsa bands. She couldn’t understand the speaker, either.
What? So everybody was going to suffer for the better part of an hour and do nothing? Learn nothing?
Martyrdom does not become me. I interrupted the speaker and asked her pretty please to use the microphone. I wasn’t surprised when she seemed surprised by my request. People often think the voice they use to chat with a friend in a quiet tearoom, is the same voice needed to carry sound over the heads of 100 people all the way to the back row.
News flash: Unless you’ve played King Lear on Broadway, that isn’t how it works.
As if microphone-avoidance-public speakers weren't bad enough, mumbling actors seem to be the darlings of Hollywood television shows and films. Lines are delivered in whispers from actors who seem to have mastered the art of ventriloquism. I sometimes can’t hear them or even read their lips.
A couple of days ago I saw a trailer for Paul’s favorite TV series True Detective. The scene took place in a dimly lit room. The lines were delivered in quiet, intense voices. I couldn’t understand the dialogue. I cranked up the volume, but by that time I'd missed the message.
Usually after I've been lured into upping the volume for quiet scenes like this, a mega-decibel commercial airs that blasts me out of my chair.
I can’t control Hollywood or even people giving talks, except as noted above. However, here's my suggestion, for what it's worth. If you are giving a presentation, please enunciate, speak into the microphone, and if you include a Q & A, repeat the question before answering it. Your audience will love you. Better yet, they will hear you.
Do I sound like a grumpy old person? WHAT? I CAN'T HEAR YOU!