Microphones can be tricky. Using them well is part of your public speaking training.
A.J. Clemente, a budding young anchorman, in the first 15 seconds of his very first broadcast, on his very first day as weekend co-anchor on an NBC affiliate in Bismarck, ND, spoke two very pronounced and clear expletives on live television. This was not done maliciously. This was a case of being extremely nervous and simply not knowing his microphone was live and on the air. Shortly after the broadcast, he publicly apologized and then A.J. was fired.
Should AJ have been fired? I don’t know. All I know is that A.J. was not the first newscaster to have made this mistake. One of my favorite NYC anchors, Sue Simmons, had a very similar mishap back in 2008. She, too, quickly and publicly apologized.
In fact, most actors I know have had a similar experience while working with microphones. Whether it was our error or that of the sound engineer, all of us, at some point, have made an unintended broadcast.
When presenting in your business career, you will probably be required to wear a microphone on occasion. For that circumstance, I offer you the following tips:
Be Aware! The first thing I tell any client I work with as they get suited up in the microphone is to always assume that it is on and live. Always. This means only extremely necessary vocal communication before going on stage.
Know someone is listening. Even if your mic isn’t live, someone may be listening. The sound engineer can and often will listen in to your backstage conversation. This may be done innocently to make sure your mic is on, but know if you have a mic on, there is a good chance you are being heard.
If you offend, follow in our newscasters’ footsteps and apologize sincerely. Continue to improve your self-awareness, one of the core competencies of Emotional Intelligence and give yourself a break! You, after all, are human and almost anyone who has worn a live microphone has had a similar mishap. Know that you are in VERY good company, yours truly included.