Can You Hear Me Now Is What Presenters Need To Know

by drjim on July 7, 2009

Presenters Need To Make Changes For Their Hearing Impaired Audience Members

Presenters Need To Make Changes For Their Hearing Impaired Audience Members

When we are given an opportunity to address a group, we spend a great deal of time preparing what we are going to say and how we are going to say it. This is all well and good, but we may be forgetting one critical factor: our audience may not be able to hear us speak.

Why Can’t They Hear Us?

Even if you have the most interesting story to tell your audience, they may not be able to hear you tell it.  Rick Moore is a professional freelance writer who speaks in public and he knows a great deal about this because he has a hearing loss and this has caused him to study audiences. He points out that in the U.S. there are 26 million people who have permanent hearing damage. What are the odds that one or more of them will be in your next audience?

Rick notes that as though this wasn’t enough, there are another 12 million people who suffer from tinnitus – a constant ringing in the ears. Put these numbers together and clearly you need to change the way you’ve been speaking in order to accommodate this portion of your audience.

Things To Do So That A Speaker Can Be Heard

There are a number of things that you can start to do as a presenter in order to better meet the needs of the members of your audience who have hearing problems. These include:

  • Room Awareness: We are probably already aware of the lighting and the microphone setup – now we need to become aware of the acoustics. The key here is to pick a spot to stand at that you will be able to be easily heard from everywhere in the room.
  • Speak Up!: This one is pretty obvious, but it’s an important point – in order to be heard by your audience you are going to have to project your voice. Quiet whispering won’t cut it – make sure that you are speaking to be heard in the back of the room.
  • Practice Age Discrimination: No, not the bad kind – the good kind. Take a look at your audience – what does their average age appear to be? The older the audience, the greater the possibility that some members will have hearing problems. This means that you need to be extra vigilant in keeping your volume up and using very clear diction.
  • Show ‘Em Your Lips: Even if your audience members don’t read lips, looking out at them so that they can see your lips moving while you speak, instead of down at your notes, will give them another visual clue that will help them decode what you are saying.

Final Thoughts

These tips are a great way to address the general hearing needs of your next audience. However, as you are giving your next speech you may discover that someone in your audience appears to be becoming bored or disinterested. It could be because despite your best efforts they can’t hear you.

The correct thing to do in this circumstance is to adapt to the situation. Move close to where they are sitting, look directly at them more often, and use more pauses so that they can more easily interpret your words.

Making sure that everyone can hear you helps you to better accomplish your goal in giving the presentation: changing lives for the better.

Questions For You

Have you ever tried to listen to a speaker who was talking without a microphone or in a noisy environment? How frustrating was this for you? Do you have any friends who have hearing problems? How do they deal with listening to speakers? Have you ever been told to “speak up”? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Have you ever sat through a dry an boring speech? Of course you have, we all have. Did you spend any time trying to figure out why the speech was so dry? I’m going to bet that at least one of the reasons is that you didn’t connect with the presenter – the speech contenent itself was impersonal. Did you know that you can go too far in the other direction also?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Lisa Braithwaite July 12, 2009 at 12:03 am

This is a great example to share with clients and audiences, just one more reason why projection and enunciation are so important. Speakers, especially inexperienced ones, rarely consider that some audience members might be hearing impaired.

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