June 24, 2009

How to aggravate your audience

Like the graduation we attended two weeks ago, I was hoping to write about some speeches at our niece's 8th grade promotion ceremony from last week.

Except that we couldn't hear a dang thing. The principal spoke, a school board member spoke, students performed a song (with piped-in music that drowned out whatever voices were audible), the student body president spoke... and only the first few rows of the audience heard anything.

Audience members became more and more agitated, yelling out, "We can't hear you!" and "Louder!" It didn't seem like the officials even understood what was going on. A sound person would periodically run up on stage and fiddle with the sound system, then go back and sit down, but nothing changed.

At one point, a speaker apologized for the "technical difficulties." But the technical difficulties continued. There was even another microphone at the back of the stage that no one bothered to try. The outdoor amphitheater just made the situation worse, as there were no walls or floors for voices to bounce off of. No one tried to project, anyway.

Halfway through the ceremony, we were able to hear a little better, but there was terrible feedback, as the microphone was too close to the speakers. The entire audience began yelling, "Move over!" as they waved their arms to the right. The speaker finally moved to the center of the stage, where the feedback stopped and the audience cheered.

Finally, nearing the end of the ceremony, the sound person came out, turned one of the speakers a quarter turn, and suddenly we could hear everything!

What a disappointment for all those parents who couldn't hear their children singing, speaking or being announced during the promotion.

The worst thing was that, because the audience couldn't hear what was happening onstage, everyone just started talking to each other as though there was no one speaking.

I don't know if they practiced with their sound equipment beforehand, but I'm guessing no. Unfortunately, instead of testing the equipment and waiting until everything was working to begin, they seemed intent on keeping to their schedule and talking anyway, even though no one could hear them. Frustrating.

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4 comments. Please add yours! :

Xurvis said...

I used to run sound at my Church and I tell you if nothing else worked you could hear who was preaching that day! :-)

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Yep; you always have to be ready to project and be heard!

Unknown said...

In my years of working seminars and training events, I somehow ended up with the A/V (Audio/Visual) setup job for a lot of events. Hearing the speakers in the back of an empty room (prior to the event) and then when the room is full of people are two very different things! It's amazing how much of the sound is absorbed by bodies being in the room.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

I can totally understand that, Brandon. This event was outside in an amphitheater, though, so I'm not sure the sound would have been different upon testing. Also, the microphone didn't work at all! Something tells me you were much more thorough in your preparation than this group was.

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