Our Friend, Mr. Microphone

Mr. Microphone, or “Mike” for short, has been in my life for only the past seven years. Our relationship got off to a rough start, because I didn’t think I needed him so people could hear my interpreting. Prior to meeting Mike, I had worked for nearly a decade as a hospital interpreter, where technology like him was unheard of. So it stands to reason that I would look down my nose at Mike and dismiss his quiet, selfless offer to help me save my voice, and my peaceful demeanor.

If your courthouse is equipped like mine, microphones are commonplace. The technology is present at the judge’s bench, the witness stand, podiums, counsel table and even in the deputy’s drawer for passing around during jury selection. In fact, it’s so common to have voices booming in our courtrooms that even the most intimate of hearings (if you can call them that!) are often assisted by the use of the sound system.  So, why is it that some people are still afraid of our friend, Mike?

Well, when I started off as a court interpreter, I certainly didn’t feel like my voice needed to be heard through a sound system, oddly enough. I thought I was pretty good at modulating and keeping just the right volume for the situation. Aside from the use of listening devices (which is a separate topic), the courtroom sound system was new technology that I didn’t think I needed. In the early months, I recall being at the witness stand, terrified to speak into Mike because I felt like I would get distracted by the sound of my own voice. I tended to push it out of my way just enough so that the sound was helped, but certainly not booming through the courtroom. My, how things have changed since then!

Just the other day, I had to interpret for two parties at the same time, one of them appearing by speakerphone. I knew that if I made good use of Mike, I would be heard by all and have the situation under sufficient control. So, I let go of any semblance of Mike-phobia that might have remained in me, and I spoke loud and clear, probably to the dismay of the audience waiting for their cases to be called. Hey, I had to be heard over a phone and it wouldn’t be practical to leave it up to chance and use my normal volume plus Mike. It worked, and he and I solidified our friendship for life.

Using the sound system has helped me keep my stress level to a minimum. No longer do I have to use my diaphragm to push an extra burst of air past my vocal chords to get a booming voice to project; I simply place Mike in a strategic position, and allow him to do the work for me. Having lost the fear of being a distraction to myself has been quite liberating. In fact, my voice has thanked me, too. I haven’t had laryngitis much at all since I’ve worked at the court, and I think it has everything to do with Mike.

A few words must be said about the use of listening devices, where we are speaking into Mike and our listener is wearing earphones of some sort. Because I’ve been fortunate enough to be in a position to ask for feedback from my listeners, I can say that they do, indeed, report getting annoyed with the extra noises we make into Mike. Always remember to keep mouth sounds to a minimum, including breathing or cough drop sounds and, of course, sneezing right into Mike. I’ve found it helpful to have him in a movable position, and whenever I have extra noise I have to make, I can pull Mike away and protect my listener’s hearing experience. Keep in mind that wearing earphones for extended periods is difficult, and we should be courteous enough to avoid the extraneous sounds that aren’t part of our interpreting performance.  In fact, generally, it’s advisable to speak slightly to one side of Mike, thus avoiding some of the annoying sounds we’ve all heard when speakers are too close to the device. 

So there you have it—a match made in Heaven. My friend, Mike, and I now worked together for years now on a daily basis and I’ve turned into a fan of my own voice. Of course, this has nothing to do with any vanity on my end, but instead my desire to do the best darned job I can, which means keeping my cool and being heard loud and clear. That’s what it’s all about, in the end, and thanks to Mike, this is easier than ever!

Tips on Using Microphones:




2 thoughts on “Our Friend, Mr. Microphone”

  1. Gio Lester says:

    Well, Jennifer, Mike has been unfaithful to you! I just spent a whole afternoon with him. At first, he wasn’t to helpful, to be frank, and my audience let him have it. We had to switch him for a more flexible model :o)

    Thanks for the humorous take on a subject few people have addressed. Learning to work with the technology available to us is very important.

    – Gio

  2. Jennifer De La Cruz says:

    Darn it, Mike! Sometimes he has a very cruel sense of humor, to keep us on our toes. We always go running back eventually. He’s a tough cookie! 🙂

    Thanks for your comment, Gio!


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