Sound Check, Testing…1, 2
by Bob Goodyear
Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends.
We’re so glad you could attend
Come inside! Come inside!
– Emerson, Lake, and Palmer
You may be asking yourself, “What can this song lyric possibly have to do with speaking?” Well, come inside and I’ll show you!
One of the trivial tasks that a speaker has to do when getting ready for a presentation is to do a sound check. The purpose of the sound check is to test the venue’s sound system and get it tuned in to the speaker. This allows the A/V crew to get sound levels correct for the speaker and make the speaker sound great. Generally what happens is that an A/V crewmember puts a microphone on the speaker and then asks the speaker to say a few words. Almost always the words that the speaker uses are a combination of something like “Testing…1, 2,…testing…check, check…testing…1, 2.” The A/V crew yawns, anyone who may be in the room pays no attention, and the speaker isn’t exactly energetic when doing it. All in all, it becomes a very boring task.
I confess, I used to do this for several years. After all, this is the routine that I heard whenever I was in a room for a sound check with another speaker. I never thought it was fun but I thought that it must be part of the price that I have to pay in order to speak. I found out I was wrong and now realize that doing a sound check can actually be fun and helpful to prepare your audience for something unexpected.
In 2010, I was asked to speak at a technical conference in Sydney, Australia. As part of this conference, I was asked to attend one day early in order to do a “dry run” or rehearsal of my speech. Upon entering the ballroom where my presentation was going to be given, I was met by the A/V guy who would be running the sound for my session the next day. He told me that he wanted to do a sound check before getting into my rehearsal. He wired me up with a microphone and directed me to the front of the room. He pointed out where I should stand to get the best lighting possible and then asked me to do the sound check. I started as I normally do.
“Testing…testing, 1, 2…testing”
He looked incredibly bored and then asked two questions that changed the way I now do sound checks:
“Do you know how many times I’ve heard this same stuff? Why don’t you say something that might be interesting, something that I’ve never heard before?”
For some reason, the first thing that popped into my mind was,
“Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends. We’re so glad you could attend. Come inside! Come inside!”
As I spoke those words (you wouldn’t want to hear me sing them), I watched the A/V guy start smiling. Then he began to say the words along with me! I’d never had that happen before. I was pumped to watch him and my energy skyrocketed! I didn’t know what had just happened but I really liked it. He told me that was the best sound check he had ever heard.
Since that event, every time I am asked to do a sound check, I use those same lyrics. Many times there are early arrivals in the room for my session. Instead of them not paying any attention during the sound check, their heads pop up and I am surprised at the number of people who start saying the words along with me. There have been times when members of the audience continue with the song lyrics and I go right along with them. I get a huge energy burst whenever this happens and the nervousness of the speech is lessened significantly.
What this has allowed me to do is to create rapport with the early attendees as well as increase my confidence and energy for the upcoming speech. Maybe you can try something like this the next time you do a sound check. Figure out your own words and you may create friends in the audience before you ever start your speech.
Bob Goodyear is a veteran speaker on technology who understands the communications challenges that technical professionals face. Find out how Bob can help your organization with their presentation.
Reach Bob by email or by phone at 678.447.7272