When and how to use a microphone…

How many times have you seen a speaker fumbling with a microphone at the beginning of a talk?

They seem uncomfortable with the alien object and then look hopefully at their audience: “Do I really need to use this?”

Here’s the thing: An audience will always say ‘yes, use the microphone’ because they have been in too many presentations where they could not hear the speaker. Especially at the beginning of a talk, they have not yet adapted to the speaker’s voice and personality.

The microphone, however, has nothing to do with hearing and everything to do with the speaker’s ability to enclose the audience in their own presence. The power of a speaker’s voice is simply a function of the power of his/her presence. By assessing vocal ability, one really assesses a speaker’s ability to invite an audience into their way of seeing things and to embrace the entire audience with their presence.

The awkward fumbling with the alien object (microphone) and the pleading question as to whether or not to use it, just makes the audience feel certain you will not be able to accomplish this. They feel they must save you from embarrassment and themselves from battling to follow and so they answer ‘yes, use it’.
Whether or not the speaker can actually grow their presence to embrace them, the audience cannot know. Only the speaker knows if they can do that.

How do you know if your voice and presence will carry??

In a room the size of a double garage with about 50 people, most speakers can do it. It takes special speakers to do it in larger rooms with larger audiences. You need not worry about microphones ever again in that size room with that size audience and no other noise (coffee machines or lawnmowers in the back ground).

In a larger room, with a larger audience, or with background noise, you need to work your voice. If you don’t know how, use a mic. But PLEASE, COME EARLY AND TEST IT! When the audience arrives, you must be ready. No sound tests, no fumbling. You must feel comfortable with the extension and at ease with using it, so your audience will have confidence in your ability to invite them into your presence through it.

How do you establish vocal and personal presence effectively?

You have one of two choices:

1. Ease into it by making small talk for a sentence or two to let them get used to your voice, your accent and personality (even if they know you, people need this time to adjust). If you were unsure of anything that you could not test without the audience, like the effect of their bodies on the acoustics, this is your chance to find out and adjust.

2. Come in with immediate power and confidence.
That means you decide beforehand to use the mic or not. You capture them from the get go. You do that with an upright, open posture, deepened breathing, eye contact, a resonating voice and an empathetic energy. In short you use the Confident Speaker’s ABC.

Book now for our workshop on the Confident Speaker’s ABC. 11 November in Cape Town.

Like our  Facebook page and get R 150 discount on your workshop.

Also see our other November workshops:

09 Nov – Team Innovation Read more

10 Nov – Improvisation Skills for Coaches (NEW) Read more

17 Nov – Customer Interaction (NEW) Read more

18 Nov – Story Strategies for Facilitators (NEW) Read more

How to Communicate Confidently

Grow your voice book cover

“A voice is a human gift; it should be cherished and used, to utter fully human speech. Powerlessness and silence go together.” – Margaret Atwood, Writer

I learned the secret of confident speaking when I was 16. I was performing before a judges’ panel at the Stellenbosch Eisteddfod. The category I was performing in? Poetry. The poem? ‘Die Dag op Nuweland’ – a satire by Jeanne Goosen about a typical South African rugby match, a day at Cape Town’s Newlands rugby stadium.

The judges had already heard me perform, but they had called me back to do it again. As I stood there I had no idea why.

Since I was 11 I had taken part in speech and drama classes and competitions. This was the first time I saw the judges requesting a repeat and, believe me, I had been at many of these competitions.

Were they thinking it had been so great that it must have been a fluke and they wanted to see whether I could do it again? Did they not like my performance? Had I failed so miserably that they wanted to give me a second chance?

I remember deciding to forget why, and to give it my best shot.

I also remember doing two very specific things during my second performance.

First, I looked straight in their direction, fixing my gaze on them and unveiling my eyes so that they could see into my soul. Fearlessly, I allowed them to see what I saw in the words.

Second, I remember matching that unveiling of my intention with my voice.

I took the first words: “Hoera Boland en Haak Vrystaat!”

It was as if I had the ball tucked in the crook of my arm, was aiming at the goal line and pumping my legs, running free, fast and furious.

My voice was controlled by my breath, supported by a rock hard diaphragm, allowing it to resonate in a completely relaxed chest cavity, while the muscles in and around my mouth clearly and carefully shaped each word as I followed the rhythm and melody of the poem.

I did not allow tension or fear to show, and not once did I let nerves and uncertainty interfere with my voice.

As I drew the performance to a close, I held the attention in silence for a moment and then broke off my gaze. The audience was quiet for moment and then one of the judges stood up and began to clap. The rest of the audience followed with thunderous applause (well, thunderous for the twenty-odd people who were there for their own children’s performances). It was the first time I received 100% for a performance. I had cracked the secret of pulling an audience into the performance as opposed to bombarding them with it.

Here is the thing: I could only guess at where the judges sat and whether I was looking them in the eyes or not.

You see, I am partially sighted, I cannot look anyone in the eye without faking it. I have no central vision (I call it doughnut vision because all the good stuff is on the sides with just a hole in the middle). If I look straight at anyone, I cannot see them. This can either cause me to look blank and unreceptive, or I can choose to look straight at them and not see them, but unveil my eyes and let them see into my soul.

This is a trick I had learned long before, so that the cute, cruel boys in grade 5 would not call me Crossed Eyes. Unmasked authenticity is disarming, intriguing, rare and memorable.

But once the audience is inside, they must find something there that is worthwhile and meaningful, something that is powerful and promising, especially if they are to be part of it. This is where your voice and your message come into the picture.

At my poetry performance of ‘Die Dag op Nuweland’, I learned to match that pull of the unveiled soul with a voice that did the same, but this time with something worthwhile to offer in return. Drawing the audience into how you see things invites them into a world set apart from their own.

If that world is inviting and engaging, they are moved by the confidence you have in your message and material. This is the opposite of what most people think communication is about. Most people think it is about getting the message across the big divide between you and someone else. They think it is about throwing it out there and hoping it will hit the mark.

It is not about throwing the message out, but about drawing the audience in.

A speaker’s voice must invite confidence and instil trust, while at the same time it commands attention and motivates the audience.

A voice that is both inviting and influential possesses certain physical qualities. Most voices do not have these qualities naturally. Yet, with knowledge and practice you too can cultivate this kind of voice.

As with training for the Comrades marathon (89 km between Durban and Pietermaritzburg), your body needs to unlearn bad habits and relearn new ones. When you train for a marathon, you need to teach your muscles to persist working under strain. You have to condition them so that adjusting to the road and the conditions becomes automatic and you can keep your mind on your goal.

“If you don’t ever stop singing, your voice stays in shape. It’s like the marathon runner. You’ve got to run, run, run to stay in shape.” – Sammy Hagar, Musician

Similarly, speaking invitingly and confidently with a trained voice can become automatic so that you can keep your mind on the message and the audience.

To replace unwanted habits with new ones takes at least six weeks of dedicated hard work. This course is designed to lead you through such a six-week training programme so that the vocal habits you need for confident, inviting communication becomes automatic.

Grow your voice is a six-week course designed to help you automatically

• find a good posture that helps you relax and communicate confidence

• use breath to control your voice and your nerves

• produce a rich, warm voice that invites attention and instils trust

• shape sounds skilfully so that every word is heard without strain

• create emotional engagement by enticing the listener to keep on listening.

“It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” – Mark Twain

You have just read the introduction to my book: Grow your voice to Speak with Confidence. The book is a 6 week course and includes a training CD with exercises.

Click here if you would like to buy the book.

Come to one of our workshops or courses.

Or contact me for individual coaching options.

Dr. Petro Janse van Vuuren

Follow Your Own Flute in Gauteng – 3 Oct

Reconnect with your passion and align with your internal motivation

In our interaction with companies and individuals we meet an increasing number of highly talented yet intensely frustrated individuals who feel a deep need for new inspiration. Many express the desire to rekindle their passion and reshape their professional careers to express that passion.

This workshop will help you to:

  • grow in self esteem
  • get a framework of what drives you and the values that guide your choices
  • Acquire confidence in aligning your life to reflect these values.
  • Know the sound of your own voice and the feeling of listening to it.

Join us on a journey back to your unique self, the source of real joy, inspiration, creativity and motivation. Rediscover your passion, feel great about being you and reshape your career to mirror who you really are.

Playing Mantis specializes in helping you grow through connection with yourself, your passion and your relationships.

We use storytelling and improvisation to play with new ideas and perspectives, reflect on the discoveries you make about who you are and apply the new found knowledge to reshape your professional life.

Who should attend:

Individuals who are looking for the security of knowing whether or not they’re in the right place and the ability to trust their own voice.

Leaders who want to lead with self confidence and make clear decisions in spite of uncertainty.

Can you afford it?

In these times of economic uncertainty, can you afford not to align with your passion?

Your passion and unique motivators are the only things that truly distinguish you from others. We would like to help you align your external context with your internal life so that you are more productive and more effective.

Consider the time and money you spend on keeping your body physically flexed and ready for action – gym fees, hairdressers, clothing bills, healthy food. Can you afford to spend some time and money on getting your heart, mind and spirit flexed and ready for action?

Free follow up consultation

To ensure that you get your money’s worth, we offer you the option of receiving a free 1 hour consultation after the workshop. This is to make sure you get the help you need to apply the new knowledge in your unique context. Too many workshops leave people excited and ready for action, but without a practical plan to make it work for them.

The ability to apply the skills we teach is part of our promise and we will do what is necessary to assist you in this step.

What people say:

It was as if a flashlight was shining through my muddy waters. It showed me a way out and that there is more for me in life than mud. – Amanda Jooste, PRO for artists


I enjoyed the creativity – this is the most fun I have had in ages. – British American Tobacco HR team member


Your unique way with stories and characters opened a fresh perspective on my own character and story. I was moved by the way in which the stories brought the participants straight to the heart of their search for meaning. Dr Jeanette de Klerk, Philosophy of Education, University of Stellenbosc

Workshop details

This is a 6 hour workshop that includes 5 hours contact time with a 15 min tea break and 45 min lunch break.


Follow your own flute: Sat 3 Oct
Improv your foxy skills: Sat 10 Oct

Time: 8h30 – 16h00

Venue: Melville Junction Church, cnr of Seventh Avenue and
Fifth Street

Cost: For our first time in Jozi you get these exclusive
workshops at the highly reduced price of R650 for 1 / R1100 for


We like to keep our workshops small and exclusive, so BOOK NOW to avoid disappointment.

For bookings e-mail us at connect@playingmantis.net or call Burgert on 0822559625

To read more about Playing Mantis and our Facilitators click here

Play reflect apply