FYI, this isn’t going to be a lofty discussion about the meaning of words or a list of reasons why nobody is watching your video on YouTube or listening to your super duper podcast.
I’m referring to the messages in public places like the platform of a New York City subway car, where it is impossible to hear messages broadcast about the N train skipping the stop at 34th Street due to a sick passenger, or the waiting area of the air-train to Newark International Airport, where you can’t hear about service disruptions. Yet these unintelligible messages are critical for travelers.
I was stuck on the platform of the shuttle train to Newark Airport (departing every three minutes, right on their website). We waited — and waited. A lone agent began shouting about the cause of the delay but only those in her immediate vicinity could hear her. Why on earth wasn’t she equipped with a microphone? There are portable amplification systems. You know the old story, we can fly someone to the moon, but….. When she got around to my little group, we learned there was a mechanical problem of some kind. We were instructed to board the arriving train but, then, because of this problem, disembark at the next station for another train to the terminals. Off we went and when the doors opened again, there was another young woman shouting something unintelligible and gesturing wildly. “Don’t get off!!” we finally understood her to mean. So, we didn’t and continued on our way.
You may hate using a microphone, but your audience will love it
The point of this minor diatribe is that your message doesn’t exist if your listeners can’t hear you. How many times have you been at a program when the speaker started off, “I hate using a microphone — I can speak loudly enough to so that everyone can hear me.” Not me in the back row, lady.
If you’re making a speech, be sure to test the sound system in advance. Can your voice — and words — be heard and understood throughout the room? Or are you speaking too close to the microphone so that the sound is ear splitting? (this happened to me last week)
And, if you are running Newark Airport, when are you going to supply your agents at the air-train with amplification systems to they don’t have to scream at people who can’t hear them anyway? And let’s not forget to figure out a better system in subway stations so we won’t be surprised to learn that the local train is running on the express track. Come on, the subway system is over 100 years old. Haven’t you figured it out yet, Mr./Ms. Metropolitan Transportation Authority?