On March 13, 2013, the world waited for the new Pope to make his first address.
Imagine standing in that crowd, in the midst of 150,000 excited people. Imagine seeing the Pope step onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica and feeling the hush that came over the audience as they waited in quiet anticipation for his first words.
“Brothers and sisters–Good evening,” the Pope began.
It was an important moment that would have lasting impact.
The new Pope addressed the crowd and they heard every word. The people in St. Peter’s Square went home happy and hopeful.
Making that moment happen smoothly was no small feat. It took technical skill, planning and attention to detail to make sure that everyone in the crowd heard the Pope clearly. Without the expertise of skilled audio engineers, the historic moment would have been lost.
No presentation can succeed without quality audio. Although when you prepare a presentation you spend a lot of time on the visuals, the visuals are irrelevant if no one can hear you. Audio is critical to connecting with your audience.
Your presentation doesn’t have to be as grand as the first speech of a new Pope. All live events need clear, reliable audio to engage your audience and capture their attention.
3 Keys to Good Audio
Live audio engineering is a complex recipe. Understanding the venue dynamics, stage and audience placement are key factors to consider when designing the audio system for an event. Not only is it important for the audio to be loud enough for everyone to hear, it cannot be too loud, create an echo or be filled with feedback.
It’s important that the last row of the audience is able to clearly hear the activity on stage. However it’s just as important not to blow the eardrums out of the front row. A skilled audio engineer will spend time understanding the audience placement and room dynamics in order to provide quality sound “levels” to all participants.
Sound must be distributed evenly in a room for clear communication. The room dynamics such as ceiling height, surface material of the walls and floor, distance of first and last rows from the stage and room size all affect how the sound is distributed. Other factors such as the audience size may change throughout your event. Without the proper, on-going “balancing” of tenor, bass and trim, the sound may echo or bounce back upon itself causing overlap and distortion-and your message is lost to your audience.
Feedback is one of the trickiest anomalies sound engineers need to address. When a microphone picks up sound from the speakers, it forms a “loop” of sound. This loop is a loud penetrating noise called feedback.
Feedback can occur for many reasons, including microphone placement, presenter location, interference of other nearby electronics or even a presenter having a cell phone turned on in their pocket. Controlling feedback is an ongoing task for the audio engineers involved in any event. It requires constant attention to the multitude of controls on the audio equipment.
Quality audio is both a science and an art. It is the difference between being heard and being understood. It is the difference between being understood, and creating a moment that your audience will never forget.
Technical contribution of this article provided by Chas Gerber of Gerber Acoustics.