Mic check: 4 Vital questions you should be asking your team.
Before I get on stage for any event, the Audio Visual crew at each venue gives me the microphone I will be using. Then, they ask me to walk around the room—especially in the areas I will be talking from—and just “talk.” They call this process a “mic (microphone) check.” I have to tell you, it feels really silly. Those of us preparing for a presentation end up saying things like “Testing….1….2….3” or “Can you hear me now?”
Because it feels so silly, and 99% of the time everything already works just fine, it is tempting just to skip these checks. I mean, how bad would it be if the mic didn’t work, right?
Let me give you an example from my own experience, and you decide. One time in San Diego, California, I was scheduled to present to an audience of 300 people. Although we had done the required mic check, for some mysterious reason, my microphone suddenly quit working about 10 minutes into my 90-minute talk.
Talk about “Oh shit” moments. . . . Luckily for me, my voice carries well enough without a mic. I just kept talking for the 10 minutes it took to fix the mic, but I can assure you that my blood pressure climbed a few points during that technological mishap.
The only thing that might be worse in that kind of situation is a mic that works sporadically. Then, the presenter either sounds like he’s whispering (every time the mic cuts out) or yelling (every time it starts working again). Trust me, if you ever want to see a presenter sweat, watch closely when his mic cuts in and out during a very important moment in the presentation.
I can assure you that after an experience like that mic checks don’t seem nearly as silly. After all, the whole point of a presentation is to communicate, right? If your audience only hears part of what you say, the communication will be incomplete and, therefore, far less effective.
Just like the AV guys at a public speaking venue, you should check the lines of communication in your company frequently. These company “mic checks,” should be used to evaluate the clarity of communication within your company—does your team clearly see and understand the vision you need them to see in order to fulfill their piece of that vision?
Specifically, you should go to key team members and ask:
1. Are we communicating enough with you? Would you like more or less?
2. What would you like more information about?
3. How do you like to receive the information? (Memos, Emails, Blogs, Video messages, Social media, in person, in meetings, etc.)
4. What do you see as opportunities for us to improve our communication channels or messages?
Once you have collected all of this new information, sit down with your leadership team and decide how best to use what you have learned. As always, when you collect data, report back to everyone who was involved in the “survey.” Tell them about the information you got and what you are going to do with it. When your team sees that you value their input and are taking action based on that input, they are likely to give better and more honest information moving forward.
Remember, a faulty communication system, whether it is a microphone or a manager, can cause a negative ripple effect in any system. So before you start working on changes for the New Year, make sure the lines of communication in your company, like the microphone at a presentation venue, are in top working condition.
Ask yourself these questions. Are the lines of communication open? Are you getting the feedback you need? Are your employees willing to tell you what you need to know (even if it isn’t pretty all the time)?
One final word of warning—if things are quiet, don’t assume that all is well. Instead of signaling peace and harmony, the silence around you may well be the proverbial calm before the storm. Don’t wait for the first drops of rain—start improving your company’s communication today.