Aretha said it best. You either have it or you don’t and these days I see less and less of it. When I’m not on tour I do a lot of work with local sound companies and as such I do a lot of corporate events. One company I work with has an exclusive contract for all the audio needs in a busy Manhattan event space. This particular space, while beautiful and ideal for events, is an acoustic nightmare. It’s an oval shape comprised of concrete-like walls about 40 feet high with a domed ceiling. The RT60 time in there is about… 60.
So we all know what a typical corporate event comprises. Usually it’s a lectern with a couple of mics on it and perhaps a lav and/or wireless hand-held(s). We also know it can sometimes (ok, almost always) be difficult to get the speaker to observe proper mic technique and project when they are speaking. That, in combination with the acoustics of the room make it difficult to get the speaker’s voice heard. So where does respect fit into all this? Well, it wouldn’t be so hard to get the speaker’s voice to be audible if the attendees weren’t so DAMN LOUD. I’m more and more often shocked at how loud the audience can be when there’s a speaker on stage trying to communicate. It’s getting worse too… I look out at the audience and see folks showing off pictures on their phone or in some cases they’re ON their phone holding their own little conversation while there’s some CEO or someone up on stage. What the hell people????!?!?!?
Before a year or so ago I can’t recall ever wanting to get on a VOG (voice of God) mic and tell them all to shut up but in recent months I’ve wanted to do that at EVERY event I’ve done, and that’s quite a few. Even after a few shhhhhs, clinking of glasses and maybe a quip over the VOG they still keep talking! In fact, some folks try to talk OVER your efforts to quell the din. How dare we interrupt them so we can focus on the presentation at hand? The truly alarming and ultimately disrespectful aspect of all of this is that at many of these events all the folks in the building work together. So the employees of the company are basically dissing their boss while he’s trying to talk to them about whatever the subject of the evening is.
I’m literally writing this as I sit backstage during a break for an event benefiting a well-known Long Island Academy. The rudeness of the attendees is utterly shocking. They had a choir of students perform the National Anthem and a rendition of a Foreigner song and they were fantastic. These poor girls were knocking it out of the park (they were very, very good IMHO) and I doubt half the folks in attendance even acknowledged they were there. Even during the hostess’ speeches there were many, many folks leaning in to speak in each other’s ears, completely ignoring her. She even had to pause more than once to try and get everyone to settle down and she was never completely successful.
It’s a sad day indeed when you have to contemplate GBF (gain before feedback) not because of a loud stage or overpowering monitors but because of the audience who are there to see the performance and/or view/hear a presentation.