The rights and wrongs of what Andy Gray and Richard Keys clearly did say to each other about a female assistant referee are for others to judge. What concerns me is the saga’s lesson for Presentation Skills, in that it highlights once again the curse of ‘tiny microphones’.
Now I don’t even know what kind of microphone picked up the conversation that has already cost Gray his job, but the failsafe rule for broadcasters is that you can never be sure of having a completely private conversation while in a studio environment. For presentations in the business environment I advise people to opt for a lapel mic whenever possible because you can then speak without having to worry unduly about microphone technique; in fact it’s so unobtrusive that you forget you even have a mic. That, unfortunately is also its biggest danger point – we have all heard back stage whispers or even flushing toilets being broadcast loud and clear to everyone when microphones have been left on. And if you have ever used such a device you will know that they are fiddly to turn off and it’s even quite hard to be sure you have succeeded in switching it off.
This is one of the many topics that I cover in Presentation Magic, my forthcoming book on Presentation Skills (incorporating the Rules of Magic) and I am now cursing tiny microphones myself because when I submitted the text to Marshall Cavendish in early January I thought I had a nice topical angle on the subject. Remember, I said: 1) there is no ‘off mic’ facility with lapels mics and, most of all: 2) switch it off as soon as you have finished. Those of us in the UK, I continued, now have an easy way to remember this – we simply think ‘Don’t do a Gordon Brown’; I then go to explain to my foreign readership how our former PM came a cropper over a voter he described in the apparent safety of his car as a ‘bigoted woman’.
Sadly it seems that few lessons have been learned, even by those working in front of microphones all day. Those tiny little mics are so beautifully unobtrusive that we really do forget about them. Maybe the only way to be completely safe is to appoint your own ‘Microphone Minder’!