I Won’t Need That Microphone

“The speaker did a wonderful job!! The utmost professional, he handled all student questions with thoughtfulness and respect.” –Mohave Valley Jr. High School Principal (via email).

As this morning’s map screencap of the Laughlin Labyrinths indicated, I was in Nevada again yesterday, for a presentation in nearby Mohave Valley, AZ. I had the opportunity to discuss substance abuse, addiction, and recovery with 400 awesome junior high students.

When I arrived at the school’s gym a little while prior to my presentation, I saw one school faculty member lifting a rather large mixing console out of a case, and another faculty member unwinding a microphone cord next to a pair of P.A. speakers The bleachers were set up on only one side of the basketball court, indicating that all 400 students were likely going to sit on that side.

“Are all the kids going to be on this one side,” I asked. “Yeah, they’ll all fit there,” one of the faculty members replied. “Then I won’t need that,” I said, motioning to the mic, mixer, and speakers. “I appreciate it, but I don’t want you to have to go to all that trouble. I don’t usually use a mic.”

The two of them looked at each other and smirked. “I don’t think you understand,” one continued. “They’ve been outside all day having a field day and they’re going to be really wound up. I want to make sure they can hear you.”
“Thank you,” I replied. “As long as you give me a quick, five-second intro to indicate an official start time, I can take it from there. I’ll be okay. I’m naturally very loud. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve ever used a microphone for a presentation. I move around quite a bit and it just works best without one.”

They looked at each other again and one of them laughed kind of quietly, as if to say, “Alright. It’s your funeral.” He ended up setting up a mini-PA system. When all 400 kids finished filing in to the bleachers (which takes forever, believe me), he used the mini-PA to get the kids’ attention and introduce me. As he finished his intro, he held the mic out to me as if to say one last time, “I don’t wanna watch you drown.” I smiled, thanked him again, and shook my head.

I launched intro my intro, even a little bit louder and more intensely than usual. What followed were 40 minutes of incredibly respectful, attentive silence on the part of the students and a series of very thoughtful, wise-beyond-their-years questions from them during the Q&A portion. As I wrapped up and thanked the students and the school one last time, I looked off to the side where the two faculty members were applauding. I gave them an extra smile and they nodded. One came up a minute later and said, “I don’t believe it. That’s impressive.”

I hung out for a while after my presentation to talk to the kids. A lot of them came up and thanked me, gave me high fives, and asked more questions. A handful of teachers also came up afterward to talk, including one who had been really stoic during my presentation. He shook my hand and patted me on the back, saying, “That was really powerful. You’ve got a gift.”

Yet another day to be thankful for. I’m glad I was given the chance.


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