You would think in this day and age, after so many famous “hot mic” gaffes, that people who routinely speak in public would know better.
Yet as news of yesterday’s open mic flub involving US President Obama and France’s President Sarkozy clearly demonstrated, even world leaders in 2011 are susceptible to saying something embarrassing, unintended or, in this case, potentially damaging on a global scale.
For we trivia hosts, who routinely pick up microphones and engage in public speaking, this serves as a stark reminder to be extra cautious when using the tool of our trade. An open microphone, while an instrument of entertainment and humor during a live trivia show, can bring about incredible humiliation and shame if not attended to.
Just how seriously can a hot mic affect a trivia event? When I was first starting out in the world of live trivia as a pub quiz host in New York City, I would do what all quizmasters do: hold the microphone while reading the questions and answers, turning the thing off while grading the answer sheets. One time, however, I neglected to hit the “off” switch, and placed the microphone on the bar just as my friend the bartender managed to spill a half a pint of beer on my answer sheets.
After shrieking like a wounded puppy, I dove for the sheets and, in the process, knocked the hot mic to the floor, which then proceeded to feed back so loudly that the entire bar roared in disapproval. Upon picking the mic up, I gave the bartender a half smile accompanied by a litany of good-natured four-letter insults – which for those who’ve worked behind the bar know is par for the course. The only problem: the mic in my hand was still on. Everyone heard my rant, and started booing.
Now I’m completely embarrassed, my answer sheets are soaked in beer, and I’ve got this big Irish bartender laughing at me – the ego-crushing equivalent of a solid kick to the solar plexus.
Needless to say, I learned my lesson. For all of you trivia hosts in NYC and beyond, take heed: use extreme caution with those open microphones!