By Don Roth
We’ve come a long way from the days when the best way for a public speaker to be seen and heard was to stand on a soap box and loudly project his or her voice. Stages – and staging – long ago became standard for school events, but today we are in an era of rapidly advancing multimedia capabilities that have not only increased presentation options, but also have steadily raised audience expectations on the audio and visual impact of what they are watching and hearing on a school stage.
Many kids – and their parents, as well – are using their own smartphones to view and share videos, music clips, group chats, etc. How can you make certain your school stage has the right A/V equipment for today’s standards?
Fortunately, technologically savvy manufacturers have advanced the state of the art in lecterns and sound systems so that almost any school stage can now be a multimedia center without breaking the budget. Here are some options to consider:
Wireless PA Systems
Schools that have a stage but no house sound system can easily provide strong, clear sound to fill almost any size auditorium with a portable wireless PA system. And even those schools that have an existing wired PA system can easily supplement it for specially staged events by adding wireless PAs.
Compact, portable PA systems designed for audiences from 50 to 10,000 can provide strong, clear sound and great convenience for a single presenter or multiple presenters, and can offer additional sound coverage for such applications as large choral groups or audience Q&A sessions by adding supplemental speakers and microphones.
The systems typically have built-in speaker or speakers, amplifier, and wireless receiver to receive the signals from wireless microphones. Wireless microphone choices include handheld (with the wireless transmitter built into the mic itself), headset, lapel, or over-the-ear. These latter three typically have a separate wireless transmitter that they plug into and can be conveniently hooked onto a belt or elsewhere on the body.
Handheld mics can also be inserted into mic stands that can be placed around the stage for increased sound coverage. And, auxiliary speakers – wired or wireless – can be placed around the stage or even elsewhere in the auditorium to further extend the sound to every corner of the room.
One potential challenge with wireless is that this technology has become so popular today that channel interference sometimes is encountered. Fortunately, companies now offer 96-channel wireless systems that make it easy to find another channel when interference is encountered.
Another benefit of today’s wireless sound technology is the ability to stream sound from a smartphone or pad to a receiver in the sound system. So, if a teacher or student has a recording to share as part of a presentation, it can be streamed from their phone into the PA system. Bluetooth receivers are available in many PAs. Moreover, many PAs feature built-in media players that can play recorded sound from a thumb drive or SD card.
Lecterns in Many New Styles and Finishes
As PA systems have advanced, so have lecterns. Beyond standard wooden lecterns in traditional styles, there are now many, many new options:
- Wood lecterns in many styles and finishes: Laminates, veneers, and solid hardwoods at many price points; curved designs, sculpted corners, adjustable height models for people of different heights, extra-wide lecterns, and ADA-compliant models that will accommodate a presenter in a wheelchair
- Lecterns made of rugged hard-shell plastic that can be rolled on or off a stage or even outdoors with their water-resistant designs
- Contemporary lecterns designed for today’s modern décor, featuring anodized aluminum uprights and Formica panels
- Acrylic lecterns made of tough acrylic material that provide an elegant, contemporary appearance, available in various standard tints as well as custom tints
- Steel podiums that can be used as valet stands for outdoor check-in at graduations or other special events
- Table-top models that are highly portable and easy on the budget
- Custom designs and customization options, including school logos on the front of the lectern
Today’s lectern tends to serve not only a speaking platform, but also a multimedia control center for sound, visual presentations and projectors, and more. Many models feature drop-leaf shelves or sliding drawer platforms that can accommodate multimedia projectors or other equipment. In addition, an expanding range of features are available to heighten the multimedia experience:
- Built-in PA systems, including either a gooseneck mic and XLR connection to plug into the house sound system
- Built-in wireless PA, with speakers, amplifier, wireless receiver, and various wireless mic options
- Generous storage cabinets, some with locking doors and adjustable shelves to configure your equipment
- Recessed monitor platforms that tuck the monitor down where it doesn’t block the audience’s view of the presenter
- Viewport monitors, by which the monitor is actually below the lectern reading table but viewable through a glass panel
- Roll-out keyboard drawers
- Reading lights
- Clock timers
- Rack rails for the installation of electronic components inside the lectern cabinet
- Control panels that can be configured to control not only sight and sound, but other elements such as room lighting
- Power handling accessories, such as outlet strips, USB charging docks, and wireless charging pads
Many multimedia lecterns have wheels and can be rolled in place onto the stage in minutes.
Another recent innovation is the digital signage lectern, which features a high-resolution HD display mounted into the front of the lectern, eliminating the need for a separate AV screen.
All of the above options are available made in the USA, with outstanding quality and ready availability.
Today’s school stages should reflect the complete range of capabilities that tech-savvy students and parents have come to expect. Fortunately, there are countless options available to suit a range of budgets, decors, and presentation needs.
Don Roth is CEO of AmpliVox Sound Systems, which has been manufacturing PA systems, lecterns, and multimedia furniture – most made in the USA – for nearly 70 years, www.ampli.com.