Set up your own People's Mic

Over the past few weeks we've learned a lot through trial and error about what works well and what doesn't work so well when running The People's Mic. This guide should help you quickly get your own People's Mic set up on your local college campus, in a public park, or at your State Capitol. Set up your People's Mic anywhere crowds congregate and let your fellow citizens' voices be heard.

The PA we're currently using is a MIPRO MA-7070PA battery-powered self-contained unit with an extension speaker and speaker stands. Any dynamic microphone will work; we use a Shure SM58. You will need:

  1. battery-powered PA - MIPRO and Anchor Liberty are a couple of major brands
  2. dynamic microphone - Shure SM58 or similar; with or without its own on/off switch
  3. XLR cable, female to male
  4. extension speaker - pointing each speaker in a different direction helps cover a wider area
  5. speaker stands - elevating the speakers to above head level helps the sound carry better through the crowd
  6. stereo 1/4" male to 1/8" male auxiliary cable  - lets you plug in an iPod or laptop to play music or sound clips

Our entire system cost roughly $700. It is lightweight and can be easily transported at a moment's notice. It can be set up or packed up in less than 5 minutes.

Running your People's Mic

It's important that everyone has a chance to be heard. These tips will help you accomplish that:

  1. Be respectful of the public space in which you've chosen to set up. Cooperate with local law enforcement. Apply for any needed permits and emphasize that you are trying to support your fellow citizens' right to peaceful assembly and free speech. You are not trying to disrupt the peace or interfere with any kind of official government business. You are trying to let people's voices be heard and let their stories be told. Do not jeopardize this valuable tool for democracy with petty disagreements with local authorities. If you are asked to turn down the volume or leave, politely comply and work toward finding a more appropriate venue where your People's Mic can be run.
  2. One person should serve as the MC and at least one person should serve as a marshal for the line of speakers that forms.
  3. The MC should always get the mic back from each speaker after they're done. Do not let speakers hand the mic off to each other. The MC needs to maintain control and often will need to make announcements, especially for crowd control and safety.
  4. If there is a long line of speakers, it can help if the line marshal keeps a clipboard where a simple record of each person's number in line and the time they joined the line is tracked. You can give them a receipt with this information as well and explain to them that it's a system for making sure no one has to wait too long to speak and everyone will speak in the order in which they joined the line.
  5. Do not cut off any speaker. They have a right to be heard. However, gently signal to them and ask them to wrap it up if they are taking an unusually long time. Explain to them that we want to make sure everyone gets a chance to speak in a timely manner.
  6. Show the speaker how they should hold the mic: level (pointing down their throat, not like an ice cream cone) and close to their mouth. This makes the largest improvement in sound quality and ensures they can be heard.
  7. Sanitize the microphone using a disinfectant wipe between each speaker. The closer they get the mic to their mouth, the better they will be heard. Their lips may often accidentally touch the grille of the mic. Also, keep a bottle of hand sanitizer handy for use before and after speakers hold the microphone. Help keep everyone healthy. 
  8. Keep the speakers behind the plane of where the speakers are set up. Do not at any time let the mic be out in front of the PA and pointing at a speaker; this will cause squeals of feedback and damage both the PA and the crowd's hearing.

Let us know

Have you set up a People's Mic in your community? Let us know about it! Send an email to mic@peoplesmic.com so we can help you publicize it.