Recording Focus Groups Using Lectern Microphones

Jul 24, 2012 | Focus Groups, Qualitative Research | 0 comments

Microphones used for recording focus groups should have two key features (from an audio quality perspective) – the ability to capture speech clearly and to block out ambient sounds.

Unidirectional Lectern Microphones – also known as Podium or Gooseneck microphones – have both these features and more.

Here’s a look at the pros and cons of using them:


Sensitivity to sound

Unidirectional lectern microphones are sensitive to sound coming from the front; this helps deliver really clear audio.

Also, because they are placed close to the speakers, the voice clarity is much better compared to a boundary or shotgun microphone.

Blocking out side conversations

Their unidirectional nature helps block out side-conversations and ambient sounds in the room (noise from the air conditioner, people moving, sounds from the hallway etc.).

In addition, the height of the microphones helps block out sounds coming from the table surface itself (papers shuffling, banging on the table etc.).

Mute button

Some lectern microphones also come with mute buttons so that participants can mute themselves out when they’re not talking or if they want to talk to the person sitting next to them without interrupting the focus group.


Lectern microphones are available in various lengths. Also, their flexible neck can be adjusted to a comfortable height and distance for each  participant. This improves both audio quality and comfort.


Multiple microphones needed

One obvious disadvantage is that separate microphones have to be set up for each member of the group.

Limited movement

The audio quality is substantially affected if a participant turns their face away from the microphone while speaking (since the mic is unidirectional).

Variants Available

Lectern microphones are available in fixed and desktop variants – both in wired and wireless versions.

They come in omnidirectional versions too, but those may not be too suitable for a focus group setup.

Here are a few examples:

Shure MX412 and MX418

Audio-Technica U857Q and U857QL


Watch this video for a comparison of these microphones.

Tips for Better Recording

Use pop filters

Pop filters soften plosive sounds (the p/b/t/k /g sounds) in speech.

Get the placement right

The ideal distance between a lectern microphone and the speaker is 6-12 inches . The distance between two microphones should be at least three times the distance between the microphone and speaker.

Use a shock mount

Using a shock mount will help minimize the transmission of sound from the table or mic stand to the microphone, thereby improving the quality of audio.

Loud speakers should face away from the mics

Loud speakers in the room should not radiate sound directly into the mics as this may cause feedback.

Use an audio mixer

Most audio systems with four or more microphones come with an audio mixer. These are devices that automatically turn on microphones that are in use and turn off those that are not.

Set aside time for demonstration

Before beginning the session, demonstrate to the group how the microphones work. Lay ground rules about using the mute button (if available) and explain why it’s important to face the microphone while speaking.

And as always, test your microphones and other recording gear before the live session.

Another type of microphone that’s great for recording focus groups is the boundary microphone. We’ll discuss that in the next post.

Till then, happy recording!

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