Addressing meetings of u3a groups

While we realise that most of you may not need these guidance notes, not everyone has experience of speaking to a large group of third agers. We hope that these guidelines will ensure that all your audience members can gain the fullest benefit from your presentation.

You can assume that a typical u3a audience (or for that matter any cross-section of the general public) will include a significant number of people with some hearing loss who will follow your words by a combination of normal hearing, hearing aids and reading your lips. You can also assume that a significant number will not have full sight or be able to discern every detail of your visual aids.

Helping audience members with hearing loss

Please do use a microphone. It is important to do so even if you have a strong voice, not least because people with hearing aids can often switch to a loop system that is activated through the mike.

If at all possible, allow time for a soundcheck.  Please do not simply start your presentation by saying “can everybody hear me?”  Ask someone to stand at the back of the room to check if you can be heard clearly over the sound system.

Assuming that you are using a PA system or an induction loop or both, a lapel microphone is best.  If you are using any other kind, hold it close to your chin, but not so as to obscure your lips.  Positioning is key. The optimum speaking position is about two widths of the hand from the mike. Too close to the mike, sound will boom. Too far from the mike, the level of voice pickup will be too low.

A clip-on mike is used differently from a hand-held one. Clip it onto your clothing and keep it about 30cm/12 inches from your mouth so as not to create overload and distortion.


  • Keep the distance fixed and speak normally.
  • Keep your voice as level and even as you can.
  • Face the audience,
  • Speak clearly and keep reasonably still.
  • If you need to move, don’t talk while you are moving.

Do make sure you know where the on / off switch is and make sure that the mike is ‘on’ before you start speaking.

If you are using projected visual aids, have your Monitor in front of you so as to avoid turning your back on the audience to look at the screen.

If you invite questions from the audience, remember that some members will not be able to hear a question posed from the floor.   Please repeat it before answering it.

If you are speaking from a printed text, consider having additional copies available to give to audience members.  (See also notes for helping audience members with sight loss.)

Helping audience members with sight loss

Please describe your Powerpoint or other visual display.  For example, say “this graph illustrates a 10% increase in membership over the past 12 months”, rather than “this graph proves my point...”.  Say “this photo shows the sun setting over Galway Bay, with a pink and orange horizon against a dark grey sea”, rather than “What a beautiful view!”

Allow people to come up at the end of the presentation to have a closer look at any objects you may have brought with you.

If you have hard copy handouts, please prepare them in accordance with clear print guidelines, with a minimum 14 point font size. In addition, have a digital copy which you can email to any member of the audience on request.

There is no need to shy away from words such as “see” or “look”!

N.B.  These notes are largely based on a variety of existing documents produced by a number of local u3a groups, to whom we are very grateful.

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