Don’t Flush Your Speech Down The Toilet

Remember that scene from The Naked Gun when Lt. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) goes to the bathroom with his microphone attached, sending his biological noises to a hall full of people?

Rep. Danny Davis, a Democratic Congressman from Chicago, had his Leslie Nielsen moment last week.

Mr. Davis, who recently launched a bid to become Chicago’s next mayor, was interviewed on WGN-AM radio when something unexpected happened. Here’s a recap (2020 update: Video is no longer available.):

It’s easy to poke fun at Rep. Davis (who dropped his mayoral bid late last week), but his is an easy mistake to make.

Technical crews at conferences often ask to “wire up” public speakers about 15 minutes before a speech begins. If the speaker decides to make a final stop to the restroom before the speech, the microphone remains attached.

I usually resist calls to be wired up too early, but I’ve been caught in that trap before. Luckily, I’ve always remembered to check the “off” switch before entering the men’s room.

CNN anchor Kyra Phillips (no relation) wasn’t so lucky when she famously went to the bathroom with her microphone attached in 2006. Even worse, she slammed her sister-in-law as a “control freak” — during a live address by President Bush.

How can you avoid this problem? Don’t wire up until you’re about to go on stage, or remove the microphone entirely during any breaks.

But occasionally, you won’t have that option, and the microphone will have to remain attached. Just keep Lt. Frank Drebin in mind whenever you’re wired by checking the power switch, and you’ll be fine.

Related: Toronto’s New Mayor Needs Media Training