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Erin Doherty Ward recently remarked about her concerns regarding an existing third-party microphone for an event. She has now secured her own microphone, instead.

Our question today is, “What are the auctioneer handheld (and/or even headset or lavaliere) microphone dangers, if any?”

You are an auctioneer. You arrive to your event and are presented with a handheld microphone to use. Is there any danger? Maybe. The hazards include possible virusus and/or bacteria.

Here is an excerpt from the Mayo Clinic regarding some of the specifics:

    The length of time that cold and flu viruses can survive outside the body on an environmental surface varies greatly. But the suspected range is from a few seconds up to 48 hours, depending on the specific virus and the type of surface.
    Flu viruses tend to live longer on surfaces than cold viruses. Also, it is generally believed that cold and flu viruses survive for longer periods on nonporous surfaces — such as plastic, metal or wood — than they do on porous surfaces — such as fabric or paper.
    Although cold and flu viruses primarily spread from person-to-person contact, they can also spread from contact with contaminated objects or surfaces. The best way to avoid becoming infected with the cold or flu virus is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    The cause of strep throat is bacteria known as Streptococcus pyogenes, or group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus.
    Streptococcal bacteria are highly contagious. They can spread through airborne droplets when someone with the infection coughs or sneezes. You can also pick up the bacteria from a doorknob or other surface and transfer them to your nose or mouth. Kitchen utensils and bathroom objects are other common sources of infection transmission.

In other words, yes — there are potential hazards including virusus and bacteria from that handheld microphone, but these specific viral and/or bacteria risks probably don’t exist much over 48 hours from any prior contact.

Most professional-grade microphones and in-house systems have XLR connectivity. Auctioneers can largely expect any XLR-handheld to be usable in almost any auction scenario at a hotel, convention center, conference center or other commercial establishment.

However, here’s an important note about changing out that microphone:

    “Certainly providing your own microphone to replace an existing one may be prudent — but if you use your bare hands to make the swap, that virus and/or bacteria may transfer with your hands, thus largely mitigating the benefits of the microphone exchange …”

Incidentally, the above is a picture of a Shure 55S “Baby Unidyne” handheld microphone, commonly referred to an “Elvis Microphone” due to Elvis Presley’s frequent use of this model — which could be equally dangerous.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College of Business, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School and Faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University.