The pastor’s wireless mic battery dies in the middle of the sermon; a plug-in decides it doesn’t like being plugged in right now; or the console locks up. In worship tech, things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes, they even crash and burn. What’s a tech to do in these situations? Clearly, throwing hands in the air and running out screaming do not constitute a professional response. Here are some better ways to deal with the inevitable tech booth emergencies.
- Put a buffer between you and disaster. Relying on Windows 10, AA batteries, and the guitarist remembering to not unplug immediately after the last song will result in major issues. For the pastor’s wireless mic, always have a wired dynamic handheld posted nearby for use the one time you forget to change the batteries before service. Back-up all digital devices on a regular basis. It is a good idea to develop muscle-memory for scene updates so that “store, store” becomes as natural as unmuting a mic. Also, store template scenes in several different locations and on different media so something will always be loadable quickly. Put the band on a mute group and automatically engage it as soon as the last note dies away. Any knocked over cymbal stands and unplugged cables will then not be amplified by the sound system.
- Always think about the “next.” A ROS (Run Of Show) is essential to know where you are and where you are going. If you can, talk someone into being your A2 (audio second) since it will dramatically improve your performance. The A2 handles everything except the mix. On large consoles, the A2 follows the order of service and takes care of unmuting groups, selecting the fat-channel and stays on COM (intercom) to discuss lunch plans. Software programs now make the ROS chore easier and more consistent. A new player in this arena is ShoFlo (shoflo.tv) event management software. While pen and paper work, they do not allow simultaneous updates and any change is local only. We are using ShoFlo with In Touch Ministries when Dr Charles Stanley is speaking at First Baptist Atlanta. It has improved our coordination by keeping everyone on track and allowing for quick changes when needed.
- Think simple to complex. When something goes wrong, it is usually the simplest part of the system at fault. A mic cable will typically have a problem before a microphone, and a mic will be the culprit before the console is to blame. So, have tested mics and cables ready to go in the booth and on the stage with someone (A2 or stage manager) assigned to deal with the problem immediately.
- What just changed? If things were going well and suddenly they are not, WE are usually the source of the problem. Either we muted something inadvertently, or we accidentally pulled up the wrong snapshot for the next song, or we have our finger on the wrong fader. Do not unmute at full volume! The embarrassment is bad enough for the mute mistake. Don’t make it worse with a full-throttle unmute. Instead, bring the muted channel back down, unmute, and steadily raise the level.
- As Pumbaa says in The Lion King, “Put your behind in your past.” Once an error has been made, our tendency is to dwell on it the rest of the service. Naturally, as perfectionists, this takes away our concentration and we make a second mistake, and a third, and thus “the service from not-heaven” ensues. To quote another Disney film, “Let it go.” It happened and all that matters now is that nothing else happens. So focus on now.
Live sound is a high-wire act with no net and no applause, so just sit back and enjoy the ride.