by Curt Taipale
We’re starting out a new year. You’re ready to dive in, determined that this year is going to be better than the last.
A good place to start is to take stock of how last year went. What went right? Who helped you make it right? Take them to lunch and thank them for their help.
What went wrong? Not just with December, but over the whole year. How could those issues have been averted? What would you do differently? Was there anyone in particular that you think fueled that fire? Take them to lunch and do your best to set things right.
What tools do you need to do your job better or more efficiently? Do you have the supplies you need? What systems do you need to put in place? How can you improve communication within your tech team and with other ministries in the church? Do you need to establish some boundaries to protect your time?
And start brainstorming. How can you improve the sound quality this year? If you use video graphics or lighting, what can you do to improve the process as well as the look? What special events are coming up this year that you could be thinking through right now? Do you need special training to equip your team to make those things happen?
Systems to Have in Place
As dull as the process can be, the engineer in you should make you want to put together a comprehensive inventory of all sound, video and lighting gear. Building a master list that includes all serial numbers and descriptions of AVL equipment should be part of your process. Note the date the item was purchased, what was paid for it, and even where it was purchased. A copy of that list should be kept in the church office for insurance purposes “just in case”.
If various ministries within your church borrow AVL gear, consider having a formal Equipment Check Out system. In other words, people don’t just run through the sanctuary and grab a mic stand or floor monitor or a couple of cables with the best of intentions to return them later! (They rarely do.) Unless you’re cool with coming in on Sunday morning only to find that the mics you pre-set on Thursday for the Children’s Choir are missing, you should exercise some system that controls how people can access the gear and, more importantly, ensures that it actually does get returned when promised.
It has been said that poor communication can keep any organization from being successful. What steps can you take to ensure open communication this year? Do you use any planning software to help your team stay on top of the schedule? If the entire tech team is you and Bob, and you always alternate weekends, then you don’t need an online planning system. But as your team grows, using some accessible, easy to use scheduling tool can help everyone remember who is taking responsibility for all things tech, especially for special events, rehearsals, etc.
Tools & Supplies
This is a good time to take stock of your tools and supplies. For goodness sake, if all you still have is that 15W soldering pencil and one cheap screwdriver, you’re just going to stay frustrated with the state of things. It’s time to get real. Maybe this is the year that you should go ahead and buy a quality set of screwdrivers, wire strippers, nut drivers and a couple of wrenches. It will be the best money you ever spent for the tech ministry. Maybe next year you can budget to buy that quality soldering station and vise. Once you have it, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it.
Beyond the batteries for wireless mics, do you have a well-organized supply of typical parts like XL connectors, quarter-inch plugs, Neutrik SpeakOn’s, BNC’s and RJ45’s? Do you have spare mic cables, speaker cables, video cables, CAT5 cables, and lighting extension cables? Possibly more important, do you have any rarely used specialty cables like XL Y-cords (both pin-to-dual-socket, and socket-to-dual-pin), quarter-inch Y-cords, insert patch cords, lighting two-fer’s, or VGA monitor extensions. Are you prepared for special cables when a guest speaker comes in and needs a different type of video connection than what you normally use? Think it through and make sure that you can handle any “surprise” connection need.
How long have you been putting off organizing the tech closet? Adding wood dowels to organize how cables are stored, building a work bench where you can handle simple repairs, including proper task lighting to do that work, ample shelving for storage as well as locking drawers to keep expensive items from walking off – all of those features will help you do your job better.
You can make this year better than last year. Less stressful. More fun. Better for everyone involved. Everyone reading this is in a different point in the process of getting organized. Know that you don’t need to do it all at once. I just encourage you to assess where you are with such things, pick something and get started. If you don’t take the step, then you’ll be asking yourself these same questions a year from now. Why go through another year of being frustrated by the little things when taking some small steps to get your tech life organized now will help you enjoy this year like none other.
Copyright 2015. Taipale Media Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Originally published in January 2013 issue of TFWM.