from my notebook

My head is full of thoughts, and I have to write them down.

A Tech Director’s Plea to Guest Speakers

If you ever travel and guest speak at other churches or events, this post is for you. I want to offer some advice and make a very, very big request – if you need to use PowerPoint, videos, pictures, or any kind of multimedia, please don’t walk in at the last-minute and hand it to someone, expecting them to magically make it happen. I want to try to help you understand what it does to us mentally and spiritually when you pop in with a surprise.

This is an age-old problem in church tech particularly. We want to help make your talk successful and everything you dreamed it would be, but we aren’t magicians. Tech takes planning and preparation. While some large churches may have multiple people and computers to work on your last-minute surprise, that’s not the case for us little guys. Once the service (or pre-service) is rolling, we can’t divert that same computer to doing something else.

I haven’t had this happen to me in quite a while until recently.  Just as were getting ready to roll pre-service, the guest speaker for the day came up to the booth and asked us to show a video from his website. He seemed baffled when I tried to explain that it wasn’t that simple. Then he asked us to play something from a DVD. Once again he was baffled as I tried to explain that I couldn’t set it up in ProPresenter now because it was already running audio and video, and the DVD player would override all that. Then he asked if we could project a picture, which turned out to be PDF, from his website. I did manage that one but only after downloading it and converting it to a .jpg.

I could tell he was disappointed as he left the booth. I was disappointed too, so I spent the first half of the service trying to download his video from the web on an older pc in the booth…to no avail. When I finally gave up, I realized I had missed most of the musical worship, I was totally distracted, and at the end of the day didn’t feel like had even been to church. Tech is distracting enough and requires real focus to get the job done and still be able to participate spiritually. I found myself totally out of it and disconnected, resulting in me not doing my job quite as well as I normally would have.

Normally the Pastor or I make contact with guests earlier in the week to avoid these problems, but we were both out of town all week this time and failed to do so. I’m not saying the speaker’s requests were impossible, but they were for us at that moment. We simply weren’t equipped to handle it. One of those problems I set out to rectify later that day, but the others are simply a matter of planning ahead based on our capabilities.

I’ve experienced this from the other side of the coin as well. During the several years I spent traveling with a singer/worship leader, I always checked out where we were going beforehand. Rarely ever did I walk into a church or any other venue without knowing what kind of equipment was going to be available or if I needed to carry my own in order to to do what we wanted to do.

It’s best for all concerned not to assume, walk in blindly, or surprise those trying to support you. Plan, prepare, and help us be part of the service or event as well.


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