Can you imagine having to listen to the same person for 5 hours? Even if it was a great speaker – that’s a long time. Now let’s make things worse by starting that listening session early on a Sunday morning. Ugh! But, that’s exactly what some of our tech people (for example, camera operators) go through each week. They sit quietly in the isolated world of their dual-muff headsets and listen…and listen… and listen. With rehearsals and pre-service work, this can sometimes last for 5 or more hours.
As directors, what messages are we sending them? Are we making the experience enjoyable for them? Are we barking orders at them? Are we expressing frustration? Are we giving them endless “dead air” while we do other things?
Let’s put a minute on the clock and talk about some tips for making the tech experience a positive experience…
Serving in church tech presents an interesting cultural dynamic. We are working to create an experience for those attending the service. We are serving in a church – a place that should inherently care about people. However, we are tasked to care about the technology and controls at hand. In this regard, the “people” side of things can get lost. With that in mind here are some things from the video directing context that can help create a positive experience for your volunteers. These positive experiences will not only improve your “product” but can help you grow your team.
Leaders as workers
One thing that we have in place at The Ridge is that our video directors also serve as camera operators. This has brought many, significant benefits: It reminds directors what it feels like to be directed. It keeps them familiar with equipment and the capabilities. More importantly, hearing our other directors helps us learn from each other and it keeps us on the same page in terms of our directing style.
Think “radio” or “podcast”
The people that you communicate with over an intercom don’t get a chance to “switch stations” or click to another site – they are stuck with you. Are you communicating in a positive and engaging way? How about sharing a sentence or two occasionally about what is coming up? Try this over the comm… “Guys, this next song is one of my favorites – I can’t wait to see it on the screens.” The impact of that statement goes far beyond the 3 seconds it took to say it.
Direct with a smile
Continuing the theme of “radio” or “podcast” one thing that makes a huge impact on your team is for them to feel appreciated. Help them feel like they are making an impact by sharing your (positive) feelings. Everybody wants to know that their work matters. If someone creates a great moment – let them know with your words. They can’t see you smile so they need to hear it. Jon Swearingen is a great example of this kind of director. Check out the first video on this page and listen to the segment from 1:40-2:20. You’ll hear what I mean. Hearing this direction makes me want to be one of his camera ops.
When it comes to encouragement, a vague compliment like “good job” is about as powerful as telling someone “have a nice day”. If you are going to compliment – compliment specifically. This makes things personal and, more importantly, it makes things meaningful. In our church’s video team, we have a practice where the director compliments and/or thanks each camera op (specifically) over the intercom at the end of the morning. “Camera 2, that was some amazing stuff with the drummer today,” “Camera 3, I loved the way you paced your pushes with the music”. This can be hard, but please take the effort to do something like this. It really matters to your team. This technique can also help improve a poor performer. For example, if I have an operator struggling with something like headroom, I will specifically compliment the time when he/she gets it right: “Nice work camera 4, I love that headroom that you are showing me.” Encouraging the good work will help you get more of it.
Wrapping it up…
With all that in mind, let me encourage you in tech leadership. A wise man (actually he’s our lead pastor who is a big fan of church technical production) said “great tech in church is like having a great referee in sports – when it’s really good, you don’t notice that it’s there”. So, for all of you guys who are so good that you go unnoticed, let me tell you this: what you are doing is incredibly important and incredibly valued. We in the tech areas are often the “first impression” that people have of a church. We can be pivotal in creating “moments” in a service which, God willing, could change the course of someone’s life.
We get to be a part of what God is doing.
As I say (too many times) to our team members – isn’t it cool that we get to do this?
Title photo attribution: Jon Dunning