When Things Go Horribly Wrong

Anyone that follows me on Twitter probably knows we had some drama on Sunday. In case you missed it, here's the skinny. Everything was fine on Saturday. In fact, we put up some new drum mics and kept commenting on how great they sounded. Sunday morning, I came in, flipped on the system and started tweaking various effect settings while the band rehearsed. I though they sounded a bit quiet, but at first chalked it up to vocal conservation. But then I started pushing the system, and it didn't get much louder.

I grabbed my laptop and headed for the floor. Sure enough, no amount of push on the DCAs would get the level up. Finally we unplugged the front fills and discovered our main boxes were not running at all. This was about 15 minutes before doors. I started checking the patches, mutes, DCAs and everything else I could think of. My associate TD ran back to the amp room and saw no signal hitting the Soundwebs. We had signal on everything else the mixer should be sending out the stereo bus, so I asked him to re-boot them. We then got signal in, but no signal out. At about 8:50, I ran down to meet with my boss and the Sr. Pastor. I filled them in on what was happening, and we came up with a plan. Our Pastor did a quick announcement at the front of the service letting people know we were having problems and to enjoy worship anyway. The band then started the service.

For the first song set, Gary (my Assoc.) and I poured through the system looking for something simple to fix. I was twittering, texting and calling people who are more familiar with the PM-5D than I am. We didn't hit on anything. When Pastor got up to preach, I went back to the amp room and looked around some more. I ended up hooking a powered speaker up to the input of the Soundweb to verify signal. Sure enough, we were getting signal in, just not out. The Soundweb had finally died.

Between the 9 and 11, we set up some JBL Eons in the corners of the room and ran worship that way. The fact that it didn't sound too bad (aside from being horribly directional) may hinder our efforts to acquire a new PA. However, we made it through. So that's what happened. What did we learn?

It Pays To Stay Calm.

Even though the pressure was on, everyone stayed calm. No one started shouting, no one go overly stressed; everyone just went to work solving the problem. And that was huge--especially to our Sr. Pastor. I really believe that because the tech team was calm he was able to stay calm.

Remain Solutions Focused

Earlier in my career, I would have been very frustrated and angry at this event. I would have blamed the equipment, the guy that installed, the weather… However, with time comes (hopefully) maturity. And this time around, I tried hard to focus on this simple thought, "What happened and how do we fix it?" When I told my boss and our pastor that we lost the main speakers, I put it this way, "The mains are out. I don't yet know why, but we'll figure it out and do the best we can."

Once we figured it out, we came up with a temporary solution and then ran 3 scenarios for permanent ones. No excuses, no blaming, just solutions. That goes a long way toward building credibility with leadership.

Teamwork and Crowd-sourcing For the Win

Both my local team and extended network of friends helped solve the problem. When we first suspected an issue with the console, I texted a friend who works a lot more on the 5D than I have (thanks, Daniel!), and called our main FOH engineer. I twittered about it and had a dozen suggestions/responses in about 10 minutes. When we made the diagnosis and were brainstorming temporary solutions, it took 5 of us (me, my boss, my assoc. TD, our monitor engineer and the keys player) to come up with a good way to handle the 11 AM service. Now, any one of us could have come up with that on our own, but the five of us working together did it in about 30 seconds.

Remember too, that sometimes, this stuff just happens. There's nothing you can do about it. When you have a major equipment failure, don't blame yourself--come up with a solution. Also, resist the urge to do an, "I told you this would happen," even if you have, in fact, been telling everyone this would happen. That doesn't win points. Solutions are what will raise your credibility score, not blame fixing. Consider major failures an opportunity to move your plan forward. And always remain gracious.