Someday I'm going to do a post entitled "The 10 Commandments for Presentation Techs." Know Thy Music will be number 4 or 5 (I haven't decided yet). On one level, it seems obvious. However, I have worked with people in the past who don't know the songs they are presenting for, and it shows. Then again, I've worked with some (more recently) that really do know the music, and again, it shows.
A few weeks ago I did a few examples of when to to change slides on fast songs and slow songs. While I tried to provide some guidance for when the changes should take place, the truth is that it's quite dependent on how the song is played. Really good presentation techs will drop changes between phrases so naturally people don't even notice that the words change--they just keep right on singing. Doing that requires a great familiarity with the music.
I had to run ProPresenter few months ago because the guy who was scheduled didn't show up. This was back in our old building and I was also TD'ing the service and switching video. However, because I knew the songs really well I was able to grab my Apple Remote and cue the slides, often without looking at the iMac's screen. I say that not to brag, but to point out that when you know the songs, and you know the presentation, you can get really good at presenting.
So how do you get to know the songs? A great way is to listen to them in advance. One thing I was looking forward to at Upper Room was being able to include the tech team in on the worship song distribution list. With our new church management software, we can post MP3 files for the band and tech team to listen to. Spending some time during the week with the music will help you listen for natural breaks and cueing points for slide changes. While we have to be careful with copyright issues (and there are ways to accomplish this legally), giving the tech team the ability to listen in advance is a great idea.
Another way is to really pay attention during the band rehearsal. We have tried to schedule our presentation tech's time in such a way that they can follow along in ProPresenter during the band's rehearsal time. The impetus for this schedule is to catch variations in our slides that need correcting. However, it's another great opportunity to learn the music and fine tune your cuing. A lot of techs I know will just follow along, only double checking lyrics. I suggest it's a better use of your time to practice your cuing.
Also, if you get copies of the charts (and you should) it doesn't hurt to look over them and make note of the phrasing and breaks that the songs contain. Again, we're looking for ways to make the song more singable by the congregation. The more familiar you are as a presentation operator, the more you can do that.
So there's commandment 4 (or 5). Now I need to work on the other 9...