Arise Day 2—Breakout Sessions

Today was a full day. Four breakout sessions full of good information and lots of notes. Not all of the information was directly applicable to me, but there was no shortage of good stuff. I learned something in each session, and have several things I want to go back an implement. For me, that's the measure of success for a breakout; did I learn something that will change what I do at my church. Honestly, there were so many good ideas it will take some time to sift through it all and develop a priority list.
As I said, I had four breakouts today. Rather than blindly post all of my notes (which, out of context, may make no sense at all), I'm going to pull out some key thoughts or quotes that I found especially helpful or insightful. At some future point, I may clean up my notes and put them all up here. Maybe someday when I'm out of idea for posts...
Session 1--Audio System Design
This a panel discussion led by TC Furlong included John Monitto of Meyer Sound, Craig Jannssen of Acoustic Dimmensions and Jeff Pelletier & Chris Gille of Willow Creek.
Here are my favorite bits.
  • When it comes to audio system design, what are the priorities? What is important to you? It's not about bragging rights, or who can spend the most money. It's about making sure you can fulfill the mission of the church.
  • Need to define who we are as a church. Are we highly presentational, or is teaching the most important thing? Or we may highly value community. Design the space to accomplish the goals which are defined by who we are.
  • When designing a system, many churches think they have someone who really knows there stuff. But that person may not really have the skills to design an entire system. They may just know more than everyone else (which collectively is next to nothing).
  • Next make sure you have someone who will help you put in good infrastructure. You can't go back and put more conduit in the slab. You can' t put more steel in the roof. Once the building is built, you've defined your experience for the next 50 years. [editorial: AMEN brothers! I've said this to every church I've ever talked to that was thinking about building or renovating a space. Very few actually do this, however, much to their own peril]
  • Acoustics are the primary infrastructure that you need to deal with. The reflections and acoustics in the room will be your enemy or your friend, depending on how the room is designed.
  • Line Arrays are not the be-all end-all. They are a tool to use for geometry. If you need to send sound a long ways coherently, the line array is a good choice. [editorial: Again, Amen. If one more person tells me we need to install a line array at CPC I'm going to throw up. Our maximum throw from speaker to the back row is like 40 feet for crying out loud]

Session 2--Thriving at Front of House

 Again, another panel discussion, this time led by the legendary Robert Scovill. Also at the table were Chris Gille & Scott Ragsdale of Willow. I have a lot more from this, but other points will take more unpacking.


  • "Mixing sound in church is one of the hardest job out there. Big-shot tour guys have it easy compared to church sound guys." Robert Scovill
  • Possible interpretations for "It's too loud."
    • "I would prefer a different style of music."
    • "I don't really like distorted guitar."
    • "I don't like the spectral balance of the PA system—especially where I am seated."
    • "The balances are out of whack; ie. one or two things are too loud."
  • Quick tip: Great way to help get a sound check going forward is to start with the vocals on in the PA. When they pick up the mic and start talking, they hear themselves and know things are working. It also helps you build a good mix, starting with the vocals instead of the music.
  • The difference between greatness and mediocrity is not measured by the quality of tools at your disposal but rather in the quality of your approach.
  • People think mixing is a technical skill, while it is technical, it's mainly a musical skill
  • Don't get into the trap of going to another church and ask, Why can't we be like that? Simple, we are not that church
Session 3--How to Keep a Volunteer for Life
Dennis Choy of North Coast Church in Vista, CA led this session. Dennis oversees some 65 volunteers and coordinates 18 services each weekend. Yeah, that was my reaction, too.
Basic Principles for Training & Maintaining Volunteers
  • Communicate to them (need to have clear expectations of what they are going to do for you. job descriptions
  • Cast vision. It's important that the team know where things are going.
  • Encourage. Encouragement works best when it's done regularly. Consistent encouragement goes a lot further than you know. The don't want to be on stage, they really just need a good pat on the back. Get the teaching pastors to go over and say hi and thanks to the volunteers. Even send a note from the sr pastor. Regular notes from me is also a good idea.
  • Training. So key. It's so unfair to bring a volunteer in and expect them to do a job that they are not well-trained on.
Keys to Retaining Volunteers
  • Prescreen them
  • Simplify things for them
  • Fire them (this will take some explaining at some point)
  • Inside information for them
  • Invest in them
  • Fix it for them
  • Empower them
  • Feed them (physically as well as spiritually)
There is a lot there in those bullets, much of which warrants additional explanation. I'll do that eventually.
Session 4--RF Immunity in a HD World
Featuring Nathan Miller and Mark Gilbert of Willow Creek. Much of this is shorthand, so I'll come back to this as well in future articles.

RF Dropouts
  • Loss of signal due to destructive interference.
  • Energy reflected off "big" metal objects cancel the main signal.
  • Set design for conference, a good "bad" example
  • Multipath is the issue
Avoiding Dropouts
  • Diversity receivers
  • Keep unnecessary metal objects around the antennas to a minimum
  • Test it! Walk around with the units
  • Positioning Antenna
  • Line of sight (overhead)
    • Different Orientation (angles)
    • Some distance between them
    • Combining transmitting antennas from IEMs—same path for main and interfering signals
  • Directional antennas for IEMs
Once again we have a ton of information that may not make sense without some context. Still, it's an idea of how much information I tried to pack into my brain today. It will take a few days to sort it out. That will have to wait, however as it's almost Friday… and Sunday's comin'!