Advice From An Old Guy: Do Your Research

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Those that know me are aware that I have a pretty deep sarcastic streak. So imagine my joy years ago when I learned of http://lmgtfy.com. What is http://lmgtfy.com? Let me Google that for you. I have to say, I’m a little disappointed that they removed the snark from it. Back when it first came out, it would show you how to use the Google then add, “Now, was that so hard?”

I admit that on more than one occasion, someone emailed me a question that would have been very easily answered by a quick Google search and I sent them a lmgtfy link. Sometimes, I just have a hard time with simple questions. Or, questions that someone could answer for themselves with less than 2 calories of effort.

Research First, Questions Second
Van sent me this topic suggestion and he and I have long lamented how many questions we get from people who are at the top of the question pipeline. Sending me or Van an email asking, “What’s the best PA?” is not a good question. Let me rephrase—you’ll not get a good answer from that question. And for the record, I’m going to preemptively tell you the answer is, “It depends.”

Now, if you are legitimately searching for a new PA for your space, I’m happy to help. However, it’s most helpful if you do a little research first. A quick Google search will turn up information about the various types of PAs—line arrays, point source,  powered, un-powered, flown, ground stacked—and where they are best suited. Armed with this knowledge, the dimensions of your room, and information on the style of worship you are doing, you can begin asking professionals for advice.

A better way to phrase the question would be like this:

“We are looking for a new PA for our room. Our space is about 80’ wide by 60’ deep with non-fixed seating. We have no acoustic treatment on the walls. FOH is off center near the back of the room. The stage is about 40’ wide and comes into the room 10’. Based on my initial research, I don’t think line arrays are the right fit, what have you used in that situation that might work well for us? Our budget is around $130K.”

I can answer that question, and I can do it with specifics. In fact, the answer you receive will help you make a much better decision than, “It depends.”

Look Up Simple Things Yourself
If I had a dollar for every question that went something along the lines of, “Do you know if product X will do Y?” I’d be able to another firearm to my collection. And here’s the dirty little secret; if you ask me that question, and if you get a response, I’m going to Google said product, download the manual and look (assuming I don’t already know off the top of my head). Here’s a ProTip—you can do the same thing!

It can often be difficult to differentiate between actual geniuses and those who know how to Google.

Though I’m increasingly coming to believe that social media is, by and large, a dumpster fire, the Internet is a great thing. Almost all the information in the universe is out there for the taking. And by opening your browser window, you can learn it all. I have but one caveat for you…

Avoid the Facebook Groups
Most of the time—and I’m probably going to cause some butt hurt here—the information you receive from most of the Facebook groups varies between unhelpful to worthless to incorrect. Consider our “Which PA is best?” question. I’ve seen variations on that query on Facebook, and the answers often go like this:

“We just put line arrays in. They’re great!”
“We just installed Adamson line arrays. We love them.”
“It depends.”
“Hire an integrator.”
“You should never use line arrays in a church. Point source are best.”
“Our church has K12s. They sound pretty good.”

None of those answers are helpful. Especially the last one—K12s do not sound good. Ever.

The Benefit of Research
Part of the blame is on the question asker—it’s simply a bad question. The other part of the problem is that most—not all, but most—of the people on those forums have a very limited world of experience. They simply don’t know what they don’t know. So it’s up to you to do some research, educate yourself and then ask actual professionals for advice. The double-bonus of this is that if you’re asking a true professional, you’ll get good advice—and you’ll know it’s good advice. And if you ask a non-professional, you’ll know they don’t really know what they’re talking about because their advice will be obviously bad.

Just know that when you ask advice, almost everyone has some inherent biases. That’s not necessarily bad, but you need to know. I’ve found it’s best to ask several actual experts before making a decision. Compare everyone’s suggestions and you’ll be able to arrive at a good conclusion. But it all starts with you learning something about the topic, then asking good questions.

View all the posts in this series.