The House Of Worship (HOW) market has existed for centuries for a variety of different industries. Carpenters and masons have worked extensively in this market ever since there have been buildings, providing the intricate woodcarvings and perfect stone archways that grace cathedrals all over the world.
Throughout the history of the church, there has always been a dedication to precision. When compared to this dexterity, our involvement in the church market as AV integrators seems far less significant. After all, AV is a very recent addition to this type of facility. In most churches anything beyond a pulpit microphone and a pair of speakers has really only happened in the last 40 years. But as the HOW market evolves and different media types begin to be utilized on a much greater scale, integrators must adapt to the changing landscape.
Unfortunately, I've noticed that many integrators don't seem to fully understand how these systems are being used. Even worse, the integrators who seem to miss this most are the dealers who claim to specialize in the HOW market.
Most HOW-specific integrators have evolved from a company that supplied some speakers, a handful of mics, an amp, and a small mixer to a company that offers the same package, just with more speakers and mics, and maybe a projector or two. They still view the market as it was 40 years ago, just with bigger buildings and a dash of video thrown in. In many traditional settings that may be the case, but as more and more churches embrace new technology and new ministry presentation methods, these integrators are being left behind.
This past week I took my wife to Stratford, Ontario, home of the Stratford Festival, to see a production of “Fiddler On The Roof". As I was watching the performance, I noted the similarities between the performance I was viewing and the presentation of many ministries across North America. The main character, Tevye, has quite a few asides throughout the play during which he engages directly with the audience. He is walking around an incredibly well lit stage (theatrically) much like a preacher in the today’s modern church. The concept was the same, but the play's audio and lighting was absolute perfection—far from what occurs in many modern HOW facilities.
There are two things that enable this level of performance:
1. The right equipment was specified from the start—they weren't trying to use a handheld where a lavaliere was required.
2. The staff was extensively trained on the equipment they were using.
As integrators work with modern churches, we need to better understand the goals they are trying to achieve. Many times they are attempting to recreate the look and feel of a performance just like the play I attended. However, all too often we approach HOW projects from a traditional HOW approach. We're just thinking church, not performance. We need to spend some time in great performance venues to grasp a greater understanding of how those facilities approach their AV needs. Only then will you truly understand the differences between the AV needs of a traditional HOW project and a modern media/performance-centric HOW project.
So here's how we can fix this and serve our modern HOW clients better.
1. Identify the different applications of each HOW project much more precisely, as this will determine how you approach the project.
2. Determine the proper equipment that fits the HOW project properly, even if standard HOW products won't work in the application. Many times you need to look at other markets to find the products that will be most effective in your HOW application.
3. Don't be afraid to think outside the traditional HOW box.
4. Plan and specify the appropriate amount of training required to properly teach the facilities' staff members on the equipment. Once you think you've specified enough time, add some more! If you train the end users properly, it will make your system look even better than they are. Alternately, if you don't train the end users properly, it doesn't matter how amazing your system is… it will look pitiful!
5. Plan for follow-up visits to continue to train end users and to tweak the system properly. As your users become more comfortable with the system, they will utilize more of the system and will need additional training (see point #4).