Fly fishing Sunday night, I cast my new imitation blue dragonfly onto the water. A small fish, about five inches long, took the fly and the fight was on! OK, it wasn’t much of a fight. Not yet, anyway.
I pulled in my line, with the little fish in tow, when WHAM I got the surprise of the night. The WHAM was from a largemouth bass gulping down the fish on my line. No longer was I pulling in a tiny fish, I was now fighting with a 2- to 3-pound bass.
In my younger naive days, I would have fought with all I had and promptly snapped the light line. This time, with wisdom on my side, I let the bass take all the line it wanted because the only way I’d land it was if I slowly tired it out.
Production surprises, like my fishing story, can come at any moment. Whenever ANY type of surprise occurs, ranging from a mid-service equipment fail to a last-minute request for an extra microphone, the most important part of dealing with it is how you react…and having a plan makes all the difference.
I’m Talking Total Catastrophe
My church runs a digital system (mixer, snake, IEM system) all hooked into a couple of mix engines. If one of those mix engines fail, and they have failed, what do I do?
I could frantically run around and check every cable connection while muttering a few words under my breath. The congregation would notice my anxiety and the pastor would certainly notice it. Now, everyone is uncomfortable and they don’t know what will happen next.
Contrast that with a reaction in which I say there is an issue which will take about 5 or 10 minutes to resolve. I shut down our system, have the stage manager shut down the stage rack units, and then do a full system reboot, loading the saved settings into the system.
It’s OK that surprises happen. They happen to everyone. The difference is in how people react. Preparing your list of possible surprises and your reactions is a great way to be ready when the next one hits. The next time it happens, you will know exactly what to do.
Five Common Areas For Surprises
1) Last-minute requests. Conversations concerning last-minute requests can get into debating whether we “allow” these or not. For example, if a musician came up two minutes before the service and said, “instead of in-ears, I want to use a floor monitor.” Let’s push that conversation aside and talk about last-minute surprises that we have to accommodate.
A great example of a last-minute request with significant impact is that of adding a musician. Let’s say the worship leader comes up to you right before the service and says, “Chris is back from college and really wants to help lead worship today. Where can he plug in his guitar?” Let’s go with the assumption you have room on the stage and an available channel.
Plan on working through three areas; stage needs, monitoring needs, and mix changes
Start by evaluating the stage needs. You’ll need a stage drop for his guitar. Does he sing? Ask if he needs a vocal microphone. Next, where should he be on the stage? If he’s running through an amp then you don’t want that amp pointing at the keyboardist. You need to find the best setup given the existing stage arrangement.