The audiovisual (AV) specialist in the local church could be considered the “forgotten person.” Working behind the scenes, he or she is usually ignored except when the audio cuts out or loud feedback “squeals” are heard.

While a smaller church would be happy to find anyone with normal hearing to serve as an AV specialist, larger congregations can be more selective in fulfilling such a critical and demanding position. In addition to nominal technical skills, this person must possess certain personal traits. Can this person be content to work in the background with little attention or praise? Is he or she punctual? Can this person be depended on to open and test each microphone (mic) and piece of equipment in the system before the church is halffull? Will he or she take the time to attend rehearsals of special events that may require changes in mic locations, for instance? Will he or she graciously accept the criticism (due or undue) that inevitably accompanies any important position?

Following are seven suggestions to pass on to your AV specialist:

1. Avoid word clipping. When several microphones are being used on the rostrum, constantly opening and closing each one often results in missing the first few words of the prayer or the opening sentence of the sermon. Under normal circumstances, no harm results by leaving frequently-used mics “open.”

2. Prevent microphone feedback. Failing to prevent microphone feedback is the most common “atrocity” of public-address (PA) operators. Feedback occurs when the microphone picks up the amplified sound from a loudspeaker behind it and then sends the sound back to the same speaker, causing an endless-loop squeal. Therefore, a mic should not be directly in front of a loudspeaker. The setting at which feedback frequently occurs should be clearly marked on the mixer gain slider

3. Adjust mic levels. For each new person who speaks, the AV specialist must be alert to quickly adjust the loudness of the mic, since the new presenter will have a softer or louder voice than the preceding one. Presenters also vary in the distance their mouths are from the mic. Once the norm for a given speaker is established, the operator should not continually compensate for the speaker’s volume and inflection variations, for without them, a good speaker’s delivery would sound monotonous. Mixer board meters can be useful, but they cannot assess the subtleties of real-life situations. They cannot, for example, advise the AV specialist to increase the level for a large crowd and lower the volume for a smaller one. Even the difference of a few people can affect the acoustic balance. The operator’s ears should never be covered with headphones while he or she is determining the correct audio level.

4. Adjust mic heights. The AV specialist should delegate someone to sit in the front row and, if necessary, quickly adjust the height of the mic stand or the pulpit mic to accommodate the height of each new person on the podium. Of course, the volume should be cut while the stand or gooseneck is being adjusted.

5. Use rechargeable batteries. Nothing is more frustrating than having a wireless mic lose power halfway through a sermon. Some operators think they can judge when it is about time to replace a battery. To avoid having to discard a half-used battery every week to guard against failure, it is more economical to use rechargeable batteries. After the last Sabbath service, the batteries can be left to charge until the following Sabbath, thus ensuring no battery-power failures.

6. Avoid operator manipulation. The location of the PA system is crucial. If the audio mixer board’s location seems too remote or is not near the rear-center of the church, making real-time audio monitoring difficult, the AV specialist should delegate two or three deacons to sit in separate locations and signal when the volume is optimum. Allowing just anyone in the congregation to ask the operator to raise or lower the volume will result in the same dissatisfaction as allowing everyone access to the church thermostat.

7. Beware of ungrounded microphones. A pastor friend of mine was electrocuted in the baptistry after touching a wired but ungrounded mic. Although wired mics are rarely used in the baptistry these days, if one exists, it should be removed and replaced with a wireless one. No danger exists with any type of wireless mic, whether in the water or not. AV specialists are a vital link to a smooth, seamless church service. Pastors and church leaders should praise them periodically in public and in private, especially when they have handled special or demanding services well.

Alton D. Johnson is a retired pastor, chaplain, and chief audio technician in Calimesa, California, USA. This article first appeared in the April 2015 issue of Ministry: International Journal for Pastors. It has been lightly edited for Elder’s Digest. Used by permission.