Always Have a “Plan B”

Wireless mics, iPad interfaces, digital mixers, DSP’s, software, automation, etc., etc. are amazing tools that are designed to take what we do as technicians and boost it to the next level. AV gear today has unprecedented amounts of control, configuration, and all manner of auto-sensing, auto-adjusting parameters, so at times it seems that all we have to do is wish for a task, and it’s done.

This level of precision is great! But this amazing technology comes with a price. Instead of hard-wired switches, transistors, and circuits, we have digital software, microprocessors, and logic boards. And with those components comes a greater potential for problems. And regardless whether you’re dealing with analog or digital, the greatest problem creating component still exists… human error. These problems can range from minor inconveniences to major system failures, and we as techs need to be ready.

One thing I have taught techs over the years is a lesson that I learned the hard way…

Early in my technical ministry when I was very young and still green behind the ears so to speak, the tech director I worked under asked me to “handle” a particular church mega-event. Eagerly, I setup everything for the event, and things were great… for the first 20 minutes or so. Then the main amplifier stopped working. The event leaders had to resort to using a bullhorn to gain the crowd’s attention. Then our main lighting bar had a short, causing us to lose the main lights. I tried everything I could think of, and the only thing I accomplished was learning yet another lesson—the importance of having AV gear properly grounded (after receiving the shock of a lifetime because the ground pin on a plug had been removed). I was so embarrassed when the pastor had to call the tech director mid-event saying, “We got problems….”

Yes, I learned a lot that day, but the biggest thing I learned was to always have a “Plan B.”

Although we might wish otherwise, Murphy’s Law is still in effect: “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong at the worst possible moment.” Stuff will happen, wireless mics will fail, cables will go bad, amplifiers will die, things will short out, software will glitch, or settings will get erased. But if you plan for the potential for failure and have a “plan B,” you will be better prepared when crisis comes.

Here’s a common scenario for which you can formulate your own “Plan B”: The pastor’s wireless mic goes out mid-message. What is your course of action? What will you do? Switch to the pulpit mic? Have a spare wireless unit ready to go? Discuss your plans with your pastoral staff and your fellow techs so you can implement a “Plan B” for these kinds of situations.

We may not be able to prepare for every failure—catastrophic failures of cataclysmic proportions may still take place—but the common failure points? They can definitely can be prepared for with planned out backup procedures put in place.

Several years later at the same event where the amplifier and and main lighting bar went bonkers, someone stepped on a video cable backstage. The screen suddenly went “black.” I quickly discovered that the cable end had been broken off. But this time I had a “Plan B.” I grabbed a fresh cable from my bag, and in less than 2 minutes we were good to go.

We’d love to hear your “Plan B” ideas, and of course your stories of the time when “it all went wrong.”

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