5 Very Common Church Presentation Mistakes
Working as a media or tech director at a church is a stressful job. You’re usually there before anyone else, and stay longer than everyone else. You are never in the spotlight and rarely get the acknowledgement you deserve for how much you hold the service together. To be honest, the entire thing couldn’t happen without you. The band, the lights, the speaker system, the microphone, mixing, the sermon, sermon notes, etc. – it all heavily depends on you and your team to operate efficiently and effectively.
With all that responsibility comes the potential for disaster, and oh boy… anyone who’s worked in church tech for more than a year has a story or two about “disaster,” don’t we?
5 Very Common Church Presentation Mistakes
I’d argue that 95% of the time, “disaster” comes in the form of technology, and most often, that involves mistakes regarding your presentation software (or even just the computer being used for presentations.)
So with that in mind, here are 5 of the most common church presentation mistakes:
1) Forgetting to Turn Off WiFi
If you think the congregation is as excited as you to hear notification sounds and see text messages from your wife, you’re deceiving yourself. All joking aside, turning off your WiFi before service is SO important. Notifications, emails, and text messages can be a huge mood-killer and distraction in the middle of a worship setlist or sermon (and worship pastors – this applies to you too with your Ableton computers…)
Beyond the embarrassment of an unsolicited text message is the potential catastrophe of a random computer update. That’ll shut down your computer for a minimum of 20-minutes, essentially bringing all presentations to a screeching halt in the middle of a rehearsal (or worse, a church service.) Which leads to the next point…
2) Not Optimizing Computer Settings for Presentations
Your church computer needs to be set up different than your home computer. Battery settings, your desktop image, sleep settings, lock screens/passwords, etc. You probably understand this, but if your church computer isn’t optimized for presentations, here are things to keep in mind:
Turn off auto-sleep/lock screen options. If your computer is set to automatically go to sleep, it can be a nightmare. Even if that clock is set to an hour – it’s always a potential for disaster. Make sure you turn those settings completely off – you never want a screen going to sleep in-between rehearsal and first service, or between services. And in the event it does? Passwords are important.
Passwords need to be turned off or easily visible! You may know the password to the computer making it not a huge deal, but once you train in volunteers, this is especially important. Things may go great for 3-months before an incident, but when you’re out for a Sunday and the wrong person bumps the “power” button, you’re going to wish you turned off the lock-screen password or made it easily visible.
Either turn off passwords or put it on a sticker on the computer. Don’t write it on a sticky note that can easily be moved or thrown away. Tape that sucker to the soundboard or the edge of the computer.
Lastly, it should be obvious, but make sure all auto-update settings are turned off.
3) Not Running Fully Through Presentation Before Sunday
This is a common mistake. You’ve setup working presentations without any issues for 3 or 4 months straight. You decide it’s always safe and get lazy and don’t preview your entire presentation/run it as if it’s a Sunday morning. You get there on Sunday and all the sudden, transitions are off, videos aren’t playing right, lyrics are for the wrong version of a song, or something else goes wrong.
To put it in perspective, this type of approach to presentation preparation would be the equivalent of musicians showing up never having reviewed their charts or practiced the songs (and if you’re at a church where that’s the norm, you know the pain all-to-well that that causes…)
Run through your presentations. If you have a little 1-minute section from a secular TV show that’s being shown, make sure there’s no cuss words within 30-seconds of the section. Make sure videos are embedded so when you turn off WiFi, you don’t lose connection and the ability to play a video. Ensure you have the right version and form of the songs that your worship pastor is planning on playing. Make sure sermon slides are in the right order and you have all potential Bible verses your pastor will reference. Cross-reference your slides with the church bulletin/pamphlet for that weekend’s message.
Essentially, run through your presentation as if it’s Sunday morning and make sure the entire presentation is bulletproof.
4) Spellcheck, Spellcheck, Spellcheck
Did you check for typos? Cool. Did you do it again? Great. How about once more?
Typos are so illusive. They slip right by us, and I’m sure we’re all guilty of putting them on the big screen even after we were “sure” we ran over our presentation.
A good 3-step process for checking for typos is:
1 – Copy/paste all slide text into a program like Microsoft Word to check for potential typos and correct them. Then copy/paste back into your program.
2 – Carefully review every individual slide. Don’t just “read” the slides (your brain has the tendency to skip over words.) Carefully scan all letters.
3 – Have another set of eyes run over the presentation, and give them the heads up to look for grammatical errors or typos.
It seems dumb to be overly concerned about a small detail like a typo. “People will know what it meant anyways, right?” Yes, but it’s amazing just how easy it is to get distracted during church. A simple typo is enough for people to chuckle, get distracted and fixated on the issue, and miss the point being communicated. I can specifically recall a couple funny typos I’ve seen during church presentations, and honestly, I can’t tell you what the sermon was even about.
Proofread, get a friend to proofread, and do it again.
5) Too Much Text
I think where a lot of churches go wrong is not understanding the translation of presentation to comprehension. Just because you’re trying to get across a message of 100 words doesn’t mean that the best way for people to retain that is by loading your screen with it.
This is the case with Bible verses. If your pastor is reading a 10-verse section of scripture, don’t put the whole thing on one slide. Break it apart and flip between them as he reads.
If your pastor has a particularly long-form thought he wants on the slides, rather than pasting a massive essay on the screen, see if you can break it apart “cliff-note” style. Bullet points are a great way to make information easy to digest.
The moral of the story is – don’t overcrowd your slides with text. No one wants to read that much (and may not even be able too if it’s too small and too far away.) Keep it easy to read, easy to follow, easy to digest, and easy to write down.
About the Author
Chris Fleming is a professional musician from Minneapolis, MN who has played with artists such as Big Daddy Weave and Jason Gray. He is actively involved with the CCM worship scene and has contributed as a drummer, music director, song writer, and producer for various worship artists and churches locally and nationally. Chris serves as the Creative Director at Motion Worship, helping to write various blog posts and tutorials on production, stage, Ableton, music, design, and tons of other topics.