One of my biggest frustrations during a church service is when the media operator (the person running lyrics & sermon slides) just isn’t on the ball. It’s hard for the entire crowd not to be distracted when slides are early, late, or just not there; which is why the media operator is arguably the most important role on the production team.
It turns out that often times the mistakes made by media operators have more to do with a lack of training than a lack of talent.
With volunteers, a little direction goes a long way, so I’ve assembled this list of my seven favorite tips to help your media operator become a pro presenter (excuse the pun).
1. Focus up.
As tempting as your phone may be, you need to put it away. Remember, as the media operator, you are leading the crowd as much as the worship leader is. You need to be focused on your role in leading people into the throne room of the Creator, so don’t allow distractions to steal your attention.
2. Know your content. Know your people.
This one is huge. As a media operator, you should be every bit as familiar with the songs as the band is expected to be. Being familiar really helps you know where the band is going during a song. You should also make sure to run through slides as the band is rehearsing, just to confirm that your lyrics line up with their arrangement.
The same principle goes for sermon slides: Knowing what Scripture slides you do (or don’t) have will keep you from panicking when things don’t go exactly as expected. Bonus tip: Getting full teaching notes from your speaker makes it much easier to know when you’ll be using that sermon point or Scripture slide.
3. Lead worship. Follow sermon points.
If you only take one thing away from this post, make it this. People need to be led with lyric slides. Slow lyric slides take people completely out of the spirit of worship, especially people who are relying on the slides because they are unfamiliar with the songs. It’s so frustrating to me when media operators wait for the crowd to finish singing the current slide before moving on to the next. Doing this guarantees you will always be behind. As a rule of thumb, click on the next slide when the crowd is halfway through the last line of the current slide. This goes for group readings as well. If your crowd is reading slides together, be it Scripture or prayer, make sure to give some lead time on slides so that there isn’t an awkward pause between every slide.
The opposite is true for sermon slides. If you put up a sermon point too early, you’ll steal your speaker’s thunder. Wait for them to state their point before putting it on the screen. Another classic mistake for new media operators is to put up Scripture slides too early. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a speaker say they’re about to start reading (at which point, the media operator puts up a Scripture slide), then go into a five minute backstory that sets up the Scripture at hand. It’s always awkward to have the Scripture on the screens during that five minutes, so to prevent this, I tell my media operators to always wait until the speaker actually starts reading to put the Scripture up.
4. Watch the stage.
It may seem counter-intuitive not to stare at your computer screen, but watching the stage is one of the easiest ways to get your timing right for lyric slides. Worship leaders usually step away from the microphone for instrumentals, then step back up to the mic when it’s time to sing again. Watching your worship leader’s body language will help you nail timing, catch unexpected changes, and avoid the awkwardness of putting up lyrics ten seconds early (or worse, a few seconds late).
5. Mistakes are okay.
That’s right: It’s okay to make mistakes. We are imperfect beings and it’s how we learn. If you make a mistake, don’t panic. Just shake it off, correct your course, and move on. One point of clarification: Mistakes are okay, poor decisions are not. Clicking on the wrong slide is a mistake. Missing a cue because you were on Facebook is a poor decision.
6. Own your role!
You have been placed in this position because you are trusted. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and give direction when it’s needed. If the worship leader keeps singing a lyric that doesn’t match your slides, ask about it. If you see a spelling error in the message notes, fix it. If lyric slides need rearranging, rearrange them. Another excellent practice is to cue the rest of your team during videos. During our services, the media operator gives cues when there are 60 seconds, 30 seconds, 10 seconds, and 5 seconds left during a video. Being confident in your role and communicating with your team makes you invaluable.
7. Be flexible.
Even with the best of intentions, sometimes things come up last minute. Songs need to be changed, Scripture needs to be added, videos need to be cut. Don’t get frustrated; it will do nothing but distract you from what you are here to do. Instead, choose to be patient with your team and work together to make sure everyone is on the same page. Communication with your team will be the difference in flourishing and floundering during your services, so make sure to build relationships and keep open lines of communication with your worship team and your pastor. Your services will be better for it.