Pastors: Here Are 10 Things Your Sound Tech Wants to Tell You

You’ve seen it before. Your sermon is going great, but for some reason the sound tech is trying to distract you. They’re interpretive dancing a message to you. You’re supposed to do something—something is wrong—but what? It’s sermon charades!
It’s probably not that dramatic, but sometimes it’s hard to know what adjustments you need to make. Your sound tech can see things you might not be paying attention to—like how much of the sermon is left vs. how much time is left, or how close the mic is to your mouth.

Thankfully, Proclaim has put an end to the miming once and for all: you can now send messages from the booth to the stage using a confidence monitor. While some churches found humorous ways to test and implement this new feature, most of them used the preset messages we provided.

We’ve ranked the top 10 messages based on how often they were used. I’ll include possible hand signals for those of you still trying to interpret sound tech sign language.
So pastors, here are the top 10 things your sound person is trying to tell you:

1. Slow down

Pastors were reminded to slow down almost four times as much as they were asked to speed up. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that people talk faster when they’re actually in front of people. Practicing in a comfortable environment like home, the office, or an empty auditorium is a great way to establish your rhythm, but sometimes it takes a reminder or two to maintain your pace.
Possible hand signals: vertical push ups or high-fiving the air.

2. Speak louder

Nobody wants to be the person shouting into a microphone. It’s hard to listen to, and it looks like you don’t know really what you’re doing (or you’re strangely angry). But it’s also easy to over compensate and accidentally talk too quietly. Sometimes the problem is the microphone position (you’re not supposed to eat the microphone). But more often than that, tech people asked pastors to speak up.
Possible hand signals: hand-to-the-ear, a thumbs up jerking to the ceiling, or hands-cupping-mouth-into-a-megaphone.

3. Adjust microphone

This was barely used less than “speak louder.” When the sound booth can control the volume on your microphone, you don’t always need to talk louder to be louder. And even if you have everything perfectly adjusted at the beginning of your sermon, it’s possible for things to get out of whack as time goes on.
Possible hand signals: wringing out a towel or patting a cat’s head.

4. Finish

Skipping right over a five-minute warning, most sound techs simply told pastors when it was time to be done. Some people used custom messages to communicate this, with friendly reminders like “Wrap it up! I’m hungry!”
Possible hand signals: frantically drawing circles in the air or spreading out arms and running around like a maniac (land the plane).

5. Speed up

As I said before, pastors were asked to speed up nearly four times less than they were asked to slow down. In the heat of the moment with an audience in front of you, it’s easy to get passionate or unexpectedly stumble through a section you’ve practiced dozens of times. Adding impromptu passages of Scripture can slow things down as well (plus, it totally freaks out everyone in the sound booth). If your sound tech is asking you to speed up, you’ve got to pick up the pace or make everyone stay late.
Possible hand signals: spinning hands in a circle or tapping a watch (watch may be real or imaginary).

6. 10 minutes

This was the most common countdown sound techs gave their pastors. They’re not telling you how fast to go, they’re just letting you know how much time is left. 10 minutes gives you enough cushion to decide if there’s anything you need to cut out or if you have some room to take more time with your conclusion.
Possible hand signals: five fingers plus five fingers, or one finger plus a fist.

7. 5 minutes

Sound techs used this reminder almost as often as the 10 minute reminder. Chances are, it was mostly the same people. If you’re going to give a 10 minute reminder, why not give a five minute reminder, too?
Possible hand signals: five fingers—they aren’t just saying “Hi.”

8. 1 minute

A couple less people used the one-minute reminder. This one probably depends on how much you care about ending “on time.” If the men’s breakfast or church picnic is supposed to start right after the service, there’s probably a little more incentive to use the one-minute warning.
Possible hand signals: one finger in the air (note: finger may also wag back and forth like a ticking clock).

9. Switch microphones

If your sound tech is trying to tell you this, you may already be aware that there’s a problem. The mic might be cutting out, or the battery may have died. Or maybe you didn’t notice the “WORSHIP TEAM ONLY” label, and now your sermon is in autotune. Either way, it’s time to whip out your smooth transition jokes and brief interludes.
Possible hand signals: running to the stage with a new mic.

10. Speak Softer

It’s not your fault. You forgot you had a microphone in your hand. You got passionate about what you’d been learning from Scripture. You put the mic against your lips because you thought it would help people hear you. But now the ear plugs aren’t just for when the worship gets too loud.
Possible hand signals: cringing-with-hands-over-ears or a big thumbs down.

Ditch the hand signals

With Proclaim Church Presentation Software, you don’t have to make a scene to communicate with your team. Sending messages from booth to stage lets you make adjustments without being disruptive. Try Proclaim free for 30 days.
Download Proclaim.

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Written by
Ryan Nelson

Ryan Nelson is a writer for OverviewBible, where he uses Logos to explore the characters, groups, places, and books of the Bible. He has served in a variety of volunteer ministry positions, primarily through Young Life.

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Written by Ryan Nelson