By Kent Morris
Patterson is an energetic, resourceful audio tech based in Ivory Coast. We met when I was in his country to set up and run a large outdoor sound system for the government, and he was assigned as my assistant. As with most things in Africa, the sheer size of the continent meant challenges came into play at every turn from logistics to power, equipment to labor. For anyone accustomed to first-world efficiency, Africa offers a blunt reminder of the privilege afforded to a select portion of the tech industry working in relative splendor, while most of the world has to achieve success with far fewer resources at hand.
For his part, Patterson was, as is common in Ivory Coast, congenial and eager to move the project forward despite the obstacles we faced. To him, transport trucks stuck in the mud, subpar cabling, and power generators built during the Jimmy Carter administration were just part of the process, not show-stopping events. His perspective, I realized, was the key element to our success. My contribution as systems engineer and director was important, but his was vital. It never occurred to Patterson to be dismayed or disillusioned, for he knew we would find a way to have the rig up and running for the event. And, he was right.
Changing Our Perspective
Perspective plays an outsized role in determining success. I recall being a young tech involved with a massive evangelistic event and being assigned to run sound in a small breakout room. Intent on performing well, I focused on getting every detail right, though the room only seated a few hundred people. After an hour of success, the speaker inadvertently lowered the mic while reaching for a water bottle on the stage and pointed the element directly into the monitor’s horn. Naturally, a loud squeal ensued and all eyes turned toward me as I scrambled to stop the hideous noise.
Though it lasted but a moment, the feedback was all I could consider the next day. Distraught, I sought out my mentor, Bill Thrasher, who told me, “You did all within your capability to provide a seamless audio experience. Now, God knew from the dawn of time that centuries into the future you would be at that mixing console when a person would point a mic at a monitor, physics would take over, and feedback would occur. God had all those eons to prevent that feedback but chose not to, so, if He’s not worried about it, you shouldn’t be either.”
Events do not follow a linear or logical path. When something amiss arises, it’s usually negative. Worship leaders never reduce the number of vocalists just before service starts, and pastors never subtract slides from their presentation as they are walking to the platform. To expect otherwise is to risk disappointment at every turn. On the other hand, assuming the worst leads directly to bitterness and burnout. The best path forward is to prepare for last minute adjustments and to carry an attitude of calm confidence.
In 2021, no one is certain of anything, meaning our natural tech ability to assuage situations is vital to connecting with disillusioned believers and non-believers alike. Techs are used to things going wrong and tend to find ways to resolve, or at least mitigate, the issue. When this idea is applied to people, we can make a real difference in their lives by showing them the sky is not falling and things are not nearly as bad as they appear.
Kent Morris is a 40-year veteran of the AVL arena driven by passion for excellence tempered by the knowledge digital is a temporary state.