I never used to give much thought to video when preaching in my previous church. I spoke, they recorded, put it on our website, and the world moved along. The camera was just something in the back of the church that I didn’t really pay much attention to. A week later, when you watched the video, it was from the perspective of someone sitting in the back pew of the church.
In my current church, things are a little different. The first service is broadcast on the radio on the regional classical radio station (WAUS), and the second service is streamed live and also put on the website. As a result, I’ve learned a few lessons about how it’s necessary to adjust when you will be heard on the radio or seen on video.
1. Welcome the listeners on the radio and viewers online. I never did this in my previous church. I just never thought about that audience “out there.” Dwight Nelson, our senior pastor, does an excellent job of this, and I’ve implemented in my own preaching. I usually insert the welcome when I reference the sermons series after the introduction. If I’m speaking in the first service, I might say something like, “Today we’re continuing in our series on _____. By the way, you might be driving in your car, or listening from the comfort of your couch at home: we’re glad you’re here.” It’s something small and really simple, but I think it completely changes the dynamics in the room.
During the second service, it would sound something like this, “Today we’re continuing in our series on _____. And I’d like to welcome all those watching from all over the world right now. Perhaps you’re watching from your computer, or iPad, or iPhone–we’re glad you’re here.” As I say that welcome, I’m looking directly into our middle camera, and that way I’ll be looking directly at the viewers as I’m welcoming them. Again, this is something small, but it helps the local church to remember that this is something that is beyond them.
I’ve seen several other churches do this really well. Craig Groeschel, senior pastor at LifeChurch.tv, does a fantastic job of welcoming online viewers and other “network” churches who are joining them. Sometimes he’ll mention by name the network churches who are joining them for the first time.
I was watching an online service at Forest Lake Church one time, and the speaker took a moment to mention some of the names of those who were streaming the service and welcomed them. It was really impressive because it made you feel like you were really a part of the church service.
2. For radio listeners, make sure to describe if you’re doing something that’s not obvious. For example, one time I was speaking in first service and I said, “This is what Jesus did to people’s concept of how God actually works (silent pause).” During that moment I pretended that I picked up a bucket, turned it upside down, and shook it. What I meant was very obvious to anyone watching me, but it wouldn’t have been obvious to someone listening on the radio. They would have just heard silence and had no idea what was happening, which is not good. I should have described what I was doing or done without that illustration.
On the flip side, though, that’s a great device to use if people are there. I was told after the message that anyone who was looking down at their phones during that time, immediately looked up to see what I was doing.
3. Remember that the listeners and viewers can’t see the audience. Recently, during an opening illustration, I said something like this: “How many of you have a Facebook account?” Many in the congregation turned around and noticed that around half of the congregation actually had one. I didn’t make any reference to how many had an account because it was already obvious to us, but I had forgotten about the radio and online audience.
By the way, a friend of mine (thanks KC), runs my PowerPoints whenever I speak, and I’ve made it a point to always debrief with him in between both of the services. Because he watches from our video control room, and has the same perspective as someone from the online audience, he’s been able to help me tweak things to make them more user-friendly. This, of course, is a great stand alone principle: if you have two services, always debrief with someone in between the services. This has usually helped to make my second service sermon a little clearer and better.
4. Don’t “turn” a page from your manuscript. I always write out a manuscript. In the past, I would always print out the manuscript, and then put it in a thin three-ring binder. I found it to be useful because I never had to worry about the sheets falling out and getting out-of-order. Because the camera that was used in my previous church was only for the purpose of recording the sermon, and not for image magnification, it wasn’t visually noticeable when I turned the page. At Pioneer, though, the cameras are used for the purpose of image magnification as well as for recording, which means that any small thing becomes quite noticeable. In other words, my page turning looked really bad.
How did I adjust? For one, I began to pay attention to what Pastor Dwight does. He doesn’t use a binder and flip pages. Instead, the pages are loose and he just slides one to the side. It’s completely unnoticeable on camera. I used that method the last time I spoke, and will continue to use that method whenever I speak where there are cameras or where image magnification is in place. It works really well.
I’m sure there are many other lessons that speakers should keep in mind in these kinds of contexts, but these are a few that have stood out to me.
So what about you? What would you add to the list? What are some lessons that you’ve learned when speaking for the radio or for video?