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Essential Steps for a Successful AV Upgrade Project

Before beginning any AV Upgrade project, it's important to take a few minutes to learn from the experiences and mistakes of others.

Any successful AV upgrade requires a thorough understanding of the problems or performance you are trying to address or overcome.  

Many problems can exist in your church facility, including:

  • Audio/Video issues
  • Dim lighting
  • Poorly designed or old equipment
  • Unskilled operators

Word of warning:  Putting new equipment into the same old design probably won't solve your problems. A full understanding of your current system and clarity of purpose in upgrading it is critical.  The fact of the matter is that a new system design may be warranted in the upgrade.   

This may seem too obvious to mention, but identification of the issues and clear communication with your pastor is YOUR responsibility.  In an effort to be a good steward, strive to explain the problems you are addressing as well as your  redesign strategy and equipment needs then justify your proposal with a realistic budget.   

Who is going to make all the decisions?
Each church has its own authority who will ultimately decide on its AV redesign strategy. It could be the pastor, the music minister, or even a committee. Before you start the process, make sure that you have recruited the right people (including willing volunteers!) to help you identify the problems unique to your church. Be sure to:

  • Make it a team effort.
  • Get volunteers who feel pride in being part of the project.
  • Spend a lot of time with tech people because they know all the details .
  • Don't rush or else you will end up making poor decisions.

Deciding the budget
Determining the budget can be a daunting task because AV upgrades are not initiated very often, technology is constantly evolving and because of the high visibility of the project within the church.   Some key tips to help make things easier for you are:

  • Make a point of visiting other churches of the same size.
  • Sit with their tech director and gain an understanding of what they do, how they use the equipment and lessons they have learned.
  • Learn how much they spent on their AV systems.
  • Include your tech team in the process; this will ensure that they are onboard and will often generate new ideas that you had not considered.
  • Prepare yourself for reactions from people outside the process.  Whether it's $10,000, $100,000 or $1,000,000, it's a lot of money.  Be mentally ready for the reactions you will receive and stay focused on the task at hand. 

Projects can be unpredictable
When determining and finalizing your budget and getting final approval, build in some room for the unexpected.  A 10% cushion is reasonable and can prevent having to ask for more funds to complete the job. The goal is a well-executed project that moves your ministry forward, not a distracting embarrassment. The unexpected WILL happen, things like:

  • Equipment failures or unexpected issues may arise.
  • Fabrication of a structure might be required to accommodate the new equipment.
  • Older buildings might require renovation to accommodate the new equipment.

Choosing a contractor
Your contractor can make or break your project.  Selecting the right contractor is another aspect of the project that you might find overwhelming.  Ask around and get referrals before pursuing proposals from three well-regarded contractors. What you will learn from them before and during the job is priceless.

Follow these guidelines when selecting a contractor:

  • Don't rely solely on the contractor's website to explain their experience and skills. Referrals, referrals, referrals!
  • Determine whether the contractor requires a proposal fee. Always try to avoid surprises.
  • Provide a clear picture of your (realistic) growth plan over the next 5-10 years. It is always better to tell contractors to go a little bigger than what you need now so that you might not require upgrades in the near future.
  • Require a site visit to your church.

Evaluate whether they really understand how you are going to use the system for your church. Some firms really get it, others not so much.
What level of service do you require or will they provide after the installation. Did we mention referrals?

Do you tell them your budget before the proposal?  We suggest providing them the sort of design you are considering rather than starting with the budget. 
Payment plan

Be sure to think about these points when deciding on a payment schedule:

  • Decide if you'll have to pay before or after the services are rendered.
  • Get everything in writing. Documentation is your best friend because conversations or verbal agreements don't hold up in a dispute.
  • What level of service will you need after the installation?

This is a Business Transaction
If you are considering doing business with friends, you are likely going to be disappointed if you are expecting lower costs. The same lessons apply as they would with any other contractor, but they can be more challenging because of your relationship.

Closing out the job

Be sure to think about the post-installation problems you may encounter and discuss them with the contractor you are thinking of choosing. Issues to consider include training staff, servicing the system, warrantees, and equipment maintenance.  The challenge in any project is to identify and anticipate the potential pitfalls so that you're ready if and when they arise.

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