Audio Engineering Society

Chicago Section

Meeting Review, March 19th 2002


other meeting reports


3/19/02 Meeting Highlights
by Bob Zurek

Acoustical Implementation in the Real World: Is it possible to “convert” churches over to good acoustics?

On March 19th the AES Chicago Section was treated to a presentation by R. Bob Adams of Hoover & Keith, Inc entitled “Acoustical Implementation in the Real World: Is it possible to “convert” churches over to good acoustics?”. As opposed to a typical technical presentation, the meeting was an introduction in how a sound contractor should work with church customers.

R. Bob began with the question: “Is it possible to work with churches, make them happy, and still make money?” MR. Adams went on to show how to communicate technical audio and acoustic terms to the non–technical customer. He focused on the method of illustrating to communicate, showing how to describe such topics as multipath, feedback, and isolation. One of the situations that R. Bob brought up that is of increasing importance is acoustic isolation of pastors’ offices.

Another method that Mr. Adams used to define technical terms is to communicate the situation in threes. Mr. Adams explained that his customers are churches and churches believe in three. He used the analogy of the listening experience as a three-legged stool. All of the legs must be balanced for the stool to work correctly. The three legs of the Listening Experience in this case were Physical Acoustics, Noise, and Reinforcement. He emphasized that when dealing with a non-technical customer, “math is last.”

To Mr. Adams, the most important thing to know about a project is who is the decision maker. Once a designer knows who the decision maker is, that is the person the designer should focus on. R. Bob explained that church customer decision makers usually fall into one of three categories. The categories are the strong pastor, the strong committee, or the weak pastor & weak committee. Of the three Mr. Adams stated that with the weak pastor and weak committee the contractor must document the most, take the initiative, and address the person who signed the contract.

When dealing with the customer, Mr. Adams pointed out three key points: training, communication, and programming. In Mr. Adams opinion, a successful consultant will take the time to train the customer how to make an informed buying decision. A successful consultant will also take the time to communicate back to the customer what he heard then say to him. Finally, a consultant should communicate back to the customer what they are expecting in the form of a programming document. This programming document should cover the needs, wants of the customer as well as a budget assessment.

Mr. Adams stated that the key to communicating to the customer is Integrity. He showed that the consultant can express integrity through honesty, patience, a willingness to communicate, and concern for the needs of the customer. He pointed out that one of the very reasons that churches exist is to teach the preceding attributes.

Mr. Adams pointed out that there are some church clients that you do not want. He said you can identify these clients when: the church is not listening, the expectation cannot be met, or when budgets are not real. He went on to discuss how to professionally walk away from these clients through thorough documentation.

The presentation was concluded with examples of projects that R. Bob worked on and an interesting question and answer session that included topics such as “what should a system cost?”.