Published in May 2006

Communicating With Church Leaders Part 3
By David Lee Jr., PhD

Trialability: Setting up a test drive.

Editor’s Note: This is the third installment of a five-part series.

     Most of us want to test-drive an innovation before we decide to purchase it.
     Most of us want to test-drive a technology before we recommend it to a client.
     Church leaders also want to test-drive new communication technologies before they purchase them for use in their Houses of Worship. In fancy terms, Rogers labeled testing or experimenting with an innovation as “trialability” [see Part 2, April 2006, referring to Everett M. Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations, Fifth Edition].
     Rogers argued that an innovation has a greater possibility of being adopted if it can be tested or observed in operation. In Part 2, I presented a brief overview of Rogers’ theory, which maintains that five primary attributes help to explain the adoption or rejection of an innovation: (a) relative advantage, (b) compatibility, (c) complexity, (d) trialability and (e) observ- ability. An innovation that has greater perceived advantages, that is compatible with the existing values of a person or organization, that is reasonably easy to use, that can be tried or tested and that provides positive, observable results has the greatest opportunity of being adopted.
     In our context as systems integrators, the trialability attribute suggests that providing opportunities for church leaders to experiment with media technologies can help these leaders evaluate the advantages of technologies, evaluate how the technology fits in with the social system in their House of Worship and evaluate the complexity of using the innovation. Thus, understanding the trialability attribute is important for communicating with church leaders and other clients.
     In Part 1 [April 2005] and 2, I pointed out that most church leaders do not have much knowledge about sophisticated audio and video equipment. You can help them determine the innovations they need by setting up test-drives of various types of media technologies.
     Most of you reading this know well that setting up opportunities for church leaders to experiment with media technologies can range from a simple visit and setup to a complicated venture. For example, arranging a demo of a wireless microphone typically would be considered a simple event. Arranging a demo of a line array, however, most likely would be viewed as a complicated or costly event.
     There are a few approaches you can pursue to provide an opportunity for church leaders to experiment with communication technologies. For leaders seeking smaller technologies such as wireless microphones or CD recorders,
• allow them to experiment with as many innovations as you can
• let them use this level of simple technologies for a week or so in their environment
• take the time to demo and train them how to use the innovation. Obviously, if you make sure the equipment is set up properly and they have a good understanding of how to use the innovation, the more likely they will have a positive experience using the equipment. In addition, you could allow them to try a variety of models and manufacturers of an innovation (such as wireless microphones), ranging from less-expensive to expensive. Setting up a demo in such a fashion is important because it will help church leaders understand both the quality that meets their communication need and the cost that fits their budget.
     You probably already employ these ideas or your own approach when simple-to-use or smaller technologies are sought. However, arranging a demo of complex media technologies such as large audio line-array systems or powerful video-projection systems is a challenge. Here is a real-world example of how I addressed this problem recently.
     A large House of Worship I am working with has determined that it needs to upgrade its audio, video projection and video production equipment. We are designing a major upgrade of its communication technologies. I had arranged for vendors to bring in and demo many of these media technologies. Some demos in the environment are a must. However, a solution I came up with, which is working so far in this case, was arranging for the leaders at this House of Worship to attend the upcoming InfoComm in Orlando in June.
     Getting these and other church leaders into InfoComm will cost less than arranging a shootout between the audio and video technologies needed in this particular House of Worship. These church leaders will be able to touch and observe a vast amount of media technologies in one setting. The vendors I am recommending are very happy to give special attention to my guests. I believe this could happen with your clients as well.
     Obviously, there are situations where a demo in the actual venue is the only way that leaders can experiment with certain media technologies. And the most likely way you can win the contract. However, whether church leaders are allowed to experiment with technologies in their setting or if they attend an event such as InfoComm or AES or NSCA, this points out that the trialability attribute and the need for setting up a test-drive of new communication technologies for church leaders is important for us to understand.
     We have to develop more creative ways of setting up test-drives for our clients. So I encourage you to find ways to get the communication technologies into the hands of church leaders to test-drive. Communicating with church leaders is vital to winning the media contract. Your willingness to set up test-drives will go a long way toward helping church leaders understand and purchase the technologies you recommend.

David Lee, PhD, is CEO of Lee Communication Inc., and a member of
Sound & Communications’ Technical Council. He travels extensively around the
world consulting with churches, organizations and governments. Send any
comments to him at

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