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Using Digital Signage to Engage and Motivate
By: Andy Phillips

Digital signage. No other medium makes it possible to deliver compelling content at the right location at the right time for maximum impact in any venue, including houses of worship.

Broadly defined, digital signage is any LCD, plasma screen, or other electronic display device used to broadcast customized messages (or "content") to a captive or passing audience.

For some churches, the extent of implementing digital signage is replacing the static letterboard next to the street with a scrolling LED message board. These dynamic marquees have certainly aided many congregations in reaching their larger communities.

Others have taken their signage farther, setting up a network of high-definition screens in the church itself, as well as rooms and buildings outside the worship area. Early adopters of this type of signage have included many large churches in multi-building complexes.

However, as the cost of implementing, managing, and maintaining digital signage continues to drop, smaller churches are beginning to see that, for a relatively modest investment, they too can use state-of-the-art signage to reach and connect with members.

Churches benefit from digital signage primarily because it improves communication with their congregations. During services or Mass, pastors can use it to enhance the spoken word in a way that resonates and encourages interaction.

Whether it's for announcing the day's Scripture readings and hymns or providing visual aids to a sermon or testimonies of faith, digital signage enables you to communicate with clarity, especially to members who are hearing-impaired or sight-impaired. It's also great for connecting with children and young adults, whose involvement is crucial to the future of every church.

Pastors can also use digital signage to engage and motivate those far from the pulpit or altar, in cry rooms, balconies, vestibules, side chapels, and even those in a remote building. An array of mounting options enables you to position flat-panel screens at optimum viewing angles.

Plus, it's multifunctional. Use multiple screens linked via a closed-circuit TV or data network to simulcast services around a building—then, in an instant, convert them to eye-catching messaging boards for emergency announcements. Use the same signage to announce meetings and events, encourage support for missions and special campaigns, and welcome new members and visitors.

Digital signage can also save you the time and expense it takes to disseminate—and correct—information. Printing copies of materials to post or hand out, and then having to fix mistakes and alert recipients to the errors can be time-consuming. But, with digital signage, you have the flexibility to update information on the fly.

What's more, the sleek, thin-bezel design of many screens keeps them from clashing with a building's décor and architecture, whether it's grandly ornate or modestly unadorned. Done right, it is technology that complements and amplifies your purpose without being a glaring distraction.

Thinking about including digital signage in a building expansion or just want to upgrade your AV system to include it? Start by:

* Defining your objectives
* Clearly defining the content
* Investing the time to understand your options
* Involving all the appropriate parties
* Deciding how to implement it

Next, proceed to choosing the right system, including content and media players, by determining:

* What type of content do you want to display?
* How many locations and displays do you want to run the content on?
* Will the content be the same on each screen, or do you want to show different content on different screens?
* How do you want to manage your content and screens and be able to update them?
* Based on their location, will you have potential security issues? Can someone tamper with or even remove the player(s) from a building that's frequently unlocked?
* Will you want to distribute content from a data network, and will you have the bandwidth to support digital signage traffic?

In many cases, you may be able to use just one screen connected to a standalone (non-networked) media player that gets its content from USB or flash storage drive that you manually plug into it.

But, if you want to play multiple zones of content, including a mix of recorded and live video, on a single screen, incorporate TV and Internet feeds, or control multiple screens over a network, you will need a higher-end system.

The good news is you don't have to settle for a one-size-fits-all solution. Manufacturers now offer scalable hardware and software solutions. You can start small and add screens and capabilities without replacing previously installed components, which means you can make a minimum investment in digital signage technology now and expand the system as fast as your congregation's resources will allow.

Andy Phillips is a copywriter for Black Box Network Services, www.blackbox.com.

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