Lessons From A Wedding DJ
October 8, 2013
By always stepping up in our career, we can ensure that we are always operating on our chosen path. This sounds easy, but it is not. It takes time, work and lots of effort. If you can learn to control the situation before it controls you, it will be a tremendous advantage for you no matter what you are trying to accomplish.
FADE IT, LOSE IT
Earlier in my career, I was a DJ who did weddings and parties, like most DJs have done at one time or other during their career. I worked for a guy who taught me two things. First thing he taught me was, "If you hear it fade, you've waited TOO LONG." This refers to the music. The theory here was that if you allowed the song to play over the sound system until the audience could notice a "fade" in audio volume, that would indicate a "break" in programming.
His theory was that while DJ'ing, you don't want a break in programming that might allow the people on the dance floor to walk off. You want the volume and beat constant, the transitions seamless, so that the only way someone could ever leave the dance floor once they started dancing would be due to exhaustion, or at some point YOU as the DJ wanted them to walk off, and created a fade or an obvious transition.
Sure enough, by doing that, he was largely correct. I had never really thought about it until then, but he was right. You could keep the dance floor packed and the maximum amount of people having fun by mixing the beats and making the transitions as invisible as possible. Later in my career, the great Bob Vanderheyden taught me that "If it Thunders all the time, the Thunder ceases to be loud." Balancing these two lessons is always best. Don't let it fade, but don't go too loud too long. Read the room.
CONTROL IT OR IT CONTROLS YOU
While not allowing the volume or beats to fade was cool, his other lesson made the most sense and was applicable in other areas of life. It was about seizing the initiative and always maintaining control over the situation.
He would constantly preach at his staff of DJs that it was always best to control the situation. If you did not move to control it, the situation would inevitably control you. He was also right on this point, as I actually tested his theory a few times and proved him correct myself. He taught us to arrive early and be fully set up PRIOR to ANY GUEST arriving at the reception. It was always basically me and the wait staff setting tables hours before any ceremony would begin.
He showed us how to build a WRITTEN Format Clock that the wedding would follow. By doing this, you simply would move from event to event, executing on cue and controlling the situation. The audience always followed along. As the DJ, you were the emcee of sorts, first to announce the bouquet toss or the cutting of the cake, taking control over every aspect and directing people what to do. People in attendance always wanted leadership on what they should be doing. By giving it to them, it worked like a charm.
DANCE FLOOR IS OPEN
"Okay, we are now going to open the dance floor" was one of his favorites after the bride and groom series of dances were over. It sounds like a stupid thing to say, but again, it worked. When you would say that and start the first dance song, people would get up and make their way to the dance floor. If you didn't say that and simply started the dance song, it just wasn't as successful. The few brave souls would get up, but the others would not.
What we learned was you could control the situation. If you did nothing, the situation almost always controlled you. You would get folks coming up asking about songs, feeling (without saying it) that you were just not that good of a DJ. I tested his theories by not saying much of anything, and noticed immediately people looking around at others for their cue on what they should be doing, and coming to me to "offer suggestions" on what to do. Now, when I am in the mode of attending weddings of family friends' children, I am always watching the DJ to see what he or she does to control the situation. Sure enough, I see the same dynamics in play all these years later. Some basics never change. Some control, some are controlled.
You career is the same. By knowing your goals and having them in written form, you can always move to control the direction of your career. If you do not have a plan on where you are headed, there are plenty of people who are willing to tell you what you should be doing. If something happens that is not on your "Format Clock," simply reset and redirect in another direction where you are again in control.
Control the situation before it controls you. Some of the best advice I ever received, from what would seem to be an unlikely source, but was tremendously helpful - the wedding DJ.