Monday, January 5, 2009

Speak Softly and No One Will Hear You

I've seen a number of toasts in my years as a wedding DJ. It's time to tell you what happened, what went wrong, and maybe I can hope you'll pick up some public speaking tips from this.

First, please realize that when I hand someone a microphone and say "it's hot", that means live, ready, ON! If I say I'll turn you up in a second, that means don't start talking until I get back to my board.

I understand the first urge is to tap on the microphone and say "Is this thing on? " Yes, it its, and unless you were here 2 hours ago for sound check, you might just have to trust me or your DJ for this brief moment.

It really amazes me how a piece of plastic and metal, powered by a 9 volt battery can turn about anyone into a 5 year old. It's like people have never heard their voices before, and say things that they wouldn't say normally. They make sounds they wouldn't make, and more.
When giving a toast at a wedding, realize the following:
Technically, we're (your DJ) trying to give our guess as to where you'll hold the microphone in relation to your mouth. That's why the volume is rarely right at first, but can be adjusted. If you need further analogies, try these. Rappers like feeling their lips on the microphone, that's because they can't hear themselves and want to confirm they're still talking. This way they can look around to see who MIGHT be still listening. If you gesture alot, remember you might only have one hand to do this with, as the other SHOULD MOST LIKELY STAY NEAR YOUR MOUTH (because it has a microphone in it.) Finally, please don't drop the microphone. We're expecting a lot, but as an audio professional, THAT, we're not expecting.
Your speech should be polite. Tell a story, after introducing yourself, but make it a short story with a point. The worst toasts I've seen include the 25 minutes of rambling "There was this one day, when me and Scott, the groom, went to the store, but didn't see anything. Then there was another day..." GET ON WITH IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There's also the reminder I have to give that if you want to stay this person's best friend, don't over embarrass them. After all, everyone that means anything to them, is probably in the room. Finally, if at any point you mention dating, Ex's, or nudity, make sure it's dating the current spouse, the first time they broke up, or nudity as an infant. Because it's not funny if someone is talking about you in any of the above contexts if it's your wedding.
If you're not sure about what to say, don't say anything. If you haven't prepared a speech, and you should have, don't mention that fact to anyone other than the DJ; ask the DJ for help or an anecdote, because I know I've got plenty, and would rather see a successful toast than another one bomb.

Mr. Plaid.

P.S. Hy-Vee Bridal Show, 5901 Westown Pkwy, West Des Moines, IA, on 1/11/08 from 10AM to 3PM. I'm presenting on the main stage!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The "T" Word

Tart? Terrible? Tanzanique?
The "T" word here is trust. There is a lot of trust involved in hiring a DJ for a life changing event such as a wedding. It's the same trust that is involved when you hire a photographer to capture your memories as images for you wedding album. In speaking with a photographer friend, he brought up the subject of insurance. Another colleague had recently taken several memory cards full of photos when during dinner he checked them and realized that one of his cards had failed. Photos and memories now lost forever, due to equipment failure. I recently too experienced a failure, but due to the venue. We blue a fuse due to the decorator having lights on my same circuit, when I was assured by the venue's event manager that everything would be fine and we wouldn't have a problem with it. We were down about 5 minutes, and when the manager wanted to unplug and switch me to another circuit later, I told him 'no'. That at that point in the evening, I was the priority (entertaining the crowd), and not the decorative lighting.

This is where the advice portion comes into this short article...
When you contract with a service or vendor, ask them about back up plans, equipment, and reliability. At the same time, the vendor is trusting you, the client. We're trusting that (and in my case) the check that you wrote us two days ago won't bounce. Even worse: the check you'll probably not remember to give us at the end of the night will be legible and be able to be cashed. I had a recent event with a similar situation. In my contract it states paid in full 48 hours in advance. This should lighten the stress of the evening and the awkward asking for a check at the end of the night.
Make sure you trust your vendor or contractor will be able to perform their duties within the scope of what they can control, and make sure that they won't be ready to pack up their gear before the event starts because they don't believe the client hasn't fulfilled their portion of the agreement. It comes down to rapport, trust, and doing your homework on /with your vendors.

Until next post,
Stay strong and remember "let's talk about it" doesn't mean "no" , it might mean "we can't afford it."

Mr. Plaid

Friday, June 20, 2008

More Valuable than the Rock on your Finger!

Most people reading this have already paused, looked at their finger, and thought "No Way...but I'm curious, what is it?" There's actually two things, but one will pass quickly.
The first thing, an expense if you will, is your sanity. You'll temporarily lose it, but you'll regret it's loss after the event, never knowing it was gone until you see the video, or don't hear your phone ringing with the friends you've PO'd during your "months of rage."
The really valuable commodity I'm thinking of today is your time. I hope you're saving a little bit of it for me and this blog, but more importantly, you need to have some for yourself and your soon to be spouse, prior to your big day.
Sure, you've got "the rest of your lives together" and all that stuff, but if you ruin your relationship by saying the wrong thing now, what are you going to do later? Don't say anything you'll regret, or do anything you don't discuss. You're "making memories" now, and all the other stupid / related wedding cliche's you can use there.
Consider this...and then reconsider this a second time a day or two later... Hire/empower a wedding coordinator! Your alternative to this is enslavement of a sibling or future ex-friend, but remember, it's your day. You want to remember it...the good parts. Not the part where you were cleaning up in your wedding dress/tuxedo, after your guests have departed. I can help with the reception part of the day (as a DJ, or as a DJ should) but you should still have someone with you to do your running, help carry stuff, or keep track of your "comfy shoes" until you can put them on after pictures.
Another note on selecting a person for this role...married may work better-they've been through this before, and know what you're going through. They may have a better perspective than someone who wants to do it because you're their best/only friend....go with the experience.

Mrs. Plaid, my better looking half/favorite half, has retired her title as DJ widow and taken a part time job as an event coordinator. It's good for her, and she has a great eye for detail. Her problem with this position is in people asking her opinion. She doesn't know when she should say what's on her mind, or tell them what they want to hear. With her well trained eye for style, and the other on the details, she's one of those people you want throughout the whole planning process. Pick some flowers, colors, and flavor of cake and that's about all she needs. The last two she worked on were tremendously successful, and she made a lot of good choices in her words. Don't get me wrong, her honesty isn't a bad thing, she just knows how a bride will want something to look or be when it's looked back upon.

The other downside, when I take a weekend off, I become the Coordinator Widower. We'll see how I like that role reversal.
In summary, take the time to enjoy your once in a lifetime event (I hope it's once), smell the roses, and hire/enslave an assistant. Get fussed over for a day because it'll be your turn to help a friend/relative soon enough.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

You DJ'd Under Where???

I was reminded today of an event I worked a few years ago. I went to a home in the Los Angeles area to DJ a going away/graduation party.
The party was for the client's daughter who was going away to a design school of some kind across the country. I had very little background on the event other than the address and the clients' name.
Disclaimer: As a DJ/Bodyguard, the way to act /being professional includes being unimpressed with celebrities. It has to be no big deal, and just treat them as a good friend.
Well, this philosophy came true on this day. As I loaded in, I saw strange creatures framed on the wall, and western paraphernalia mounted and displayed. Not much of it was immediately recognizable, so I asked (it probably made me look less impressed.) The client's wife told me that all of the items in the pool house (a.k.a. party room) were from "Ron's Movies".
So I put it together. Ron Underwood. Director. Tremors. City Slickers. The Adventures of Pluto Nash. Hmmm. That explained, at least, the cowboy gear and the worm looking thing on the wall. The party consisted of a lot of pool activities and a lot of fun party music. It's true, famous people like the basic party tunes too!
The truth about the Underwoods: They're great people, with a great family, and they've got excellent taste in DJs. My other comments about them would include modest, considerate, and that I'd work for them again if they had a wedding in the family. (I hope they find this in time.)
Moral of the story: treating people like people is usually the best policy, but treating celebrities like people, can make people feel normal and at ease. Putting up a front for people is fine, if that's what you want them to see. When I DJ, I'm not just providing a good time, but a little bit of personality. I want my clients to think of me positively, but not specifically for anything other than a successful event.

Thanks for stopping in,
Mr. Plaid

Monday, February 25, 2008

Celebrities and Charities (charity cases maybe)

I was hoping to save some of my celebrity stories for a later, slower time, but is happening upon us as we speak (or as you read.) This Saturday, March 1st, is the JDRF Walk, in the skywalk - here in Des Moines, Iowa.
For you warm weather folk, the skywalk is an elevated sidewalk that runs between certain buildings and give you shelter from bad weather. It doesn't connect every building, but most, allowing travel to be made by walking, and making it more tolerable.
Anyway, at this weekend's event, there'll be two areas with DJ's. One being myself, the other, a younger (college age) DJ. The other DJ was quick to volunteer to work with a local celebrity probably thinking it to be the "cooler" place and that he might make some connection. To do this, he dropped a line from his resume: "I worked at KGGO, (and other radio stations) so I will be well suited to work with Mr. Celebrity." I'm not one to get into a battle o'resumes, but I couldn't miss the opportunity. I gave the shorter version of, "I've also worked at KGGO, been in commercials, run live shows, run sporting events, spoken in front of audiences as large as 10,000, and been on TV. But I don't want to work with Mr. Celebrity, I didn't like the way he 'decorated' his room at the home and garden show..."
How could I pass that up? A chance to take a jab at a local celeb, and express some deep sarcasm at the same time? I couldn't miss it. Besides, if it ever comes up at work, I went to college with one of his co-workers; she's one of the news anchors at 6PM. She'd get a good laugh that I was poking fun.
This weekend I'll be in the skywalk, supporting and entertaining the thousands of folks out walking for JDRF. For more info, check out the JDRF web site: The theme this year is High School Musical, so you know I'll be rockin' !!!
So, to my Death by Wedding bloggers, here's this week's advice:
Feel free to ask for a DJ's resume when interviewing for one. Be aware that there have been a lot of radio station interns that think they can be a DJ full time, but the good radio DJ's are on the radio. Also, look for someone that has a diverse background, and has experience working in front of live audiences, you don't want panic to take over if something doesn't go right...go with experience.

Mr. Plaid
P.S. Check out the Mrs' Blog - a.k.a. Plaid is Rad
I scored some major Valentine's could be a good idea for you....

Monday, January 28, 2008

Deposit Deposit Here

Needing to reserve a wedding service by putting down a deposit isn't always a reason to believe you're getting a quality service. It also doesn't mean that you're putting a guarantee upon the success of that service either.

What a deposit does do, is support a contract or agreement, and give either party more in the way of legal grounds, to stand on, should the other party back out of the event or activity.

Story: The only part of "The Plaid Wedding" that we didn't pre-pay or give a deposit toward was our Disc Jockey. I had a friend in the business, a competitor, but still a friend offer to provide his services as a wedding gift, and therefore at no charge. The down side is that there were no expectations for quality of service or results. Basically, I knew what we were getting based on seeing him work before, and working with him in the past. And I was ok with that. But, there was also no contract. Not knowing, or remembering what date we told him our reception was, he not only booked himself on another event, but he double booked! He thought I could take the other job. Not being able to work, he hired the other good wedding DJ that we both knew. This was announced to us about a week and a half before our event.

Lessons learned: Don't hire friends on a handshake. Give them something, and it'll obligate them. Also, be clear on your expectations. By paying them, they know you're serious about what you want out of your event or what you want them to do. It's great to have someone save you money, on purpose, by not having a "pro" do the job, but remember that you get what you pay for, and you don't get what you don't pay for.

The final lesson learned, is that if My friend ever backs out of something that my wife is expecting....he may still be MY friend, but she'll always have "that thing" in the back of her mind. Screwing up your "once in a lifetime" event like a wedding reception isn't something that she'll just get over.

Be Strong, and Pay it Forward.
Mr. Plaid

Friday, January 25, 2008

Real, Fake, and what matters to a Groom

It's that time guys. Time for a moment of truth with your girlfriend, wife to be, or significant other....the time honored question "Real or Fake?" then "Can you Tell?"

One of my favorite topics really. Mrs. Plaid said fake, and I was really fine with that. As long as it felt right, tasted good, and came in the color she selected. Should I give more details? Or mention that I'm talking about our wedding cake?

We saved a mess of money by going with a fake cake for our event. Sheet cakes were served with matching icing accents, and no one knew the difference...EXCEPT MY WALLET! Our cake cost under $200. If it were real, it would have been about $700. I'm talking multi-tier, custom color matched icing, real/edible top tier, and basically iced styrofoam the rest of the way down. We had more than enough sheet cake for everyone.

Part 2 of this tip:
DON'T SAVE YOUR WEDDING CAKE TO EAT ON YOUR 1 YEAR ANNIVERSARY. Cake was not meant to last that long, and it's a miracle that more people don't get sick from it. My suggestion: Eat a slice on your monthly anniversary. For the price you paid for your whole fake cake ensemble, get another topper made for your 1 yr anniversary. Trust me on this one, you don't want to eat much of anything that's been around in the freezer for 1 year.

My take, is to "Go Fake."

Mr. Plaid