Sunday, November 29, 2015

So You're Engaged, Now What?

You'd be surprised at how many people ask advice of their wedding DJ about all aspects of the wedding.  Brides and grooms know that an experienced DJ has witnessed hundreds of wedding ceremonies and receptions, so we should have some value to provide, right?

So many newly engaged couples tell us that they don't know where to begin.  In other words, they don't even know how to start thinking about their wedding day.  That's the goal of this blog post, to help you develop a strategy for how to think about your wedding.  And, the best part of this suggestion is that it involves going out on a date!

If you're newly engaged, you've probably been dating for a while now.. So, going on a date to develop a strategy for wedding planning should be easy for you and even fun.  Your very first task is to develop a value structure for your wedding day.  I don't mean value in the sense of money, although it will ultimately help determine your budget.  I mean, value as in priorities.

Plan a date for just you and your fiancĂ©.  No one else is permitted at this point to join you in your discussion.  Ideally, plan a date where you and your fiance can have a relatively uninterrupted, focused discussion about your wedding day, dinner at your favorite restaurant, a walk in the park or something like that.  The goal of your discussion is to prioritize the elements of your wedding day experience.  When you think about your wedding day, what's most important to you?  Is the setting most important because you desire a rustic outdoor experience?  Or, is the food most important?  What about entertainment? Try to have agreement between the two of you as to the top three or four priorities.  Here are a some questions in no particular order to help you get there:

  • Is it important to you to have your wedding during a particular season (for those who live in areas that enjoy seasonal changes). Do you envision a spring wedding or a fall wedding?
  • Do you prefer a small gathering or a large gathering?
  • What words would you use to describe the type of experience you want to have?  Describe your wedding in just one or two words, for example - elegant, festive, informal, casual, traditional or other such description.
  • Is it important to you to be married in a church or will you want a secular ceremony elsewhere?
  • Is the venue or physical setting important to you?  For example, do you want an indoor experience or an outdoor experience?
  • When thinking about what you want guests to remember most about your wedding day, what are they? Delicious food?  Great entertainment? Beautiful floral arrangements?

There are many more questions along these lines, of course, but you see where we're going here.  By the time your date is over, you should have an agreed consensus about the top three or four priorities for your wedding day.  It should be such that if you can guarantee that these top priorities are fulfilled, you will enjoy the wedding of your dreams and everything else is really secondary.

Why is this exercise important for you to do?
  • It will give you and your fiancĂ© a shared idea for what you want to happen.  You'll both be on the same page for the most important decisions that are yet to come.
  • Others will give you a ton of unsolicited advice that will throw you off your game if you don't have your top priorities already lined up.  Now you'll be able to reply to well intentioned advisors by simply saying, thanks for your ideas but we've already discussed it and we're going with an outdoor wedding.
  • Your priority list will help you figure out your budget.  Be willing to pay a little more for those things that you've given top priority and be ok with spending less on low priority items.
  • You'll be better able to describe to your hired wedding vendors and professionals exactly the type of experience you want them to help you create. They will appreciate your thoughtfulness and candor.
  • Knowing your top priorities will help you put together a step by step action plan.  What to put in place first, who to call and when, etc. 
After your date, you should have a wedding day priority statement that summarizes your vision for the perfect wedding day.  Here are a few examples:
  • We want our wedding day to be a casual gathering of a small group of family and friends to happen on an early fall day at a rustic venue.  It's important that the food be out of this world!  We'll have a DJ play background music but if no one dances, that's ok because we're not really about the dancing anyway.
  • We want our wedding day to be an elegant gathering of about 300 guests in an urban setting overlooking the skyline of the city.  Music and dancing is key to our celebration!  We'll have a florist provide minimal decor to add to the venue's charm.
  • We want our wedding day to be a festive gathering of about 150 guests to happen on an early summer day at an outdoor venue under a tent.  Great food is a must!  Amazing floral arrangements will highlight the garden feel of the venue.  We'll have a small jazz band play background music during the reception.
This exercise will only work if you both understand that your initial goal is NOT to plan every detail of your wedding day in one sitting.  It just isn't a realistic goal and you'll both end up very frustrated if you try to do it.  The goal of your date is simply to agree on the top three or four wedding day priorities.  Once you have your agreed priorities in place, you can then bring trusted friends and advisors into the discussion to help with the details.  You'll find that if you begin your wedding planning activities by identifying top priorities first, everything else will fall into place pretty nicely.

I hope you found this wedding planning tip helpful.  Enjoy your date and please leave comments or suggestions for others in the comment section.  Best wishes!

Click here if you want to learn more about our DJ service or receive a price quote for your upcoming event!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Tips for Visiting Guests at Your Reception

Almost all of our clients, brides and grooms, share with us early in the planning process that one of their concerns is a slow moving reception.  They tell us they've been guests at other wedding receptions and they've experienced confusion about what's happening next, boredom, and a general - when will this party start - anxiety.  They don't want a slow moving, disjointed flow, or lack of flow, to their own reception.

One thing that often slows down the flow of the reception is when the bride and groom attempts to visit each table of guests, typically during dinner or toward the end of dinner.  Ironically, they are sometimes the reason for the very slowdown that they didn't want to happen in the first place. This is because most people do not know how to "butterfly" around a room.  If you've ever noticed a butterfly in a garden, you'll see that it quickly bounces from one flower to the next, not staying in any one place for very long.  For us humans, this is a learned skill that only priests and politicians have mastered.  It's precisely because their main goal when floating through a room is to say hello, be noticed, welcome guests and then move on.  It's not to engage in any type of drawn out reminiscing or storytelling.  It's not that they don't enjoy reminiscing or storytelling, it's just that they know this isn't the right time for it, if they want to honor and acknowledge all guests.

Brides and grooms, let's do a little math.  If you have 200 guests in a room and they are sitting at 25 tables of eight guests per table - how long will it take you to visit all tables if you spend just 3 minutes at each table?  The answer, a whopping one hour and 15 minutes!  What's happening during this time?  The DJ or band can't get the dancefloor going because traditionally, the first dance belongs to the bride and the groom.  I can tell you that this is one of the most frustrating points in the evening for DJs.  We often feel stuck because we know guests are getting antsy for the dancing to begin, yet we need
Two minutes at each table!
to wait for the bride and groom to finish their butterflying.

This blog article is not meant to talk you out of butterflying, although there are other options that we can cover in another post.  The purpose of this article is to give you a few easy tips to be an awesome butterfly!

1) Understand your goal is to thank and welcome guests, not to engage in storytelling.  Storytelling takes time and you can't control the duration of the story if you're not the one telling the story.  Many of your guests know that you're on a schedule but some have no idea about your reception timeline and will immediately begin to share a story about their recent vacation to Alaska.

2) Keep moving.  It's difficult to pin you down if you're physically moving.  Do the slow walk but don't stop for very long.  If you do stop, make it for just a few seconds to give someone a hug or shake hands.  Move on.

3) Stay together.  Have you ever heard the saying, divide and conquer?  This is true with couples who butterfly a room.  If you get separated, you'll never be able to visit all tables as a couple and you'll literally lose each other at your own reception.  Hold hands while you visit each table.

4) Blame the DJ.  I give my clients permission to use me as an excuse for moving on to the next table.  If you feel caught in the grips of a storyteller, simply say John, I want to hear more but our DJ has us on a tight schedule.  Or, Jenny let's get together to talk more, our DJ needs us soon to cut our cake, have our first dance, or whatever is next.  They'll understand and you won't seem rude about leaving on your own accord.

5) Two minutes or less.  Trust me, you will lose all sense of time on your wedding day.  So, try to keep under 90 seconds to two minutes or less at each table.  That will keep you to about 45 minutes, which is manageable and won't kill the flow of your reception.

Some clients suggest that they will eat their dinner quickly, knowing they'll be first served.  That will give them time to visit guests while guests are eating and thus not impede the timing of the reception.  This can certainly work as a time strategy but if you stop to think about it, do you really want to rush your dinner on your wedding day?  After a long day, you'll be hungry and need a brief rest.  Think about your dinner as half-time for your wedding day.  I think it's better to relax for a bit, enjoy your dinner and be an effective butterfly later.

I hope these butterfly tips help you to keep a fun exciting flow to your wedding reception.  If you have other strategies, please share them with us and our readers in the comment section.  Best wishes!

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

So You Want A Career in Entertainment?

In May of 2015 I was invited to speak to students at Strongsville, (Ohio) High School as part of their career day activities.  I was asked to speak to them about the entertainment industry and how best to get started in it.

As some people know I wear many hats, so when I was asked to participate I initially thought that it was to speak as the academic dean of an online college or to share stories of my 23 years in nonprofit charity work.  But this time it was simply to speak about being a professional mobile DJ and event specialist.  Knowing that not all of the creative types in high school are curious about DJ work I thought to broaden the topic a bit and speak to entering the creative fields in general: music, song writing, acting, comedy, and others.  What do these roles all have in common?

I was so very impressed with the response of the students.  They were eager to learn and ask questions. I had three groups each for 30 minutes.  For lack of a better format, I put together an outline which I am now using for this blog post.

So here are some of the points we covered in each session:

1) Many entertainers have dual careers.  Don't let that prevent you from pursuing your passion.

Although I hated to start off on this note, I felt it was important.  Most of the entertainers I know have day jobs.  They're accountants, school teachers, electricians, waitresses, you name it.  The harsh reality for most people wanting a career in entertainment is that making it to the full-time status where you are making enough money to support yourself comfortably takes some time.  I'm not saying that it is impossible because it can certainly happen but I just wanted them to know it's ok and probably necessary to have dual careers.

2) The most successful entertainers are those who also view themselves as entrepreneurs.

Here's the biggie.  Students may feel that they're talented in some way but they don't really consider themselves entrepreneurs.  Why is this important?  As I shared with the students, from the day you are born to the day you turn 18 there are people in your life who either get paid to provide creative outlets for you or who volunteer their time to do so.  These people are typically band directors, choir directors, art teachers, voice coaches, music teachers, theater directors, poetry coaches, and so on.  When you turn 18 all of that goes away.  Creative types must consider themselves entrepreneurs because most likely they'll need to fashion a business structure around their talent to continue to hone their skill, promote their work and hopefully, in the end, make some money.  They need to do for themselves what adults were doing for them when they were kids.

3) Entertainers practice their craft while they learn to run a business, specifically their own "do it yourself" (DIY) media company.

You must be your own promoter at least initially.  That means that savvy entertainers are also savvy "mediapreneurs".

4) You are in the list building business.  Build your own fan base.

As a mediapreneur, entertainers need to utilize the technology that is now available to them to share their work and their passion.  Social media is one very powerful way to accomplish this.  Entertainers are essentially in the list building business - the list of followers and fans who care about them, the work they do and their next project.

Nick Gatfield, CEO at Sony, shares with us in this 10 minute video interview the importance of growing your fan base.  The truth is, you'll need to do it yourself until they decide to pay attention to you.  Watch, How To Make It In Music.  If you're in a hurry start it at 3 minutes and end at 4 minutes.

Julia Nunes is a wonderful example of a grass roots, organic, DIY entertainer.  She started initially posting video to Youtube of her playing the ukulele and singing cover songs along with some of her own original stuff.  It was her attempt of simply staying in touch with her high school friends while in college to let them know what she was working on.  She was surprised when many others saw her videos, liked them and began following.  It helps, of course if one is truly talented as she is and also likable.  The likability factor is fodder for another blog post someday but suffice it to say Julia was on her way to building a strong list of devoted fans.  Some of her videos now have over 1 million views.  She has over 200,000 subscribers to her Youtube channel.

Pomplamoose is another example of self-made, DIY entertainers.  In fact, they went on to spearhead some very creative new ways for fans to support their work.  More about that in a minute.  Take some time to click on them at the link above enjoy their unique sound.

The Piano Guys own a music store and enjoyed recording impromptu jams when business was slow.  The idea of taking a grand piano on the road to unlikely concert spots such as riverbeds, mountain tops, bridges, etc. was the wacky unique twist that many followers loved.  The thing that I like about the Piano Guys is that they're older, mature men who break the mold of the twenty something, hip, gen y entertainer.  They have a business, they're family men and they just also happen to be amazing musicians and again, very likable.  Check them out at the link above before moving on.

These entertainers and thousands of others have discovered the secret sauce - share your work via the internet, develop and grow a list of followers.  Not only are your followers excited to help you advance your talent, they're also willing to buy your stuff!

5) You must sell yourself, so marketing and promotion is key.  If you don't like these activities you'll need to partner with someone who does.

To piggyback on what we've just covered, entertainers must think of themselves as businessmen and businesswomen as well as entertainers.  If the entertainer does not possess the skills to act as an entrepreneur they'll need to find someone who does.  This really is not a new construct but the way entertainers go about their list building and selling is now very new and different thanks to computer technology and the internet.

6) Some entertainers join small groups or collectives of others who are pursuing similar careers.  They support each other and share resources.

Entertainers are a close knit "band" of people and for the most part they really do want to help each other succeed. It's this magic glue that enables musicians who play traditional big band jazz to get along with members of a hip hop group.  The genre doesn't act as an obstacle to mutual respect.  All performers have the common challenge of creating, performing, promoting, etc.

A small collaborative in northeast Ohio is Euclid City Limits.  This group of folk musicians purchased a house in a suburb of Cleveland, remodeled the inside to create a mini-concert venue.  50 people would be a sellout.  The goal really is to have a safe, supportive place for musicians to practice their skill, mentor each other and promote (list build).  I am impressed with the work they're doing and am happy to share their work in this post.  Many such collaboratives exist, albeit sometimes hidden, across the country.

7) You need to monetize your talent. Doing free stuff is fine for a short while but start asking for $$$ as soon as possible.

There is an awful myth that permeates our society that suggests people who pursue a career in the arts and entertainment do not need to make money to feel fulfilled.  This is also found in the social service, education, and charity (caring) fields.  I say bull crap (is bullcrap one word or two?).  If you have a special skill or talent you should get paid to share it just as an electrician gets paid to wire a house.  In our ever turbulent, stressful world, there is a demand for art and entertainment that is financially quantifiable, even if it offers nothing more than a temporary escape from the real world.  I happen to believe it offers much more than just an escape.

The truth is, if you offer your talent for free, people will simply want more free stuff.  Now I'm not saying that you shouldn't do free stuff, you should.  If you're just getting started and need to practice your skill, ok.  If you want to donate to charity, ok.  But the sooner you move from free to paid, the sooner you'll be seen as a professional.  I'm also not suggesting that you need to be expensive, you don't.  Charge a reasonable and affordable amount of money for your talent until you get asked to be the half time act in the super bowl.  Then charge a bunch of money and retire!

The entertainer in you will not know how to ask for money for your talent.  That is why you must also develop the entrepreneur-self.  That side of you will indeed find a way to charge for your work.

New, creative ways to direct follower support and funding to artists and entertainers are available.  Jack Conte, part of the Pomplamoose duo, speaks to his back story of being an independent musician and content creator, the birth of and more.  If you are a serious entertainer and entrepreneur, put on some coffee, get cozy and watch this video (24 minutes).  Click here to watch Jack Conte describe the birth of! is a crowd funding mechanism of sorts for digital content creators.  You can think of it as a dating service for creative types and people who might follow them/fans.  Best of all, it is a way for the flow of money to make its way to the entertainer.  Remember my story of the ukulele player Julia Nunes?  Go to the following link to see how much money her fans send her for each new video!  Click here for Julia!  Aside from Patreon, Julia sells CDs, digitized music through iTunes, concerts, t-shirts and more!

8) Develop a platform to help others.

If you really want to get fancy with your talent and entrepreneurial skills, develop a "platform" upon which many others can find success, such as  Another example includes  See my profile there at this link: Gigmasters connects event planners with a variety of entertainers from wedding DJs, bands, magicians and more!  Gigmasters charges entertainers a nominal $1 a day to maintain a profile and wants 5% of gigs that are booked through their site.  The customer can pay the 5% or the entertainer can absorb that cost.  Am I happy to share 5% of $1,000 that I know will come to me? You bet I am!

9) Last, how to get started - Find a mentor if you can and incorporate all of their good ideas.  Most people will help you if they believe that you are sincere.

I saved the best for last because although we creative types have more technology at our fingertips than ever to build our empire, there is nothing more valuable than a mentor who is already successful doing what you want to do.  I credit friend and associate, Dennis McNulty, for introducing me to the professional mobile DJ industry in the late 1980's.  He patiently taught me not only the technical aspects of disc jockey work but also the people side, the entrepreneurial aspects of marketing, promoting and charging money for providing a creative service.

Shadowing someone who is essentially a teacher will get you going very quickly.  Weave into this experience the latest technologies and strategies for marketing and promotion, social media, etc. and you'll be in good shape.

10) We're not done yet.  I truly want to hear from readers about their experiences.  Comment on this blog post, visit my website, leave an email.  Friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. Nothing would give me greater satisfaction than hearing from you and, who knows, maybe even helping each other along the way.

Click here if you want to learn more about our DJ service or receive a price quote for your upcoming event!