Wedding DJ Think Tank, Milton Keynes
I entered the mobile DJ game relatively late in life at the age of 37 (ish) and, like most others, started right at the very bottom of the pile. In my case, this involved playing on grotty nightclub CD decks while simultaneously pulling pints in a German 'Tanz Pub' full of Brits. Back in the UK, I setup as a mobile DJ business with low prices and (looking back now) low standards! However, through my eventual membership of the NADJ, I began to see a far more appealing way to do things. I met DJs who strove hard to present a better show, who actually seemed to have a passion for the service they provided to their clients and who, on the whole, seemed to be thoroughly decent people trying to better themselves and the industry they love.
I enquired as to where I could learn to improve my skills and was pointed to an event called Pro DJ UK, held near Nottingham (this was six years ago). There I listened to seminars and presentations from speakers sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm, describing how they learned their skills the hard way through trial and error. Here they were in front of me, freely passing on that information just because they cared!
The next couple of events I attended were for NADJ AGMs. Each of those annual events were packed with seminars from speakers urging me (well, I know I wasn't alone, but it felt like each of those presenters were talking directly to me!) to up my game. I was inspired to become more professional, at least in terms of standards, if not in financial terms.
I think it was at one of those events where I first came across Mr Derek Pengelly. His soft spoken but very assured and delightful personality came across very easily and I was immediately hooked. I eventually signed up for several of his workshop courses and since then have never looked back.
Then, of course, the Pro Mobile Conference came along and raised the bar even higher! What a total privilege to be educated by some of the world's greatest practitioners in their field, the Randy Bartletts and the Peter Merrys of this world! Being energised and inspired by other DJs, such as Derek himself, Alan Marshall, and Martin Keogh (who, incidentally, are all mature students of the great aforementioned people!), has helped me to raise my own bar from that of a novice only 6 or 7 years ago to someone who really aspires to be like these established industry leaders.
However, a couple of months ago when I saw the Milton Keynes Think Tank being advertised by Derek Pengelly and Alan Marshall, I have to admit that I initially hesitated to sign up. I couldn’t help thinking, “what else could I do with the £195 plus hotel and travel costs! Then something clicked. My brain woke up and said “Leslie Ball, would you wake up, wise up, and get up!!” I had put into practice many of the wonderful things I had learnt from the workshops and events I had previously attended, but over the past six months or so I had started to get bored explaining the same old 'spotlight' moments to my brides and grooms over and over again. While to them it was all new, they'd heard nothing like it before, to me it was stale and boring and I was looking for a re-fresh.
So I duly signed up, paid my money for both days. And waited. And waited. And waited! Eventually the weekend arrived and on Sunday the 2nd of April I found myself at the Milton Keynes Hilton Hotel with all the best exponents of the industry that I could think of! I'm not going to name all the names, but many of the DJs who I have looked up to for a long time were there to freely impart their knowledge, skills, ideas, and stories. What was I doing there? Who gave me the right to be in such esteemed company? Had I earned some mysterious right to be amongst these people? Had I won a competition? The answer came from Mr Pengelly himself – we had all earned the right to be there simply by wanting to improve what we do for our Brides!
I won't go into all the detail, but suffice to say I was blown away by those who shared their stories and presented talks. I was moved to tears by a video testimonial shown by Martin Keogh from a bride who lost her father to illness the day before her wedding. Demonstrating raw emotion, she told the story of the wedding going ahead, the after party the following day, and the wake the day after that (Martin was invited, having built such a strong bond with the family during the planning process and wedding party events). To play such an intimate part in someone’s wedding day in those circumstances is simply humbling. There's only one way to perform as a DJ / Wedding Host in those circumstances, and that is to do it properly with dignity, sincerity, and well-timed humour.
Throughout the two days, presentations covered everything from improved mixing techniques to inspiration for finding a better work/life balance (another very moving story!). There were discussions on ideas for personal treats for the bride & groom, better communication, more professional styling and branding, better business planning and goal setting, finding more successful ways to pinpoint your target client and much, much, more.
And, of course, there were also the networking opportunities. Some of these people have larger than life personalities and may occasionally come across as brash or loud but, you know what? They have a passion for the bride and really their bark is worse than their bite! That's why we were all there, for the brides! I sometimes lack the vim and verve that can occasionally be required to put yourself into view or to nudge into a group conversation. However, in all honesty, the bunch of guys who were part of the Milton Keynes Think Tank are some of the best in the business and I can only count it as a pleasure and privilege to have been in their company for two days.
The learning, networking and inspiration offered by events like this truly are priceless. And, although this was the last that Derek will be organising, I know that others will carry the torch. I don't know if I can wait until the next one!!
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 83, Pages 64-68.