If I were asked to name the most important lesson I’ve learnt during my career as a DJ, it would be the importance of asking the question ‘why?’. In my opinion, this simple three letter word is the secret to success as a DJ/host, because it gives the ability to truly understand our clients’ wants and needs and allows us to discover how to deliver a service that fully meets them.
In this article I will attempt to explain why caring enough about how and why we do what we do as DJs can really deliver dividends in the services we provide and the value of those services to our clients, which will ultimately grow referrals. I am a wedding specialist, but the same principles apply if you are booked as a DJ for the evening function at a sweet sixteen or as an all-day host for a wedding reception.
First of all, how did I come to the realization that ‘why’ is so important and has the power to change everything I do as a DJ/Entertainer? Well, anyone who has read my Facebook posts, listened to my recent Pro Mobile Podcast interview, or even spent five minutes chatting with me will know that I owe a great debt of thanks to my friend, coach and mentor Mark Ferrell. Back in 2010 I attended my first Marbecca workshop which changed forever how much I care about the events I work at and the clients I work for.
As a wedding DJ / Master of Ceremonies I started to understand that all wedding receptions are driven by emotion and, as skilled DJs / entertainers, we have the power to create special moments that will last in our clients’ memories for years to come. However, in order to do this, I realized that I needed to engage more with my clients. I needed to understand my clients’ ‘whys’! Starting with:
•Why are they getting married?
•Why are they having a reception?
•Why do they want a DJ?
Without asking why, we run the risk of not understanding our clients’ needs or, to quote Mark Ferrell, “Once we understand the ‘why’, the ‘how’ becomes clear, and new opportunities open up”.
Understanding why they are making the choices they are about their reception, and why those choices are important to them, enables me to become a better resource. It allows me to give them useful and relevant advice that is specific to them. After all, this is most-likely the first time they have ever planned a party of this scale. As my good friend Derek Pengelly has quoted many times, “They don’t know what they don’t know!”
As I worked harder to understand the ‘whys’ of each of my couples, my events started to become elevated to a new level. I was, for the first time in my long DJ career, truly understanding what ‘bespoke’ and ‘unique’ really meant. By putting my clients’ needs first, before my own, every time, I became more than just the DJ at their reception. They began to see me as a resource, a confidant, their friend! I was able to take away their stress! When I turned up at the reception I was greeted by smiling faces that were ecstatic that I had arrived. I was no longer the stranger at a couple’s wedding day! I had a personal connection to them and was responsible for the outcome of their reception.
Without understanding, we risk doing stuff at a wedding reception that has little or no relevance to the couple or their guests. If what we do is not engaging with purpose it can become just ‘shtick’. Things we believe are fun, stuff we think we are good at, but that has no real connection to what’s going on. At worse, we run the risk of just interrupting and annoying guests at the reception who, up to the point before we opened up our microphone, were already having a good time!
Let me give you a practical example of the importance of asking ‘why?’. One evening, while sitting down with a couple, I discovered that they didn’t want to do a First Dance. Though not unique, this was certainly not common for me as pretty much every couple up to that point had done a First Dance. It was, in my mind, an intrinsic part of a wedding reception, much like the Speeches, Cake Cut and Bouquet Toss. Even though, at that time, I would always use the First Dance as a springboard to get the party started, it would have been easy to just accept their decision and rely on the music to ignite the party. However, I didn’t, I asked ‘why?’. What I discovered, as you may have guessed, was that they didn’t like to be the centre of attention. However, what I was not expecting was to find that they really did want to do a First Dance but thought it was easier to just not do it. I suggested that we combine their First Dance with an Anniversary Dance. This meant that they had their moment, but didn’t feel exposed out there on their own. This worked out perfectly, but would never have happened if I hadn’t asked ‘why?’.
In order to work with couples on a deeper level, I realised that I needed to change the way clients thought about me as a DJ. And to do that, I first had to change the way I thought about myself as a DJ! I could no longer just be the guy that spun the tunes. Now, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with spinning tunes! It’s something that I love doing, it’s the reason I got into DJing in the first place. Selecting that one song that ignites the dancefloor and takes the party to another level still gives me chills. However, along with working on my mixing and programming ability, I found myself needing to develop a wider set of skills. After all, if I was truly going to put my clients’ interests first, I needed to get good at every aspect of what I do, I needed to invest in my personal development.
After attending the Entertainment Experience workshop hosted by my good friends Bill Hermann and Jason Jones in London back in 2015, I was able to expand further the way I thought about weddings. As Bill said, “like any great story, movie or play a wedding day has a beginning, middle and end”. Entwined within that story every element, every part of the reception, also has a beginning, middle and end, and within that story there are many, many ‘whys’.
For example, when you watch a great movie why do you care about the characters in the story? Likewise, why would the guests at a wedding care about the bridal party when they are introduced or care about the Speeches or the First Dance or Bouquet Toss? The reason, I discovered, is when it has meaning and that again comes from asking the right ‘why’ questions, otherwise we risk doing stuff without understanding why we are doing it.
As Mark Walsh wrote in the last issue of Pro Mobile in his ‘Attack of the Clones’ article, do you offer something nobody else does? Or are you just going to repeat the standard professional DJ-come-wedding-host mantra? I would argue, if you are truly going to offer something unique/bespoke as a wedding entertainer, you need to really drill down on your clients’ ‘whys’!
Personally, when I came to this conclusion, I started to think about what I could do differently and stopped doing ‘routines’. Stuff I had seen other DJs do, stuff I assumed we were all meant to do. I was no longer content with saying to clients, “this is the way we always do it” or “couples love this thing I do!” Frankly, it was not in their best interest. And that’s something else I learned early-on, ‘it’s not about me’… it’s all about them!
The full article can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 85, Pages 46-50.