Commanding the Crowd

From The Mobile DJ MBA
By Stacy Zemon

“Ladies and gentlemen, may I please have your attention? Ahem. Folks, may I have your attention up here please. I HAVE AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT TO MAKE, SO KINDLY DIRECT YOUR ATTENTION TO THE DJ NOW!”

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where seemingly uninterested or downright rude guests at an event would not quiet down long enough to allow you to make an announcement on the mic?

Many DJs experience this dilemma but don’t know what to do differently to truly command an audience. Surely there must be some “tricks of the trade” to help a frustrated emcee, right? There are, and we found them from some “master mobiles on the mic” around the country.

What do you first say on the mic to grab the crowd’s attention?

Matt Peterson of Peterson Productions in Northampton, MA, estimates that the average audience does not listen to the first seven to ten words that are spoken on the microphone.

“I lower the volume of the music, wait a few seconds and then welcome everyone to the event. I acknowledge the venue then the guest(s) of honor and lastly my staff and myself.”

Hartford, CT-based Mark Ashe of Marx Entertainment turns off the music altogether.

“Many DJs make the mistake of trying to talk over the music and make themselves sound more like an announcer over a PA system rather than an entertainer commanding attention. Talking with a crowd rather than talking to the crowd will have a much more engaging affect with you audience.”

J.R. Silva of Orlando’s Silva Entertainment uses a more personalized and informal approach.

“Usually, to get people’s attention, I will use the guest of honor’s name in some manner.

“Hey friends, Gina and Bob have asked me to get everyone’s attention.”

On other occasions, I may do a sound check on mic, such as:

“Good evening friends and family, can everyone hear me okay? We have a lot to celebrate and we want everyone to be in on the fun, so I want to make sure now that we have everyone’s attention and that our friends in back are able to hear me, too. If you can hear me well in the back areas of the ballroom raise your hand in the air.”

What music programming techniques do you use to fill a dance floor and build the energy there?

Popular Arizona jock DJ Soulman believes that it’s better to be proactive than reactive when it comes to filling a dance floor because once people sit down, you may not get a second chance to get them up again.

“To lure people out, I always use what I call ‘party bait.’ This could be a classic hit or last month’s hot track. Then I play hit after hit to keep them dancing. There are always plenty of tracks to play that will keep the crowd jumping and having fun.

Sometimes I will say, ‘Okay, we need all the ladies on the dance floor. Ladies only, no guys.’ Then I’ll play something current and popular with women. Other times I’ll get the crowd going with an interactive dance.”

PMDJ writer, Mike Walter of Elite Entertainment in NJ plays sure-fire hits and gets on the mic to invite people to join in the festivities.

“My tone and mannerisms are in many ways even more important than the words I choose. I smile, use eye contact and big gestures so that everyone in the room can see me. These things are important and they convey the message I am trying to deliver.”

Also from NJ, Steve Cie uses group dances as his primary tool. Depending on the age of the audience, a slow dance or a high energy club dance tune is also in his arsenal.

Silva uses the celebrant’s names to promote dancing.

“I say, ‘Bob and Jennifer would like to invite all the couples present to join them on the dance floor.’ Other times, I point out that we need at least one couple from each party table to join them. It can snowball from there and turn into a classic multiplication dance. I also have dances from different decades that I can lead as an ice breaker to get the dance floor moving.”

What do you do when there are unruly youngsters at an event who are being noisy and taking away the spotlight from the celebrant(s)?

Ashe recognizes the importance of handling the situation with “kid gloves.”

“If it’s a Mitzvah, and it usually is, our dancers are really good at pulling a kid to the side and changing his/her attitude. This is a delicate situation because even though someone might be a distraction to the party, he/she also might be a future client.”

Silva tries to ignore them at first; then if things get too out of hand, he meets with the kids offstage and off mic.

“I talk with them so they’ll be aware that I feel they are being rude or distracting. I even say things like, ‘How did you get on the Guest List? It doesn’t seem like you’re aware of why we’re all here tonight.’ At times I have had to threaten the youngsters that I will contact the event sponsors and have them asked to leave. But that rarely happens once they understand how much I care for the event and my client.”

What do you do when someone asks for your microphone to make an announcement at an event?

Every mobile we spoke to said that they do not give their microphone away to anyone.To ensure that he doesn’t have to, 35-year industry veteran Cie takes it one step further.

“It stipulates in my contract that all announcements are to be made by me. I screen all requests to determine if they are appropriate and if not, I nicely let the person know that I cannot make that particular announcement.”

DJ Adam Tiegs from Milton, WA, handles the request gingerly.

“I let the person know that I will gladly make the announcement and ask what they want said. Depending on what a client indicates to us beforehand regarding how active they’d like me to be on the mic, I may or may not move forward with the announcement.”

What do you do to take charge of the situation when a fight breaks out at an event?

An open bar combined with a party can sometimes be a recipe for a drunken brawl. At the very least, when guests consume too much liquor they can become demanding and belligerent, so what’s a DJ to do? According to Walter, this is an occupational hazard, but there is a way to deal with it.

“I’d say the rule of thumb is to try to defuse the situation with a confrontation that is kind, short and sweet. I don’t try to explain myself to drunk guests. For example, if someone is insisting on a song that the bride and groom don’t want played, then they can ask and re-ask for it but it’s not going to happen. I just smile and say, ‘Let me see if I can get to that one,’ and then just hope the guy forgets about it. If there’s a fight, I wait until it’s resolved before refocusing the guests on the fact that they’re at a celebration.”

Peterson recommends turning off the music immediately if a fight breaks out and remaining calm.

“Don’t get involved in any drunken disputes. Act professionally, CYA and protect yourself, your staff and your equipment. Be sure to have a security clause in your entertainment agreement that supports you this situation. Choose your venues and clients carefully.”

How do you help a wedding couple achieve the “WOW” factor at their reception?

Tieg tries to get a feel of who they are and what they want.

“I try to determine how much attention a couple wants me to give them over the mic. I also suggest additional entertainment options for cocktail hour such as having a magician. For clients who want a lot of guest interaction at their reception, I recommend activities like the Kissing Game and Anniversary Countdown Dance. Keeping guests thoroughly entertained is the key to making an event memorable.”

DJ Soulman gives examples of what he has done in the past that works well and gives options to couples.

“I also remind them that we do several weddings a month and they are only having one, so it’s our job to give ideas and suggestions. By working together, we can plan the best reception possible.”

Las Vegas-based club jock AL3 is the official DJ of the UFC and National DJ Champion. He commands a crowd on the dance floor based on demographics and if a promoter or General Manager hires him for a specific sound or theme for the night. No matter what, though, he infuses his own personality and soul into the music he mixes and plays.

“I start the opening vibe by playing a set of familiar music at a good tempo to motivate the crowd to dance. If you’re a good DJ in a decent club the dance floor will become filled when people are ready.”

As professional entertainers, we have all dealt with less-than-ideal circumstances under which we needed to “step up” and command the crowd; however, Peterson reminds us to think of each party we do as a blessing.

“As the chosen entertainer, YOU are now responsible for the event. So, be sure your equipment and music library are up to date, your staff is well-informed and you are well-prepared. Always be respectful of your client’s wishes and be willing to lend a helping hand if need be at the special occasion.”