Making a Continuing Education Commitment

Continuing Education

By Gregg Hollmann, “Party Professional”

It’s a new year, and a time to make resolutions for 2015. Is one of yours to participate in more continuing education and networking events? I strongly recommend this commitment as there are numerous financial and personal benefits to be gained.

Since 2013, I have served as President of the New Jersey Disc Jockey Network (NJDJN), a professional mobile DJ organization. Included in our membership are DJs from New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and even Maryland. We meet once a month for networking, to learn about new gear and to enjoy a one hour educational seminar. For example, at our January meeting, we enjoyed a presentation about how to be a successful wedding DJ by Vinny Liotta from Events by Cool Cat in upstate New York.

Vinny is a huge beneficiary of continuing education himself. In 2008, Vinny was performing at just 30 events a year and operating out of his basement. Immersing himself in continuing education at DJ conferences was an important factor that resulted in impressive growth. In 2014, Events by Cool Cat booked over 600 events and Vinny won “DJ of the Year” at the DJ Times International DJ Expo in Atlantic City.

Steve Moody is another fine example of a DJ who used continuing education to take his business to the next level and to eventually become an industry leader. Steve admittedly had a very insular view of the world prior to attending his first DJ Expo. In a relatively short period of time, Steve also won “DJ of the Year” in Atlantic City and created an industry-leading wedding practice with Steve Moody’s Entertainment Connection.

Continuing education has also played a crucial role in my own professional development. For better or worse, I am a self-taught DJ and have never worked for another entertainment company. Six years ago, I attended my first DJ conference in Atlantic City. By chance, I stumbled into a meeting of the New Jersey Disc Jockey Network. At this event, I heard successful DJs like Marcello Pedalino, Jake Jacobsen and Jeffrey Craig Siber share success stories about doing business at a higher level. I was inspired and to immediately join the NJDJN. I began attending the monthly meetings, soaking up information like a sponge, learning from fellow members like Mike Walter, Randi Rae and Michael Lazar. The NJDJN helped me to develop new skills; for example, how to perform at a Bar/Bat Mitzvah and how to be a better interactive emcee. Four years ago, I left a six-figure job in finance to pursue mobile DJ entertainment on a full-time basis, and haven’t looked back.

A takeaway from those DJs who have made a commitment to continuing education is that results can be fast and dramatic. There is the ability to “leapfrog” other businesses who are more insular in their approach. Even if you do not have aspirations to be a full-time DJ or run a huge organization, continuing education will help you to be a better performer and business person, and to shine against an ever increasing glut of laptop DJs.

Asking a Tough Question

If the benefits of continuing education are widely acknowledged, then why aren’t more DJs participating? According to a statistic by fellow ProMobileDJ writer K.C. KoKoruz, just 5% of professionals in any given industry willingly participate in continuing education. For DJs, I suspect that the percentage is even less. For example, in my home state of New Jersey, there are some 10,000 mobile DJs competing for work. Yet at an average monthly DJ association meeting, there tend to be just 30-50 attendees. If the 5% statistic held, we’d have 500 guests per meeting!

Some of the typical reasons that I hear to skip a continuing education event are:

  • I’m too busy running my business

  • I have to watch the kids

  • I’m tired from my day job

  • It’s too expensive

  • It’s the same topics over and over; there’s nothing left to learn

  • The topic doesn’t interest me

  • I don’t want to be in the same room as DJ X (i.e., ego issues)

Ultimately, all of the above are excuses. With a commitment to investing in yourself and in your business, all of these objections will melt away. I recommend putting a monthly continuing education event and annual DJ conference into your appointment book today. Then schedule your other life activities around your newfound commitment to continuing education.

For those of you located in markets without a local DJ association, why not organize a group of your own? Start small with a few DJs meeting once a month at a coffee shop.

How the Benefits Unfold

An important benefit of being in a DJ association is the networking component. Consistently attending monthly meetings allows you to build relationships with fellow DJs. Over time, you are likely to begin referring business to one another or collaborating to create bigger shows. At a minimum, you will share important information that will make you a more educated event professional.

Every year, I receive thousands of dollars of business from DJ networking associates, and in some years as much as 15% of my total business has come from other DJs. Can you imagine any business where 15% of sales derive from competitor referrals? This is the power of DJ networking and operating in a friendly, collegial environment where we work to build each other up.

The continuing education itself will provide ideas and training to help your business grow. Even if I’ve heard a topic before, I enjoy hearing it again: a) to possibly gain a new insight, and b) to support my fellow DJ who is graciously sharing his time and knowledge.

Finally, by joining a DJ association, you’ll make some great friends along the way. These friends truly have your back. If and when you find yourself in a “situation,” you will be overwhelmed by support from your industry brethren and sistren.

Inspirational Closing Quotes

In case you are still not convinced, listed below are inspirational quotes from intellectual giants. May 2015 be your most successful year ever!

Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” – Socrates

You’ll never know everything about anything, especially something you love.” – Julia Child

Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” – Albert Einstein

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” – W.B. Yeats

 

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