By Stu Chisholm, “The Complete Disc Jockey”
Online forums can be a blessing and a curse; you get to chat with colleagues from all over the world, yet the online universe can be far less cordial, friendly or respectful than real world encounters. People say things to total strangers they’d never dream to say face-to-face! Perhaps that’s because a name and avatar don’t strike us as “real” people. Such short-sightedness aside, the rules also appear to be different. Regardless of the fact that online forums are all-text mediums, spelling and grammar are regarded as non-essential and anyone who dares point out an egregious error is heckled and scolded.
This happened recently in a DJ forum where one well-intentioned colleague suggested that we, as professionals, should practice the best possible spelling and grammar we can at all times, including the forum we were sharing. Predictably, he got little love from his list-mates. My impression, in fact, was that a whole lot of people were far more ready to defend and excuse crappy English than they were to accept the challenge to improve what should be considered an essential DJ skill.
When I was in broadcasting school, one of the techniques for becoming a better on-air talent is to do everything as if you’re on the mic: if you’re reading a newspaper article, read it out loud; when answering the phone, speak as if you’re on the air (no, not in some fake “DJ voice,” but with good diction and grammar) and so on. Record yourself, listen to the playback and note those faults you might not have even realize you exhibit. (One I constantly battle is the “dead space filler” non-words: “ummm” and “uhhh.”) Over time, you will become more adept just through practice. The more you implement good habits, the more polished you become.
This is especially important for we mobile DJs because we are always auditioning. Just as an employer might reject an applicant out of hand for a misspelled word on a resume, a wedding couple or event planner may do the same if there are errors on your website, brochures or other printed material. It’s not that your skill as a DJ is being questioned, but that glaring typo can leave the impression that you’re sloppy, or that you don’t care enough to attend to the small details. If you’re going to be the emcee, yet cannot write clearly, what are the odds that you’ll speak clearly? These are the thoughts that will go through the minds of your clientele.
Being attentive and making good habits habitual are the way we learn and were vital in two areas of my life. When learning to drive, we all remember how overwhelming it seemed at first. We were on-edge, not used to what actions caused what reaction, trying to see everything around us and so on. Yet over time, the act of driving became what is sometimes referred to as “muscle memory,” the idea that practiced tasks can become “automatic.” This is how you can drive to a destination and, unless something unusual happens along the way, may remember nothing about the trip!
That second area I hinted at is using firearms. My readers know that I’m a firearms enthusiast (sometimes referred to as a “gun nut”), and habituation is imperative! When it comes to gun safety, one is not allowed even a single mistake! A strict set of simple, repetitive motions and habits keep shooters and everyone around them safe, not to mention promoting good marksmanship.
If you have ever participated in any other sport, you know that competence is directly proportional to the amount of practice. Hitting an 80 MPH baseball, sinking a three-pointer basketball shot or slapping a puck in a hockey goal while on skates all take a large amount of practice and dedication. By comparison, we DJs have it easy! By paying just a little bit more attention to the details of what we do each and every day – writing and speaking – we can bring that extra touch of professionalism to our performances and everyday lives. You never know where it might lead!