Ice Breakers for Working the Room during Dinner

I just had to jump in on this one.

Regarding using computer software. As a relative new DJ, I need all of the tools I can find to be the Mobile Entertainer I know I can be. Professional DJ software (VDJ Pro for me) has been a godsend. I've been in the public speaking, training, and entertainment industry for the last 25+ years and have only recently added the DJ division to my business. So yes, I freely admit that during cocktail hour and dinner, I may allow the computer to "Cue" my playlist as in, I don't have to sit and push buttons, switch CD, etc, when the technology will do it for me. Again, I say "Cue" my playlist because, as the DJ, I've already done all of the program work as far as song selection, the order, tempo and genre of the mix. I control what and when music is played. I never let the computer randomly mix/beatmatch my music, ever. The software simply cues the music, no beat matching or scratching required. Once the party starts then Automix is only on if I need to step away from the DJ booth.

The reason this flexibilty is important to me is because my client often request that I interaction with their guests, VDJ allows me to mingle with the guests in a natural social manner before the actual party starts and really enhances the guests enjoyment of everything else I do for the rest of the evening. Why, because they feel as if they "Know" the DJ. Whether you realize it or not, many people are intimidated/awed by the DJ or for that matter any professional entertainment personality. When said personality actually walks over to their table and has a brief conversation with them, it's a pleasant change and surprise from the frequent behind the table/facade method of DJing most people are used to. Think back to when you had opportunity to meet a famous or important person, it's something you are likely talk about well after the party is over. Many of us don't consider ourselves famous but we are definitely important (To the client that is). The fact that the music never stops while I'm doing this is a wonderment to the guests because I make it seem effortless. If they only knew how much effort goes into getting to that point.

As for mixers - I do own a T1 mixer and a Numark IDJ3 mixer. I also own both the Numark Mixdeck and Mixtrack DJ mixers. I use an external Numark IODJ sound card when not using the Mixtrack or T1. This little device is absolutely amazing. By the way, for the time being, by choice, my DJ business is limited to small events so I only use Bose Compacts with Energy Systems Subs right now but will eventually move to an L1 Mod 1 or 2 DBl Base at some point. But for now, not needed.

My mode of dress, as do many of you, I discuss this issue with my clients before the event. If they have no problem with what I prefer to wear, then that's all that really matters. If they say no hats, then no hats. Personally, in real life, I always wear a hat (Samuel L. Jackson style). However, at weddings and Mitzvahs, I never wear a hat. It's just a personal thing. On the other hand, birthday parties, picnics, retirement parties, school dances, I just might wear a hat at some point in the night because it is part of the personally that I am selling.

Remember, often times, the client knows exactly how you present as a performer from previous shows or referrals (Hat, tux, whatever)and the personality you projected is what they are hiring as much as is the professionalism you bring to their event. If they hire you and your particular style is more of a laid back style then guess what...they wanted a laid back DJ. If they hire you because you wear a Tux, a hat, a watch, a blanket, a smile then guess what....okay, you get the point.

By the way JD, regarding seeing you without the hat, I vote for "Keep em guessing." LOL

Musicdan - Thanks for starting this Post I think I understood your original comment.

Sorry for the long post. It will definitely happen again. :-)
quote:


The reason this flexibilty is important to me is because my client often request that I interaction with their guests, VDJ allows me to mingle with the guests in a natural social manner before the actual party starts and really enhances the guests enjoyment of everything else I do for the rest of the evening. Why, because they feel as if they "Know" the DJ. Whether you realize it or not, many people are intimidated/awed by the DJ or for that matter any professional entertainment personality. When said personality actually walks over to their table and has a brief conversation with them, it's a pleasant change and surprise from the frequent behind the table/facade method of DJing most people are used to. Think back to when you had opportunity to meet a famous or important person, it's something you are likely talk about well after the party is over. Many of us don't consider ourselves famous but we are definitely important (To the client that is). The fact that the music never stops while I'm doing this is a wonderment to the guests because I make it seem effortless. If they only knew how much effort goes into getting to that point.


You know Prof I have never thought of it like that. I will experiment this next Friday at my next wedding. I am sure I will know no one there, most of the time I know quite a few of the guests. And I will report back on my findings. Thanks for the tip.
You are welcome MusicDan:

In my opinion, the ability to bring personality to craft of what we do is what partly defines our profession as "Mobile Entertainers" as opposed to just DJ's. To not be "Just another DJ" Here are a few tips that I've used successfully:

1. As people are settling in and once you are comfortable/confident that your set-up is ready, start your "cued playlist/CD/Flash Drive" or whatever and work one side of the room starting from the back. Reason, people in the back are often forgotten at many social functions and are the people less likely to get engaged in the partying later on. They often sit in the back for a reason. It's a good time now to subtly/indirectly encourage them to stay around and party. You do this by introducing yourself to them so that you aren't so scary later on. Plus, since you went over and spoke to them first, they feel important as the other guests look on. Later on in the evening, I always see the back tables really enjoying the party and constantly making I contact with me during the night because they feel like "They know me" and want me to succeed. Some guests, who otherwise wouldn't, actually get up and dance near their tables or actually on the dance floor because, "They know the DJ." Finally, while it is considered by many to be tacky to put your business cards out at weddings, you shouldn't have to if you do what I'm suggesting because you and your personality is the best business card you have. Recently, a bride commented on how impressed she and her parents were that I got some of the guests up and dancing that they never though would do so. She wanted to know how I did it. Answer; "THEY KNOW ME!"

2. Have at the ready two three witty Ice Breakers that you can use as you go from table to table. Here are a couple of my favorites that I use with great success (In no particular order):

A)I just wanted to inform you that this table has been nominated to come up front later on to demonstrate a few dance moves once the party gets started, are you aware of this, Then you...smile and laugh and chat.

B. I'll be taking requests later so if there is a tune that you'd especially like to hear, please let me know, If I have it, I'll, try to fit it into the program, I don't have it maybe he (Pointing to some guy/gal at the table) would be willing to sing it if he's not willing to sing it then (Pointing to another guy/gal at the table) your gonna have to go out and buy it,...smile, laugh and chat.

Here are a few other useful Ice Breakers to use as you work the room:

Where are you all from? How was your trip? How do you know the guest(s) of honor? Can you hear the music? Would this table mind being my sound check later on? I'll look over at you every so often tonight and if everything is going alright with the music (volume,etc.), I'd like for everyone to give me a big thumbs up. Otherwise, never mind...laugh and chat.

Only spend a minute or two per table and keep an ear on the music. After working one side or section of the room, head back to your booth and check on the equipment. Later on work the other side of the room. No need to rush to get to every table, just make an attempt. Remember, your socializing as a personality is a "value added", it may not be what you were hired to do and you should ever socialize to the exclusion of your real task, which is to manage the music flow. Also, don't forget to check in with the Bride and groom or Guest(s) of honor, they need attention as well. With them just a; "You guys look great" or "What a a great family you have" or "Is anything you need me to do for you" etc. I had a bride say, "Thanks for asking, I have a splitting headache, do you have an Advil?" I did. Went to my Gig bag, wrapped the pill in a napkin, no one saw anything.

Not all of the Ice Breakers will work for all audiences/venues so be flexible and share what you discover with the rest of us.

This should become another thread. Can someone set this up. Here's a suggested tile: Ice Breakers for Working the Room during Dinner
This is really good advice. As for the Biz cards, I never put them on the guest's tables. I lay them out on my table and I often get a few people who come up, tell me how good I'm doing and grab a card.

I would love to hear how others socialize during their events. As I said before, I usually know allot of the guests. I am somewhat of a niche DJ, and that is events of all kinds but mostly for Jehovah's Witnesses. There is allot of word of mouth and here in the NYC area, almost all of us know or have seen each other somewhere else. Whether at other events, or at our Conventions. This one on Friday I will probably know only 2 people and that's a buddy of mine who got me the gig.
Prof - Those are some really good pointers. I try to make it a point to socialize during cocktail hour, etc. People typically compliment on the music and awesome/powerful sound coming from the L1 system (Model 2).
Like the icebreakers... good ones. Keep sharing the advise !
More Ice Breaker One-liners:

These are simple things to say as you walk around the room during cocktail or dinner hour. Again, what you say is less important than the fact that you are attempting to make an early connection with your guests.

1. This is the table I've been waiting talk to, you all look great. What type of music do you like to listen to, and what artist do you like? Great! I think I have some of those songs in the program already but will double check. (Note: I find that asking these questions cuts down on the number of requests during the party because generally the guests like the same music as the guest(s)of honor.)

2. How's the view at this table? Can you all see and hear what's going on okay? Terrific! Are you ready to party later?...smile & chat, move on.

3. Hi everybody. ( to guests at the table) I just wanted to stop by to say hi. How's the music so far?...smile & chat, move on.

4. Now here are some people I know, longtime no see...smile & chat, move on. (To people you met or said hi to earlier)

Remember, in the human interaction business, a little cheese goes a long way.
I always go to the table(s) closest to the PA and tell them "You are the canaries in this coal mine. If the music gets too loud, just let me know. But, once the dancing begins, all bets are off."
This usually spins into some related topics and gets a laugh or two and it appears to make them a bit more tolerant of the volume than if I had not had that conversation.

I like Randy Bartlett's tip on staging a standing ovation by using a couple of tables, in the front of the room, as shills and having them start the standing O. People love being a part of the act and they love you for asking.
Staging other events, like having women, (and a couple men) dropping keys on the groom table also make them feel involved and grateful for it.
Sometimes I (or my helper) will go around during the cocktail hour & take requests & dedications for the dance. This gives us a chance to feel out the crowd's taste in music & sometimes find out some more info about the bride & groom.

Another thing I've done is teach a new line dance at the rehearsal (afterwords of coarse) this way when we present it at the reception quite a few people will already know it, thus improving the overall result! Wink
Oh boy. Sparks are about to fly.

My approach has always been one of deliberately generating awe, and showing extreme talent, and being somewhat intimidating though verbally making it lighthearted and approachable.

Why?

Familiarity breeds more than normal requests, then, if not played within one or two songs, demands begin, especially when alcohol is involved. Then the whole show goes to pot because they all think you're just their friend, not a person who is the "Master" of Ceremonies and the "Master" of musically driving a crowd, and the "Master" of taking them to places they've never experienced with other DJs.

To me, asking or even the intonation it might be for requests is a sure method to losing control of your audience, watering down your effectiveness is client satisfaction, and a lot of well meaning people in your face all night long.

No thanks. I'm Johnny Carson, not Ed McMahon.
No need for sparks. Everyone has there own way of doing it. Frank did it his way...

I will try the approach that the Prof suggested and report back on how it went.

I'm looking forward to it, doesn't mean it will be favorable but as DJs we are always evolving. If not I'd still be carrying around crates of records and 1200s. Oh! And not to mention, back breaking speakers. 18s 15s and 12s. A pair of each, they were loud, but not as nice sounding as the L1s.
Wow, this is a great topic! I agree with the Professor, warming up the room in some way is extremely beneficial. Being friendly and approachable is always wise. I like to say hello, ask them about themselves if I can etc... As a lady DJ, I will compliment the ladies on how they look, it really warms them up to you. But I don't know if guy DJs can really do the same, that can get complicated I guess... However, encouraging guests to make requests I do see Cap's reasoning. It can make things tough on you. Early on I used to say " taking requests." Well, I learned it can open the flood gates to a lot of unwanted "demands" that were totally inappropriate for the occassion. You can't always assume the bride's musical taste is the same as the crowd. I try to stick with the couple's taste. She might want oldies and a small percent in the crowd might be dramatic and want rap. The rap fans might take it personal that the request isn't played. You have to use really good DJ judgement. And people will get demanding when drinking... Really, I think each wedding crowd is different. But I have had some neat requests that I would have never discovered if I didn't listen.
As far as requests go, I never say that I take them. If they come up to me then I will tell them yes if its practical or if I was planning on playing it already, or I will let them know that the occasion really doesn't call for it, but that if I can find a way to play it I will. But to not expect for it to be played.
At the end of my 2nd post I wrote:

"Not all of the Ice Breakers will work for all audiences/venues so be flexible and share what you discover with the rest of us."

I actually agree with the general concern expressed by Cap. DJ's have to be good at many things and one skill that some DJ's excel at is reading the crowd generally and reading individuals specifically.

personally, I gauge my approach to working the room based on my read of the crowd. If I get a good feeling/vibe about a group, I feel easy and relaxed about interacting with them and can masterfully work the room and play on that good feeling all night long. If on the other hand, the crowd impresses me as a fun lovin, boozin, might fight kind of crowd, I'm less likely to freely use some of the tips mentioned earlier. Also, I use the tips mentioned earlier less frequently when there are lots of little kids running around. I'd rather they fear me and not want to climb on my Bose and other equipment.

By the way taking requests is something I discuss before hand with the bride & groom. Also, I never take requests verbally. I use a DJ request from and only work from that list as far as requests go. On the form it states that the guest of honor's choices play first. This way there's no guarantee I'll play their particular song. Plus I would have already announced that I can only try to work a song into the program.

As a digression, recently, I did a gig and while setting up, the clients' kids were all over the room and he and his wife had little to no control over them. Of course, little junior kept trying to make eye contact with me to see if I would play with him. Even though he was as cute as a button and hard to ignore, I never made direct eye contact or spoke to the kid. This tactic paid off when finally I had to say something to him when he started to climb on my Bose cylinder. I wanted to be friendly (It's in my nature) but junior could have been a potential problem child.

Basically, this is a round about way of saying again that flexibility is the key. As implied by DJ Lori g, the friendly approach is just another tool that has worked for me overall but may need to be checked when the situation doesn't call for that type of approach.

No real sparks, just good discussion....

And another tip:

1. If the friendly approach is new to you, start off slow. Try some of the suggested tips at one or two tables to see how things go then reassess.

2. When working the room, avoid the temptation of trying to be funny. Having fun and being funny is a subjective concept. That is, what you think is funny might offend another person. Unless being funny is a part of your style and you are good at it, it's best just to be respectful, gracious and smile a lot.

3. If requests are not something you want to encourage, don't use that particular tool.
So I didn't get a chance to "work"the crowd. But it was success and I am very happy the way it turned out and so were the bride and groom. I did get allot of requests, some that I honored and some that the bride specifically told me not to play, so I didn't.

On another note, has anyone here ever set off the Fire Alarm with their fog machine? It happened last night 30 seconds left to the last song. I'm glad it didn't happen in the middle of the party. The bride and groom didn't mind, they were laughing it off. I let the song finish and then polite asked everyone to evacuate the building since the Fire Department wouldn't of have been to happy if it wasn't. I assured everyone that there was no fire and to exit the building calmly, and they had enough time to get their belongings and allot of them just went home. The Fire Department understood and they were nice about it.
I walked around the room today with the wireless microphone just before the Grand Entrance. Since I am a solo operator, I often talk from behind my facade to the guests getting their attention before focussing on the Grand Entrance. Questions I may ask is, if you can hear me clearly in the back of the room, would you please raise you hand. The next question is usually, am I too loud? These two questions alone get their attention and then I can get into my monologue sort of speak.
Tonight, I walked around the room talking on the wireless microphone getting an idea of the volume level. I asked the people I was standing next to in the back of the room. It worked out fine for me, I just didn't care for the venue's placement of me today. In the corner on the stage with the dance floor in the middle od the room, the head table across the room, and tables and chairs between the dance floor and myself.
I did a Bat Mitzvah this weekend aboard a dinner cruise ship for a group of 90. The ship was beautiful and the weather was fantastic. I used two Bose compacts for the gig and used the line out of the compacts to pipe the cocktail hour music into the ship's speaker system for the guests that hung out on the upstairs outdoor, canopied deck. The set-up worked flawlessly. I got lots of comments on my set-up. Adults would often walk by my table just to peek at the Bose and tell me how amazed they we at the sound. Set-up time was quick and breakdown was even quicker.

While I was leaving, a Blues band was beginning their set-up for an evening dinner cruise. They had huge speakers, keyboards, Drums, etc., while I had just rocked the boat for a group of mostly teenager using just two small Compacts (No Energy system sub for this gig). What a contrast.

I decided not to work the room as I normally would because there were a ton of kids running around. However, I did stay in constant contact with my client throughout the day regarding volume. Too much volume was an issue at his oldest daughters Mitzvah.
Prof has some good points. And if that's what works for him and you, go for it.

I was on the air for a number of years in the Chicago area before moving to Pittsburgh and starting my mobile DJ business, and one of the things I learned from being on the air is that you have to establish a relationship with your audience. It's tough for newbies to do, because they don't know what direction to go.

My best advice to new DJs is to feel that the guests there are your friends. They want to like you, and you want to like them, so take that approach. But I don't mean you're “buddies.“ You are the Master of Ceremonies, and they want to see you as both professional and approachable.

I always make it a point to check frequently with the bride and groom and the parent tables during dinner to see ”Is everything all right with the music? Volume OK?“ They appreciate the attention, and, really, I SHOULD be asking them that. On the way back to my table, I will go by various tables and make ”pleasant eye contact“ with the people, smiling and nodding and saying hello.

If people come up for music requests, I will tell them that I am taking requests, but the bride and groom have a long list of requests that I have to get to. I tell them that if I can fit theirs in, I'll do it. If it's on the bride/groom list already, then I immediately say ”Good idea! I'll play that for sure!“

I think the key to relating to audiences is to maintain a professional bearing at all times, but to smile and to be pleasant and friendly with everyone at the same time. No off-color remarks, no personal comments that are not professional, etc.
Don't forget about the wait staff and the bar tender.

While it's true they are working just like you, a little acknowledgement of them goes a long way. During my announcements I always try to acknowledge these people on behalf of the bride & groom or on behalf of the person of honor. Normally the bride & groom are way too preoccupied to do this directly and aren't really expected to do so. So, as Master of Ceremonies, it's up to me.

I often compliment the wait staff on the way they way they look, their friendliness. I find that they will then go out of their way to take care of me (Water/something to eat, a chair, etc.).

I mentioned in another post that I will often casually enlist the wait staff to act as sound checks at various stages of the ceremony and/or during dinner. The wait staff are often young adults/kids and they really like the attention and feel they have expertise in this area. Older staff are pleased also because I'll guarantee you that no other DJ has ever paid them that kind of attention.

At another event I once enlisted the bar tender as sound check. I got a free drink out of it. I declined.

Why do I bother to do all of this?

I think of it as an extra "Value Added" service that I provide for my clients. If there is anything within my power as a "Hired Personality" that can help their event go as smoothly as possible, then I'm going to do it. A little acknowledgement to the support staff doesn't take long and may not seem like much, but it just might help to create a friendlier interaction between wait staff and guests and that is important.

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