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FLASHBACK ARTICLE FROM APRIL 2010
I was recently asked by Mr. Matt Martindale from Colorado, a great DJ and businessman in his own right, for a meeting to discuss “the DJ Business” and maybe share a few creative ideas. (By the way, it’s a great idea as you travel to seek out local DJs for a personal chat and idea sharing to expand your scope of influence, mutually learn, and grow.)
Anyway, we ended up sitting in a Denny’s near his hotel for almost 3 hours chatting about many aspects of the DJ business along with shared philosophies, practices, and opinions on many subjects. One of Matt’s questions really stood out and the subsequent conversation became something of merit, which I feel is worth sharing.
The question was “What is the single thing that you have done that has made the biggest impact regarding your DJing / MC skills?”
A dead silence often fills the air when I ask someone a similar question.
We are typically so focused on the action of the moment as a DJ/Master of Ceremony, that our desire to have others see things our way or to agree with our stated proposals for action, that we often forget our role – the element of who We need to be in the matter and the how and why of our presence. When we, as the master of ceremony, talk on the microphone; We should first address our poise and calm before, during, and after speaking on the microphone to lead and direct attention, maintain focus or seamlessly sequence events. The premise is first to understand the very purpose of each interaction with the intended outcome, then lead guests to that outcome.)
I recently watched a DVD series by Phil Mickelson entitled “The Art of the Short Game.” It was a great instructional video for the mid to short game aspects of golf. Still, it especially reminded me of several key aspects to being a great DJ / Master of Ceremony: focus, and purpose. Matt mentioned the difference between an amateur and a professional in our appointment. An amateur practices until they get it right. A professional practices until he can’t get it wrong. It’s about having distinct purpose and focus.
Avoid thinking of other distracting keys. Only think of the goal of where you are going, hitting the mark and not the elements in between. However, practice each and every element until you can’t get it wrong, under any and every circumstance. That’s what a professional does.
So, what does the golf analogy have to do with the original question or Poise and Calm? I had to pause and really think about my answer for just a moment before answering Matt’s question. Without question, it was improvisation and acting training. Surprisingly, the EXACT same answer Matt had – and he’s been DJing since 1989 with 1,073 weddings personally performed under his belt and over 505 corporate events and I’ve been DJing since 1978 and who knows what the count is for anything, I think it’s a lot.
Yes, improv & acting classes are the ideal training avenue for what we do as master of ceremony, DJs, and public speakers far more than any other avenue of training. I know, many of you are saying ‘what about Toastmasters’ or other training similar to Toastmasters. Matt and I actually discussed this briefly and in our own independent conclusion. It’s been my opinion for years and years, and as I have been stating in my book “The Master Wedding MC” and in my presentations of “Mastering the Master of Ceremonies Role;” Toastmasters and that level of public speaking training is specifically oriented to the person that is afraid of public speaking and standing in front of a group or crowd making a presentation. It’s not for professionals at our level who routinely operate on a microphone in front of various sized crowds. We aren’t making the occasional business presentation or sales pitch to an occasional group. We are the presence and personality in a room, leading and directing guests for a specific purpose, to accomplish a specific action on their behalf and for the benefit of our clients.
That brings me to the generalizations regarding the art of improvisation / acting. Why improv class for example?
The basic skills of listening, clarity, confidence, and performing instinctively and spontaneously are considered critical skills for the professional DJ and master of ceremony to develop. The ability to work together, in a process of co-creation to further enhance, and add to, a sequence of events. In our conversation, Matt mentioned 4 rules of improv, but one stood out: to make the next person’s job easier.
Improv is a SKILL that can be learned. But, as Matt said, “bad delivery kills good content. Without content, it’s critical for the audience to have a good character, but a good character doesn’t last nearly as long. The goal is to have great content with a great character.”
Matt mentioned that he was asked to fill in to teach the class on three occasions. He asked the class, “can improv be scripted?” A passionate debate ensued as he observed significant arguments against scripting improv. Matt calmly replied, “yes, it can be, and often is, because the performer not only knows his audience, but has learned HOW to observe, construct outcomes, and deliver them, all before reacting in any way. He has rehearsed multiple times, and has the skill, experience and poise to deliver it to the audience leading them to believe it is fully improvised in the direction both he, and the client wants the audience to go.”
Bottom line, improvisation and acting are anything but winging it or making it up as you go along. These types of classes and training teach you the skills and methods it take to methodically prepare. They are truly the method of skillfully preparing for and leading your audience in the direction you want them to go with a few potential variables to appear as though you are ready to go in any direction with the presence of poise and calm of a professional. Do you think that stand-up comedians make it up as they go along. They don’t and you shouldn’t!
Similar to the golf game, you want to simplify the approach, prepare for the variables, and focus on the outcome. It’s the same when you’re on the microphone.
Each and every time you are on the microphone you need to have prepared for that one moment, practiced, delivered, and considered a few variables about the desired outcome. As Matt said, be a professional, until you can’t get it wrong. You also have to consider and prepare for some of the absolute things you wanted to say, the situational items, be responsive to retorts or positions made by others. You can prepare for potential variables, and if something comes up that you hadn’t prepared for, you’ll be ready for that if it ever happens again. The biggest thing you can do is to try to set the tone of your demeanor with a single word: CALM.
No matter what, stay composed, calm, and, like the golf tip, remain focused on one goal.
Many years ago, I was attending an improv class. A very experienced stage performer in the class seemed to have it down and was unshakable when thrown a quick topic to perform. This performer played each scenario with obvious confidence and seemed fluid and capable. Others in the class praised him, relating how composed he was, and how he made few mistakes. He merely raised his arm and showed us a single word written down in bold letters on his left wrist: POISE.
I highly recommend that you step out of your comfort zone, find, and attend one or several improvisations or acting classes if you have any desire to improve your performance. Especially if you want to be so well prepared, you always appear with consistent, refined delivery of POISE AND CALM.
Thanks to Mr. Matt Martindale for reviving some old memories and a desire to attend a few more improv classes very soon to sharpen my focus and elevate my calm and poise.
Let me know how it goes for you.
Think – Creatively
Act – Responsibly
Feel – Passionately