I’m a shy person. Whenever I say this, people who know my history of performing look at me like I’m crazy. How can someone who performs in front of hundreds of people every week be shy? But it’s true. I’m not the kind of person who will readily walk up to strangers and start a conversation. I think many performers are shy to some extent. It’s easier for me to sing a song in front of 200 people than it is to have a real conversation with just one. When I’m singing, the words I’m singing have already been prepared for me by someone else. When I’m acting on stage, the person I’m supposed to be and the situation I’m supposed to be in have already been created for me. I can live comfortably in that alternate reality moment. I don’t feel any of the awkwardness that creeps in in unfamiliar social situations as the “real” me.
Needless to say, shyness doesn’t work so well for an MC. Naturally outgoing people certainly have a head start on the road to being great party hosts. Greeting complete strangers, making announcements and even getting on the dance floor all come easier to them. But that doesn’t mean they do any of that better than less outgoing people. That also doesn’t mean a shy person can’t be a great DJ. They just have to be able to develop good habits to overcome that shyness when necessary. I think one of those helpful habits is the ability to be a good actor.
In unfamiliar situations I can become the character of a confident, gregarious business man that knows what to say at a networking event or can make small talk with potential clients. More importantly, my DJ character knows how to be an engaging, eloquent MC and Host, even when the real me doesn’t. Living in that character sometimes feels as comfortable as hiding under a warm blanket. Act like you love to talk to strangers and pretty soon you really will. Sometimes when we’re tired or in a bad mood, we even have to act like we’re having a good time. Be a good enough actor and things can turn fun in no time.
All of us have developed a public persona. We act a certain way in public. Perhaps we act more professional or polite than we would among close friends or in the privacy of or own homes. We become actors every day and acting experience can come in handy in many off-stage situations. Actors are experts at developing characters. Some might argue DJs are event better at it. Think of how many DJs create characters for themselves. They even have given their characters cute nick-names like “DJ Flop Sweat” or “DJ Man Boobs” or whatever. Where do these characters come from? What is the story these DJs are trying to tell? What is the branding they are trying to sell? The DJ nickname thing has done marketing wonders for many artists. But as a man in my 40′s, I’ve always felt a little foolish at the thought of adopting one of these adorable DJ handles (although my boss here at Jerry Bruno Productions does call me “DJ Shorty G”. It hasn’t stuck.). I try to brand myself as a fun, professional MC/Special Event Host, not an aging Hip Hop B-Boy wearing a baseball cap sideways – no offense. So “Geoff” will do just fine.
A little shyness is not always a bad thing. Often being a naturally less outgoing DJ can be be an asset too. I’ve said it a million times, a DJ’s job is to keep the spotlight on her clients and their guests – not to constantly seek it herself. Being too forward, loud and flashy can border on “hammy”, which is a slippery slope to obnoxious – the number-one concern I hear from people shopping for a DJ. Over-the-top DJs could benefit from a teaspoon of shyness (read discretion). And so it would seem that developing characters shouldn’t necessarily be reserved for the more reserved among us. Acting as a more subtle, understated character could be a good thing for MC Loudmouth too. I’ve dealt with brides who didn’t want to book certain bands just because the female singers in them were “too good looking”, thus drawing focus from Princess MyDay on her big day – my own band included. Imagine her disdain when Bozo the DJ steals her thunder and decides to juggle fire during the Cupid Shuffle in a “Kiss Me, I’m the DJ” T-Shirt. I think the goal should be a healthy balance of being friendly, open, approachable and fun while still being humble and subtle.
Even if that means we’re just acting that way.
My acceptance speech is ready.