Interactivity At Wedding Receptions By: Keith Alan

April 8, 2008 by Mobile Beat Staff Writer

The concept of DJ interaction, especially at wedding receptions, has been quite a controversial subject within our industry. Often when thinking about interaction, we picture a DJ we’ve seen or heard of who crossed the line into being intrusive or obnoxious. Therefore, perhaps the best place to begin is with a working definition of interaction. For our present purpose, interaction will be defined as the DJ using his or her personality to connect with the guests throughout the event. With that definition, you can see that there are thousands of ways that DJs can interact, depending on their own personality.

Personally, I am a high-energy kind of guy; this is my nature. My energy and enthusiasm for making an event a party is what I use to connect with the guests. It’s not my nature to be able to stand behind a console, do basic announcements (which are, by the way, interaction) and remain distanced from the participants at a celebration. I become a part of the party. My energy sets the tone and sends the message that we are all here to have fun! My approach may not be right for you. The important thing is to find an interactive style and a level that is comfortable for you, and use it to make the most out of every event.

I’ve been in this business now for over 20 years. Most of my clients have either seen me at events or are referrals from other clients. By the time we sit down for our consultation they have viewed my video and are already familiar with my style. Therefore, when doing the planning meeting I do not ask direct questions concerning interaction. It does come up indirectly as we review the planner and discuss the events. Because I have developed a reputation for my high-energy approach I will not accept a job that isn’t a good fit with my personality. There may be other potential clients at this event. I will not compromise my reputation or deal with the stress of deviating from who I am naturally. If you do not yet have a strong identity in your market, you may want to discuss interactivity in more detail during the client consultation.

I begin to build energy and excitement with the bridal party members. When they arrive, while double checking the order of their entrance and pronunciations, I remind them that the ceremonial part of the day is now behind them and that they can now cut loose and have a great time. I tell them that the introductions are their time to shine. I use my voice and the music I choose for the introductions to set a tone of energy and excitement. This encourages them to make a great entrance.

After we do the Grand Entrance we go directly into the formal dances, Blessing, Toast, and the meal. Therefore, we have brought the energy up in the room and need to let it drop right down again. We do open the dance floor between meal courses, therefore we can maintain some degree of a party atmosphere.

I do not use props as an add-on or upsell and use them sparingly during an event. While I’m high-energy, you will not see me out there in a chicken suit or trying to force a groom or best man to don a chicken head. I know that this works for some DJs, but it is not my personal style. I don’t force myself or guests to become involved in a way that just isn’t comfortable. That tends to defeat the purpose and will, quite frankly, work against the reputation you are trying to build.

I believe that one of the best ways to enhance your skill at interaction is to know your music. Know the story a song is telling and how the instruments and vocals are used to tell that story. In this way you can lead your guests into that story through the use of simple props, participation dances, shout-outs, and other ways that let your guests become a part of the music. Let me describe a few examples.

During the first open dance set I generally start out with “Old Time Rock n’ Roll.” I want the send the message that the party has begun. I get up on one of my speakers with a hat and inflatable sax. The energy is contagious. After the sax solo I throw the instrument over my shoulder and get the dance floor’s hands clapping. This is followed by “Celebration” during which I encourage the “Yahoo!” shout-outs. If the energy isn’t up to speed yet I’ll encourage them with a feigned yawn and “Tell me when you’re ready to party!” I usually follow this with “Copacabana” as I dance and lip sync through the song. Sometimes I’ll find one of the older women, introduce her as “Lola” and lip sync the song to her. The point of all this is to pull the people into the music and keep things energetic. Here are some other ideas:

Family Feud Face-Off – While people are still on the floor, as a song is fading down, I’ll begin to set this routine up by explaining that during our consultation “Suzy” told me that her family was wilder and crazier than “Bob’s.” “Bob” didn’t agree with this one bit and told me his family was crazier by far. This got to be quite an argument and that now we were going to prove which of them is right. I split the bride’s family and the groom’s family onto opposite sides of the dance floor. For this routine I use a remix of “We Are Family” and have each side do a practice round by letting out a scream. As the song continues I have each side take turns singing/yelling as loud as they can while dancing. About 30 seconds before the song ends I do a final round. “One last time, let me hear “Suzy’s” family. Now let me hear “Bob’s” family. At the end I always declare it a tie because “Now you are all one big happy family.”

Chorus Line Challenge – The set up for this routine is to tell them that the last reception I did, they had the largest chorus line I’ve ever seen. I then throw out a number, let’s say 42. I then challenge them to top that number. This is done to New York, New York. As the dance floor gets fuller I have them curve around till they form a circle. This is also a great set up to move into specialty dances like the Chicken Dance or some ethnic favorites.

Macarena – The Macarena is still popular in this area. To break up the routine, have them do the moves backwards. I always get out there with them and lead dances like this and the Electric Slide. For me it’s about becoming a part of the party. You may feel more comfortable dancing behind the console or just calling out the moves. Just find a way to stay involved!

Latin Line Dace Set – I teach and lead line dances to Mambo #5 – Lou Bega, Maria – Ricky Martin, and Coco Jambo – Mr. President. The steps for these can be found here in DJU. Bill Willets of Long Island created the Mambo #5 dance that I teach. Russ Harris in Chicago designed the basic steps for Maria and we reworked them a bit. I presented the Coco Shuffle and it won an award at the DJ Times Show in Atlantic City in ’97. A word of caution with teaching line dances…practice, practice, practice. Make sure you know the steps well and are comfortable with them. When you are practicing, speak out the instructions so you can easily instruct and dance at the same time. If you aren’t sure you can do it well, it’s best to not do it with a group until you know you have it mastered.

DJ Spiral of Death – I start this by teaching the Coco Shuffle. After we do that, “Party Time” by Gloria Estafan. That is when I pass out the leis, maracas and hats and start a conga line. Bring the line around the room then back to the dance floor. Once back, start a circle and when you reach the end, step to the inside of the circle. Now, just let it spiral in towards the center. When you run out of room, you as the leader, turn to the right and bring the conga line back through the circle, traveling in the opposite direction until you make your way back out. Then keep the circle going and do the “Reverse Circle Dance”! You do this by having two people go into the center of the circle. Then call for them to go to the outside and get new partners, then you have four. Continue this until your circle is sufficiently broken and then call everyone still left around the perimeter to join the others lined up on the dance floor. Now repeat the Coco Shuffle to the house Remix, which is a faster version.

As I’ve stated, it is my style to use my energy and become part of a party. That comes naturally to me. You might believe that what comes naturally for you is to remain laid back. I invite you to challenge that belief by first making small changes in the way you relate with your guests at receptions. This might mean that you first begin to talk a little more. Use some of the energy you see on the dance floor instead of your own as a starting point. Find the “natural leaders” in your crowd and use them to head up your conga line. Use your bridal party, you know their names. Small comments like, “Look at Steve go! Who can outdo Steve?…there’s your challenge ladies and gentlemen.” Become friends with your bride and groom first during the consultation. Become friends with the bridal party as you’re organizing them to come into the room. Once you’ve made allies they will be helpful in your interactive efforts throughout the evening. Most of all, have fun and let it show that you are having fun. I guarantee that you will reap the rewards for your efforts in more referrals.

Mobile Beat Staff Writer (371 Posts)

This is the general editors account for Mobile Beat Magazine and Website. Who reads Mobile Beat online and in print and attends Mobile Beat events? DJs, VJs and KJs to start with, especially those who own and operate mobile entertainment services. They provide music, video, lighting and a myriad other entertainment choices for corporate events, wedding receptions, dances and innumerable other gatherings.

Filed Under: DJing Weddings, Mobile DJ Performance Tips