Pursuing The School Market : The “P” Factor By: Chuck Lehnhard

April 8, 2008 by Chuck Lehnhard

When you are talking about school dances you have to remember what I like to call, “The ‘P’ Factor”: Personality, Performance, Professionalism and Persistence. Let us take them in order.
Personality – No matter what you do at a gig, no matter how good you or your gear is, if you are a jerk people will not hire you back at any price. You have to be friendly and schmooze with everyone – the teachers, students, chaperons – even the custodians. Try and get the names of as many people in charge as you can and then use them. Doesn’t it make you feel better when a photographer uses your name other than saying “hey Mister DJ?”Also, you must BE a personality. In these days of radio station sponsored DJ companies, you have to be able to stand out. Don’t be afraid of using your name during the dance. Introduce yourself and not only say your company name, but your name also. The students will relate to you better and you won’t be that anonymous DJ like they had last time. Have giveaways made up with your name on them or have a “DJ Chuck Party Crew.”

During the dance you can use students as guest DJs and make them part of your show. Don’t just sit back and “push play,” get a light to shine on you and BE a personality! I know of okay DJs who get hired over and over again just because of their personality.

Performance – This can mean different things to each DJ. We can no longer just stand back and “push play.” In order to take our profession to the next level and make the kind of money we all would love to be making, we have to improve our show. Spend a little to make a lot. Buy it and it will fit!

Your performance might mean being “in the mix” and wowing students with the skills and tricks you can do on turntables. It might mean audience interactiveness with games, props and contests. Whatever your style is make sure that you draw the crowd in.

One of the best ways to do this is with your mic technique. Good mic technique is essential in getting to that next level. There are thousands of great mixers, you also need to be a great MC and audience motivator. A solid sounding wireless microphone/headset is the best way to go. It leaves your hands free to mix while you get the crowd going. Like Sly says, ” I wanna take you higher!” Take your crowd there. And, always remember that at school dances the crowd might just want to dance. Don’t let your ego get in the way of giving the students what they want. After all, that is the bottom line.

Professionalism – You see it everywhere. A phrase that is way overused. I would bet it is on seventy percent of business cards, ” PROFESSIONAL MOBILE DJ COMPANY.” The question is: “What is a professional?” That is another whole story in itself. However, when it comes to school engagements, there are a few basics that will show the people in charge you are worth the extra money they have paid you. After all, the first thing a professional does is charge more than the weekend warrior. Most schools are smoke and drug free zones so professionals never smoke or do any drug at school dances. One of the most asked questions is: “Are you bringing guests ?” Of course, the professional never does. You bring the people you need to run your show, never more. Leave the girlfriend or boyfriend at home. Leave your friends there also. If you bring somebody with you, make sure you put him or her to work. There is nothing a teacher hates more than to see a “groupie” sitting in a chair behind the DJ or a friend hanging around checking the girls out. If your friend HAS to come, have them take requests, set up games or activities, interact with the students or if they are good at it, have them schmooze.

A professional takes great care in the set up and appearance of their show. Hide your cables and cords. Who do you think you are, a band? Carry your gear in road cases when possible. Purchase real DJ gear. Stay away from home stereo equipment and homemade lighting effects. It not only looks unprofessional but will always let you down in the long haul if not right through the starting gate. You may think you are saving money, but believe me, you are not.

Finally, dress for success! For load in get you crew into matching shirts with your company logo on the front. Nothing looks more professional than matching shirts and/or jackets. Change for the show. I call them “show clothes”. Do you think teachers and students really want to see you wearing the same thing they are? Dress a step above the crowd. If there is a theme dance, ie: disco, beach or 50s, wear something to go along with the theme. The student council will love it and in turn will hire you back. Step up and in turn you will make more money.

Persistence – DJs always ask me: “Chuck, how do I break into a new school?” One word, PERSISTENCE! You might get lucky and get a bunch of calls from that first school mailing, but usually it takes a while. Mail, call, mail and call. In between these, send postcards, magnets, pens, whatever you might have to get their interest up. Don’t give up. I personally hate cold calling but whenever I do it, I always book a gig or two and tell myself I need to do it more. By calling the school and asking if the activity director is available and then giving him or her your pitch, you have a good chance of booking a dance. You never know when a good time is to call. If you know teenagers in your area and they go to school dances, ask them how their last dance was. Find out when the next dance is and the day afterward talk to them. Maybe the DJ was weak. Maybe their speakers blew and the dance ended early (I’ve heard this more times than you would think!), maybe they didn’t even show up! Or maybe they were just jerks. Call the school the next Monday and talk to the person in charge of the next dance. Chances are they are not going to want that same DJ and “Wow, how cool it is that you called, we do need a DJ for our next dance!” Remember, NEVER, EVER give up! I get calls from mailings that I did four years ago. It always amazes me. If I lose a school or they change teachers or find a cheaper DJ, I do not write them off, I wait. They will come back. Schools are a great source of Friday night cash and you want some of that. RIGHT?! Of course you do!

Chuck Lehnhard Chuck Lehnhard (4 Posts)

Filed Under: DJing School Dances