By Derald Gray
I’ll just start off by saying I don’t think anything really prepares you to speak in front of hundreds of strangers. If so you’re a superhuman but that’s far from my experience. In my opinion there’s no way to become good at public speaking until after you’ve done it a handful of times. I’m talking diving into the ocean headfirst with no life jacket. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do as much preparation as you can before making the leap. Becoming a great wedding MC takes a lot a lot of practice and a lot of experience. They go hand in hand and should be perfectly balanced as all things should be.
First off why is this blog post even relevant? You probably don’t know me, and I don’t know you. Well allow me to introduce myself. My name is Derald Gray and I’ve been a professional wedding DJ since 2017. I got my start throwing bangers in my fraternity basement and turned that passion into a full-time career four years later. So far I’ve DJ’ed over 50 weddings and plan on DJ’ing at least 500 more (so help me God). I’m creating this blog to help inspiring DJs, videographers, and entrepreneurs like you turn their visions into reality.
I still remember the excitement when I got my first job as an assistant DJ. The only thing on my mind was how cool it was gonna be to get paid to DJ in front of hundreds of people. I thought this was the gateway to me being the next DJ Khaled or something. That fantasy was killed off within a week. I’ll let you in on a secret. Being a wedding DJ isn’t really about the music. It’s about the cohesive experience you give the bride, groom, and their guests from the day they book until the last song’s been played on the wedding day. And there’s no way to create that amazing cohesive experience without being an amazing MC. If you all you want to do is mix records and talk about how fancy your equipment is you should stick to clubs and work on your music production. Weddings are in another league and require a different set of core skills. One of them is being an MC.
I’m a social person, I thought I was gonna be a natural on the mic. You ever seen 8 Mile? I choked just like B Rabbit during my first MC training sessions. The most difficult part was saying all the right things while still maintaining my personality. Add that with trying to role play in front of your boss and the pressure only rises. I remember it like it was just yesterday.
John (former boss, owner of mobile DJ business): “Okay Derald, let’s take it from the top. Cocktail hour just started, and you want to welcome the guests as they start to grab drinks and mingle. Annnnd action!”
Derald: “I got you.” *Raises Mic* “Ladies and gentlemen on behalf of John and Jane I would like to welcome you all to the Blue Dress Barn. My name is DJ Gray and I’ll be your DJ for the evening. I’m taking song requests all night long so holler at me at the DJ booth if you need anything. Haha, yup. Mhmm. Well, so.”
Silence filled the room as I looked John dead in his eyes like a lost cat.
It also didn’t help that my delivery was subpar at best. I sounded robotic and I’m not talking autotune. Six months later I was speaking in front of crowds as if I were the only person in the room. Like most things in life becoming comfortable on the mic didn’t happen overnight, and all of the practicing I did along the way is what really made the difference. Here are the best strategies I used to become a better MC and shake off stage fright.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to know what you’re going to say before you say it. Before talking just to talk, take a minute to go over the script in your head. This will keep you from getting off topic or losing your trail of thought. This is one of the reasons I always have a detailed wedding timeline at arm’s reach. It acts as a visual aid. Before addressing the crowd, I rehearse the announcement a few times in my head and double check the timeline for accuracy. The last thing you wanna do is announce the first dance when it’s actually time for toasts. You can say all the right words but if the message isn’t clear it makes no difference. I encourage all wedding DJs to do stay up do date with wedding traditions and new trends because the more you know the better you can serve your couples. If you don’t know what a Matron of Honor is you shouldn’t be trying to DJ or MC a wedding.
Next, I encourage you to take a deep breath before making an announcement. Even seasoned public speakers can get nerves from time to time and admitting this to yourself can help calm you down. I usually take four long deep breaths to decompress if I feel the nerves or butterflies settling in. Go ahead and try it out! After this, stand up straight and loosen up a bit. There’s a reason the term “say it with your chest” exists. Breathe in a little confidence and let this energy flow as you talk.
I’ve also found success by redefining my audience. And no, this doesn’t mean picturing the crowd in their underwear. Think about it this way. You’re at a wedding and everybody is there to have a great time. The crowd is more than likely in a good mood and are on your side unless you give them a reason not to be. They aren’t looking to judge you, they’re there to support and celebrate with the newlyweds! Once I got this idea in my head speeches became easier. I saw myself not as a stranger, but as a distinguished guest and extension of the family. I love scanning the crowd and talking directly to faces that smile back at me.
Another helpful tactic is to keep your announcements short. Last thing you wanna do is talk so much your point get diluted. Guests don’t expect you to have a full-blown comedy routine and you shouldn’t have to deliver one either. Say what you have to say and leave it there. Experienced wedding DJs can be great improvisers on the mic, but I encourage you to practice saying only what needs to be said before adding your own elements. I always make my announcements twice to get the point across and nobody wants to hear terrible wedding jokes twice.
In conclusion I encourage you to take these tactics and put them into action. Remember, the only way to become a great public speaker is to practice! I suggest recording yourself or even better have someone else record you making mock announcements. Practice speaking in front of a group of friends and family members. Yes it’ll be awkward at first but nobody ever said growth was easy. I hope you found this blog post helpful and be sure to follow DG Visionaries on your favorite social media platform to stay up to date with our latest posts and updates.