Are you looking to throw a killer dance party?
Are you planning a wedding for the first time, and you want to make sure it’s an unforgettably fun dance party?
Are you on the social committee at your office, trying to figure out why every year nobody dances at your company holiday party, and how you can fix it this time around?
Are you an event professional, and you feel you know most of the things I am about to share, but maybe never had the language to relay it to your clients?
If any of these descriptions match your situation, this article has the potential to drastically change the outcome of your parties.
After 20 years as one of Toronto’s Top Event DJs – and someone who pays close attention to what has made or broken decades worth of affairs – I am an authority on coaching you on how to throw the party that people positively rave about for years to come.
The 5 proven steps for dance party mastery are as follows:
- Hire An Amazing DJ (Or Band) and Give The Right Direction
- Design Your Floor Plan With Dancing In Mind
- Hype Your Party Like It’s The Party Of The Year
- Plan To Put The Cameras Away
- Dance At Your Own Party
You can read the details of each of the proven steps as follows, or click on this video of me talking through them in a TedTalk-style presentation at the Wedding Academy:
Hire An Amazing DJ (Or Band) and Give The Right Direction
You should connect with the DJ or band on a level that inspires you, the same way a band or DJ inspires you to buy tickets to see them or line up outside a club in the cold to dance to their music for a few hours. Don’t get “just a DJ”, get a great one. You can find these people by asking your venue and other vendors for suggestions, as well as friends who had amazing parties just like what you are hoping for. Don’t simply trust online reviews, these can be easily fudged by anyone. Reach out directly and see if the connection is there for you.
Once you have the right person for the job, you’ve got to give them the right direction. I’ve always equated DJing to be similar to flying a plane: like the pilot, I take a room full of people on a journey, and leave them someplace different at the end of the night. And, similar to a flight path, how I get them there is through the music selection. And since you, the host, are pulling all the elements of a party together, make sure to give your DJ the direction they need. What do you want this party to be like? What is your vision for the vibe? What artists and genres should be included or focussed on? What will make you happy and keeping you partying till the wee hours?
It’s important that the direction matches the type of function, the age range of the guests, the ethnic mix, and most importantly the hosts tastes. An experienced DJ who can read a crowd and take the direction into account at the same time is the true art. Too much direction, however, can be limiting. A list of 50 must play songs is basically the entire nights’ worth of dance music. This takes the art our of song selection. Worse is polling the guests in advance for what they want to hear on the night of the party. If you want guests requests to be taken, let’s agree to focus on the ones coming from the people in the middle of the action on the night of the party.
Design Your Floor Plan With Dancing In Mind
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a room to find my DJ table stuffed in a corner. The layout of the room in relation to the speakers and the dance party plays a major factor, so plan accordingly. Think about the last dance club you went to – where was the bar, DJ and speakers in relation to the dance floor? Was the room dark and dingy or did they have exciting lights making the room feel like a party? Was the club crowded and fun or sparse and felt dead?
I often get asked “Will this dance floor be big enough?” If the dance floor is too big it will always feel empty. Having a small dance floor is better since it won’t take many people to make it feel full. So err on the smaller side. Make it smaller still by keeping cruiser tables on it, than can be moved later if its too crowded. But don’t put chairs or couches on the dance floor: give people a chance to sit and they’ll take it!
Most importantly, if your venue recommends putting the bar in another room, adamantly oppose this, or switch venues. Nothing kills the party worse than the bar in another room. The bar is the most popular place other than the dance floor at any party. If you have to leave the dance floor to get a drink, you will. So why not figure out a way to make them as close to each other as possible?
If it rains on your day, this could actually be a blessing, rather than something to cry about. Appreciate this scenario: it’s a beautiful summer evening and you have a choice between sitting on a gorgeous patio sipping a drink and catching up with old friends, or dancing inside a sweaty room. Which would you pick? Given the option most people in this country value outdoor time when they can get it. The best dance parties we’ve ever done were on cold, rainy or winter evenings when going outside simply isn’t an option. If staying inside and keeping warm on the dance floor is the only place to be, then it will surely be packed. So plan to keep everyone inside from a certain point in the night onwards. If you dare take everyone back outside for any reason like a first dance with sparklers, you risk showing them how nice it is away from the dance floor, and they are very likely never to return.
Hype Your Party Like It’s The Party Of The Year
We’ve all dealt with a promoter of some kind in our lives: the person who goes around telling everyone this particular party, concert or get together is going to be SO EPIC because of where it’s happening, who is playing, or who will be there (or all of the above.) So, as the host, you are likely also taking on the role of promoter. Make sure you are spreading the right messages to your guests! You want an all-out shoes-off ties-around-the-head party to take off? Tell them you hired a killer DJ, and that they better tell the babysitter they aren’t coming home till late. You’ll have a much better chance of the party going that way if you set people’s expectation to be high.
One way to ensure people will have lowered expectations of how fun it will be is to ask them what they want to hear when you send out the invitations. (Already mentioned this in the first point, but I feel deserves to be mentioned here again.) Polling the guests is basically throwing in the towel, subliminally telling them that we don’t know what to play, and we need them to tell us. We don’t. The reason you have come to us to provide our expertise is because you don’t want your uncle to pick the music for your wedding. Instead of polling them, tell them that YOU have hired the best person for your crowd, and you’ve given the direction you want for your party; a non-stop dance party till the lights come on.
Plan To Put The Cameras Away
It’s nice to have memories from your party, and we certainly wouldn’t tell you not to have a photographer to capture this. But at a certain point in the night, the pros gots ta go! People don’t want to be caught on film acting a fool. Not everyone can believe this, but I promise you it’s true: when the photographer and videographer leave, and all of a sudden people who weren’t dancing emerge from their tables. It wasn’t the music, it was the potential embarrassment the next day they were trying to avoid.
Photo booths can be equally detrimental. The best time to have a photo booth is during the cocktails when people have nothing else to do but smile and look pretty. When dancing is happening, that’s all that should be going on. You put an activity in the hallway and people will go there. Photo booth shut down time should be when dancing starts. Period.
You’ll still get plenty of photos of your dance party, they just might be selfies. Just ask your friends to share them with you once the wedding is over. Everyone is snapping away all night long with their own cameras and phones, and these are the most fun to laugh about later.
Dance At Your Own Party
Dinner is done, speeches are wrapped up, and now it’s time to party. At a wedding, we recommend this as the best time to schedule a first dance: dim the lights, get everyone’s attention on the dance floor and thinking about dancing, and show them how it’s done. Then, we transition from slow to faster music, and bring the guests along with you on the ride.
As the host, you have to be the person oozing the most fun, and you have to be on the dance floor all night long. If you leave to go take photos or have a long chat with a long lost friend, you’ll take the energy with you and suck it away from the dance floor. You need to be in the middle of the party as much as possible, and everyone who came out for you will surround you. Need a drink? Ask someone to get it for you. Bathroom break? Wait till its a song you can sneak away from for a few minutes without getting noticed. People are waiting to say goodbye to you? Say goodbye from the dance floor, or else you risk everyone following you to the door. You should be the first one on the floor to start the festivities, and the last one off of it when the lights come on.
We make a point to coach each and every one of our clients on these 5 steps. To book your DJ now, contact us through our online web form.
Got a tip for ensuring an epic dance party that we missed? Leave a comment below!