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We are proud to bring you the works of Dan McKay a skilled industry writer for many years. Dan's Soup will be a regular feature in each issue of DJzone with both old and new articles. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Getting More Referrals From Catering Directors
by Dan McKay


You start a sluggish business morning answering the telephone. The cheerful voice that greets you books six mobile shows for next month without once haggling over your price.

Can you still be dreaming? Not if you've tweaked your marketing savvy to target your sales efforts to hotel and on-premise catering directors. If you thought those high-budget gigs were for an exclusive few, the truth is all you have to know is when to put aside the headphones and put on the business suit.

Gena Berry, catering manager of Atlanta's Galleria Center is amazed at the number of business-naive DJ's that try to curry her favor. "I like someone who does the whole sales job, not just sends me a brochure and never follows up." Berry demands any mobile she refers to a client be fully insured, and have all proper business licenses. Perhaps that's why she consistently recommends only four area disc jockeys. She gives an extra gold star to DJ's who send follow-up letters and contracts immediately, and is particularly impressed with those who take the time to stop by and tour her property. "Anyone who's interested in my facility, I'm interested in."

Appreciating the catering director's role in the logistics of a successful event is the best way to get bookings from 15-year catering veteran Rod Westmaas of The Castaway Restaurant and Banquet Center in Burbank, CA. He terms his pet peeve as DJ's who try to "hog the whole show" by making the evening's program fit within the DJ's own timetable without consulting the catering staff. "They have to be our associates, not our adversaries. In working with our staff, timing is everything. Don't announce dinner is being served when our maitre'd is nowhere near ready. DJ's have to coordinate and communicate. If they don't do that, we look like idiots."

That's a malady Westmaas successfully avoids even though 70% of the events he books annually include disc jockeys. And if you want an encore at The Castaway, better check your ego at the door. "The DJ's I recommend should have enough professional skills where if someone wants to change the itinerary at the last moment, they don't get bent out of shape."

That sentiment is echoed by Cathy Frigo, catering manager of the Westin Galleria Hotel in Dallas. "When I've worked with a client anywhere from 6 months to a year, it's not a real positive experience for me to walk into a party, meet a DJ I've never met and have him argue with me about the way a party is going to be orchestrated." Frigo and her crew booked $5.2 million in catering events last year through being detail-oriented, and she demands the same of the of the disc jockeys she recommends. "Purple flashing lights and fronts of DJ stands that are big promotional boards are a turnoff for me. There's several services in town I won't recommend just due to their is not to the quality level of my hotel."

For Janine Raffray, catering manager of the Sheraton New Orleans personal contact is the key to peace of mind -- and a continued piece of the pie. "I feel better about an DJ company when the disc jockey that's actually playing the event calls the client, supplies a play list for special requests and double-checks with me about his needs such as tables, chairs or risers."

She also advises DJ's to pay special heed to the siren song of all catering directors "Turn it down!" "Many hotels have to balance their catering facilities with their sleeping rooms. Complaints from guests are the last thing we need."

If you believe the nation's think tanks, the business segment most likely to grow are service industries. No one realizes this more than caterers. By providing extra concern and attention to detail with a dash of three-piece-suit diplomacy, those who make their living from parties can only deepen their respect for we who party for a living. As Vidal Sassoon might say, "Make them look good, and you'll look good."

(This feature originally appeared in DJ TIMES Magazine, 25 Willowdale Avenue, Port Washington, NY 11050. Subscriptions $30 annually. (516) 767-2500)





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