I’m Sorry, What’s Your Name?

Recently, on my side of the internet, the topic came up about wearing a name tag when working weddings or corporate events as the DJ/MC. I do not wear a name tag when working at events, but am fully aware of many DJs who do…and for some pretty solid reasons I might add. Those reasons haven’t caused me to fully shift my personal choice on the matter, but they’ve certainly provided me some additional food for thought.

The purpose of writing about this topic today is to share some equally balanced and useful ideas from both points of view. Seldom is there a “golden rule” that applies to every DJ in the world in every situation, and this issue is no different. Take what you like, and respectfully leave the rest. I’ll share my reason (yes, I have just one) for opting for no name tag, but first, the reasons most DJs are against it…

It seems to me that most DJs believe that if they wear a name tag, he or she might become confused for hotel or venue staff. This might be true in some instances, but I think it really depends on the DJ’s style and level of talent development. For any DJ that has attended and implemented MC training from the likes of Mark Ferrell, Randy Bartlett, Bill Hermann or Peter Merry, I strongly believe there isn’t any chance that you might be confused for hotel staff. Your performance and the way you execute that part of your role will speak for itself, thereby separating you from any venue you work with (with or without a name tag).

As many of my Canadian colleagues will relate to though, some DJs don’t offer any MC services at all and therein lies a greater possible risk being confused for hotel staff if wearing a name tag. The role that DJ plays may not grant them the opportunity to confidently set themselves apart from confusion with the venue staff. Carefully (and tastefully!) branded name tags might work to eliminate that risk though.

My reason for avoiding the use of a name tag is all together different. Due to the personalized nature of my DJ and MC work, I am, with every wedding, actively attempting to blur the line between the guests wondering if I am a family member or long time friend as opposed to someone who does this for a living. Plain and simple, that’s it. I want guests at the wedding to believe I might be a friend of the family they haven’t met yet, or a long lost cousin they didn’t know existed (true story…that question has been asked!). This caters to the almost “intimate” nature of my work and, therefore, I avoid using a name tag because that would “give up the game” so to speak.

Without a name tag though, it is true, I am often asked throughout the night, what my name is. Yes, I introduce myself at the beginning of the reception, but only that one time. I can see the benefit to a name tag and have gone back and forth many times over the question.

Here are some quality reasons from industry veterans and DJ thought leaders, Bryan Podworny and Jim Cerone. Both of these gentlemen are not only very talented performers and incredible human beings, but they also command performance fees that are among the highest (if not, the highest) in their markets. So if you think a name tag is “tacky,” just remember that both of these men are being paid very well for wearing theirs.

Bryan begins by saying this about wearing a name tag, “Authority and a perceived level of professionalism. Look anywhere and you will see a name tag where authority figures deal with the public. Police, military, managers of stores of all varieties, service technicians. The people wearing them are typically someone that the public can go to find answers and request service. At the events where I am donning a name tag, I am that authority.”

Another important reason for Bryan has to do with something that probably affects most of us, “I have a horrible time remembering names. I know I’m not alone in this. When I talk to someone, it pains me deeply to not be able to call them by name. I imagine I’m not alone in this either. By wearing the name tag, anytime I come in contact with the public, they can easily recall my name from the badge.”

© Photography By Dale
© Photography By Dale

Jim Cerone, also known as the Perfect Host, summed up his thoughts on wearing a name tag by saying, “It’s a conscious, purposeful choice. I should remember everyone’s names, but they shouldn’t have to remember mine. I am there to ‘serve’ and most servers wear name tags so guests can clearly see who they are and why they’re there.”

Finally, if you want to step outside of the world where “everyone-is-a-DJ” wearing a name tag might help, says Bryan, “…I’m not the groom’s neighbour’s uncle’s best friend’s nephew who just happens to spin music on the weekend. Wearing something as simple as a name tag, at these types of events, invokes a little more professionalism in my eyes.”

Lastly, Jim has two final pieces of advice if you decide to start wearing a name tag, “…get the magnetic kind so it doesn’t poke holes in your suit. And yes, I shine mine before every event.”

Much like some DJs don’t wear suits while working, others will say they couldn’t perform without one. No truly correct answer exists. Consider the ideas, give thought to the points of view, and determine what defines your performance and service style. Then, choose your path accordingly.

There you have it. Are you ok with “I’m sorry, what’s your name?” or is a name tag something you might consider?

~ Dave

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7 thoughts on “I’m Sorry, What’s Your Name?”

  1. Another solid blog post! I agree with you perspective Dave and have had those “actively attempting to blur the line between the guests wondering if I am a family member or long time friend” moments. Some comments I have had before are…

    “Which side of the family are you from?”

    “Do you know the couple from high school or university?”

    Jim and Brian I both respect and their input is really good food for thought. Another point is that most guests are getting drunk and many will need that scaffolding. I think it would be tacky in my market and not consistent with our branding.

    Plus, what celebrity or rock star ever needs to wear a name tag?

  2. Great post again Dave! This is one of those topics that can spark all kinds of debates! There are valid points on both sides really. It can also depend on your market, maybe in some markets it more prevalent to wear name tags and maybe in some others it is never seen. I choose not to wear one as I feel it breaks the intimacy and people know who I am since I am the one on the mic acting as MC. However, it is hard to disagree with Bryan and Jim’s reasons, food for thought!

  3. Hey Dave – great job on this post. Very balanced reasons on both sides. My 3 reasons (yes, just 3) for NOT wearing a name tag lie somewhere in the middle.

    This may come across a bit vain and self-serving (though not my intent) but my first reason is that one of the factors of clients booking me is based on my look/fashion. I am in no way trying to promote myself as a model but fashion is a big part of my brand. Prospective clients and those who refer me mention (often) that one of the many reasons they booked me instead of someone else was based on my look. Fashion-wise, similar to you, I like to “blend in” a bit…not to the point where they think of me as a guest but somewhere between that and not stealing the show of the client or wedding party. A lot of my clientele will book a supplemental B-Lister Band (EWF, Salt N Pepa, etc.) and they expect us all to be “us” as entertainers as far as dress goes (within reason). That’s kind of the way I started and to change now would be a huge deviation from what I’m known for. Additionally, beyond the officiant, the DJ/MC is the 2nd most photographed professional at the event and does a client really want a nametag shown in the photos? In the case of my clientele, I can tell you the answer is no.

    Secondly, I truly believe that if we as a DJ and/or MC are truly reading the crowd, our name is irrelevant. Those that need to know my name (the client, wedding party and vendors) — I’ve spent a good amount of time getting to know ahead of the event and they know my name going in. As a DJ, I rarely get requests coming from guests because I’ve spent years honing my craft and seem to know exactly what the event is calling for and guests are dancing to what I’m playing. That’s not to say I’m not adverse to receiving requests, but those seem to be few and far between (and do they need to know my name to request a song anyway?). As a MC, I should be so “in tune” (pun intended) with what people need to know (when/where things are happening and other important information) that I communicate that clearly without someone having to come up to me to ask (again, even if they did come up, is it imperative they know my name to ask a question?).

    Thirdly, I subtly brand myself (my name) throughout the event. Not only do I introduce myself in the beginning of the night but I regularly “name drop” throughout the dance sets where it fits (via live crowd hype and even a few pre-recorded samples). This can be over the top if not done delicately. It’s a very fine line but in my case, it enhances my shows. Also, if I’m DJ’ing only or doing both duties (DJ and MC), my name is branded on my laptop skin very professionally so if for whatever reason, they did forget my name or needed me, they can see it there.

    Again, there are many ways to skin a cat and I don’t think there is a right/wrong way. I hope my post reply allows for more thoughts and discussion on the subject.

    1. Hey Brian, it is great to read your comments here. Very insightful and well written out. Thank you for your valuable contribution, many will take away much from it.

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