Rob Ferre – His Pivot Within The Events Industry
For my Series: ”The Pivot” I’m inviting wedding and event pros to come and talk about how and why they made their pivots, into the industry, out of the industry and within the industry. For this episode, I invited my good friend, and fellow speaker, Rob Ferre, to talk about his pivot from being a wedding and event DJ, to MC, game show host and more. Rob is still doing weddings and events, but he’s also finding a new niche to supplement his event work. Listen to this new bonus dialogue episode for ideas on how you can find your pivot.
Rob Ferre is an entertainer, speaker, DJ, and game show host from Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. He founded his entertainment company Life of the Party in 2007 after training for 3 years in the family entertainment capital of the world, Orlando Florida. Where he worked for Disney, Universal Studios, and Nickelodeon as a game show host and DJ. He has been speaking to and entertaining audiences for over 20 years. He is one of the most sought-after speakers in the wedding and event industry. Over the last three years Rob has spoken to audiences live in Italy, Armenia, Dubai, and all over the continental United States. In the last year, he has presented to over 100 audiences virtually. During the 2020 season, he was the Halftime Game Show Host for the NBA’s Utah Jazz. Rob is a proud member of the Wedding Industry Professionals Association, American Disc Jockey Association, and the National Speakers Association where he serves as the Past President of NSA Mountain West.
If you have any questions about anything in this, or any of my podcasts, or have a suggestion for a topic or guest, please reach out directly to me at Alan@WeddingBusinessSolutions.com or visit my website www.AlanBerg.com
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Below is a full transcript. If you have any questions about anything in this, or any of my podcasts, or have a suggestion for a topic or guest, please reach out directly to me at Alan@WeddingBusinessSolutions.com or contact me via text, use the short form on this page, or call 732.422.6362
Please be sure to subscribe to this podcast and leave a review (thanks, it really does make a difference). If you want to get notifications of new episodes and upcoming workshops and webinars, you can sign up at www.ConnectWithAlanBerg.com
– When it comes to pivoting your business, there’s so many ways that you can do it. And my next guest has done it in a very unique way. You’re going to want to hear this episode. Welcome back to my special Pivoting Series. I have a very special friend on, Rob Ferre. Rob, how you doin’?
– Doing good. Glad to be joining you from my virtual studio here in Salt Lake City, Utah.
– And we love it. I love the mirrored ball. I just feel like doing a little “Stayin’ Alive” here. Maybe we can, you can do that.
– You know when you-
– The funny thing about this mirror ball is I decided to set this up when I first started doing virtual karaoke during the pandemic, and it has stayed ever since.
– Virtual karaoke, which sounds like a pivot. We can get to that. We can get to that. Although I do love, if you’re watching the video, you kind of were holding the mirror ball in your hand, virtually, as you’re, there it is. It, there you go, it looks like that. So, Rob and I, we actually have the distinct pleasure of having danced together on stage at WeddingWire World, but that’s a whole nother story. And we will, that’s another kind of a pivot. But this series on pivoting is for people that have pivoted into the wedding and event industry, out of the wedding and event industry, or within the wedding and event industry, and Rob, you’ve kind of done a little bit of all of those things. So, you’re a, just tell people real quick, what is your business right now? Just the name of your business and what do you do?
– So, my business is Life of the Party Entertainment. So, have you ever been to a party where the entertainment was exceptional and fun? Have you ever been to a conference where they had an engaging emcee? Have you ever been online and had a wonderful Zoom experience? Not a lot of people have those, so I helped change those and I help create experiences engaging with entertainment and all sorts of skill sets that I have.
– So, your business is what’s considered a multi-op DJ business, multi-operative. So, how many different DJs do you have, or is it just you now?
– Well, you know what? Yeah, so a lot of people do put that into two categories. You have single-op and you have multi-op. I would like to tell people that I am a DJ talent agency.
– And so we’re not a traditional multi-op, I don’t own all the gear. I don’t have a big, huge warehouse where people come in. Basically I have talent that I’ve curated over the last 14 years I’ve been in business to go out and work on my behalf. So, the guy that actually produced your podcast, he worked for me for a while. He was in radio. I saw the talent that he had to be able to engage an audience, said, “Why don’t we collaborate together and get you into the DJ business?” And so he’s gone off on his own and he has his own business as well. And so that is what I try and look for here in Utah. I look for talent. Some of it, I train. Some of them are already working, and they’re listed under my banner, which is Life of the Party.
– And do they also book themselves then?
– Yes. When they book themselves, they can’t be under any other agency, if that makes sense.
– I encourage them to get their own hours in, get their own reps in. Sometimes they book it through us and they say, “Hey, I have a client. I would just rather have them book it through you.” But I don’t want them to turn away work. I want them to be able to go out and keep working on their skillset.
– That’s great. And this is something I’ve spoken about with some of the people on the “Scaling the business”, where it is a business. So, the people that are like, “You know what, I have this customer, you take care of it.” And so you do the administration, you do the billing, you do all of that. And they don’t want to deal with that. They want to be talent and they are talent, then that’s great. So, you started your business 14 years ago. It was just you. And then after what, a couple of years you started to bring on other talent?
– Yeah. And I imagine with a lot of people, you think to yourself who are in these types of businesses, “I wish I could clone myself.” Especially if you’re the talent, if you’re the person that needs to be there, at the event, doing the thing. So, let’s say you’re a wedding officiant, and you always thought to yourself, “I’m getting all these inquiries, all these leads. I wish I could clone myself.” You can do that by training other talent and getting people to work under your brand and doing what you do. And so a lot of the DJs that work for me, I actually trained from the ground up, and I was able to find. But the thing is, I did it organically in the sense of there was a need, right? I need to be able to serve continuously. So, how can I get more people to represent me? So, I did that for weddings, also for school events, and for corporate events. And so I was able to train these people. I also found people who are up-and-comers and people that I didn’t want to be my competition.
– Why don’t we collaborate together?
– I’ll send you leads, I’ll book you under my banner. And whenever you can’t do it, Life of the Party will take care of that. You send us those leads and you’ll get a commission.
– So, but you had more leads than you can handle, which is why you looked to expand it in the first place.
– So, that was the organic part, right?
– Exactly, yes.
– So, you and I also know each other through the National Speakers Association, and there are a few people in the wedding industry, not that many, that are in that. Those people that don’t know what that is, we’re the other NSA. We like to say we’re the ones that speak, not the ones that listen. That’s a whole nother thing there. But with NSA, it’s the largest group of professional speakers in the country. It’s part of the Global Speakers Federation, which is the largest association of speaking associations in the world. And so you and I have seen each other at wedding and event industry conferences, as well as speaking conferences. So, the speaking is-
– And we’ve shared the stage multiple times.
– We absolutely have multiple times. And I love doing that with you. You do bring the life to it, Rob. Talk about energy. He’s the Energizer Bunny there. So, the pivot from DJing to MCing to the speaking world, ’cause you, in terms of speaking, you do more of in terms of the emceeing and leading, that conference type thing, rather than the content, right? I’d say you do more of that?
– Right. And so I don’t really necessarily think of my speaking as a pivot, but as an expansion of what I do.
– I would say in my heart, I’m an entertainer. I just like to be on stage in front of people. And so for those of you who are thinking about expanding what you do, pivoting into a different direction, it’s what is your skill set that you are not using right now? And so I started speaking by doing school assemblies. My sister-in-law asked me to do a school assembly when I started. Then I started speaking at industry events. So, I started speaking at conferences. That grew into speaking at wedding industry conferences. So, I’ve spoken at Wedding MBA, WeddingWire World, Planners Extraordinaire, Destination Wedding Planners Congress. And so these are some amazing conferences that I’ve been able to speak at. And then once I started speaking at these conferences, I found the National Speakers Association. And that’s where I found my tribe. So, now I’ve expanded beyond just speaking at industry events. And then I got into emceeing by doing galas. And so sometimes it just takes somebody to say, “Hey, can you do this for me?” And you saying, “Yes.” Because that’s how those opportunities have come to me. People approached me and they said, “Can you emcee our gala? Can you do this assembly?” And I said yes.
– Right, and let’s face it, the wedding industry is filled with people that were doing something for someone, friend, relative, school, whatever. How many DJs were on their college radio station, right? How many photographers were on the college year book? I guess I could’ve gone there ’cause I was shooting on the yearbook and the newspaper staff when I was in college. My son’s girlfriend, I’ve said this many times, she’s got 21 or 22 first cousins, and she’s a photographer, you know? So, it’s, “Hey, you’re coming to the wedding. Could you bring your camera?” You know, but then it’s somebody else that sees that and says, “Hey, I want more of that.” And this is, I have this actually on one of my other podcasts talking about, you know, what is luck? Luck is the intersection, according to Seneca, Roman philosopher Seneca, it’s when preparation meets opportunity. So, somebody saw something, and you were ready to see that opportunity and take it, because let’s face it, if you weren’t skilled for that, if you weren’t ready for that, you do that thing, and you flop, you know, you can either then say, “I need the skills better,” or you can just go away from it. So, the pivot for you, you didn’t pivot away and say, “I’m not going to DJ anymore.” You said, “I love emceeing. I love doing this. I’m going to do this, but I also love doing this. So, I’m going to do this as well.” Which in the speaking world is a really important thing, because having multiple revenue streams is for making a successful speaking business. Because the speaking business is tough. It’s tough. So many people see us on stage and are like, “Ooh, I want to do that.” And just like with a wedding, you know, how many hours do you put in for someone’s wedding as a DJ? It’s not the five they see, right? It’s the 30 they don’t see. How many hours do you put in on a speech?
– It’s not the 45 minutes they see, right? It’s, it’s all of that.
– And I think it’s also creating a model for yourself. So, everybody has different business models. There’s different speaking models. So, let’s talk about your speaking model, for example. You have different revenue streams. You do have your products, but you have your masterminds. You have your keynotes. You have your website reviews. And we have all these amazing things, but this uses all your skill sets. And so for me as an entertainer, I have different models that I like to use. I started creating my game show years ago. Then it went virtual once the pandemic and that scaled my business immensely. The best thing about virtual, Alan, I gotta tell you this, is when we do weddings or when we do live events, you have inventory for one night, right? I gotta give away that date, I have to be there in person. The beauty of virtual, my inventory is 24 hours a day. I am only giving away an hour or two hours of my time.
– “Hey, our event is at 2:30 Eastern.” Well, I’m available at this time, ’cause I have an event right before at 1:30 Eastern. As soon as I jump off, I jump on. So, that’s the beauty of virtual.
– Right, and one of the podcasts I did, which has actually been very popular so far is, you know, will you be having Zoom appointments after COVID? And I think one of the best skills that people could have learned, and I say could have learned, because you should have learned, is that you didn’t need to be sitting across the table from someone to make a sale. Even a venue, even a caterer, you didn’t need to be sitting across the table from them to make a sale. Some of them, you will, you still will. But when you realize how much of it was you trying to get them across the table instead of them needing to be across the table, that’s a skill you carry forward with you. So, and I’ll let people listen to that particular episode because it’s, again, it’s another 10 minute episode. But there are so many people that have picked up that skill and were like, “Oh, here you go.” You know, in the speaking world, I, as you know, I’ve spoken in 14 countries. I very rarely am having the sales appointment in person. As a matter of fact, it’s almost never in person, let me just say that. It’s almost never in person. The only time I can think of that it was in person is I got off stage and somebody came up to me and said, “I want you to come and do sales training with my people.” And we were standing next to one another at this conference. That was a crime of opportunity, because we were right there. But normally, another little side factoid, Rob and I very often speak to each other in Spanish, because he is fluent in Spanish, and I am semi.
– Nosotros hablamos en español en diferentes lenguas
– Si, si and he presentado en cinco paises en español y todos mis libros disponible en español But that’s another story. Anyway, but I spoke in Cartagena, Colombia, and had only email conversations in Spanish and got paid in full and never ever had a Zoom call, phone call, in-person meeting, right?
– But I had a sales a sales appointment, so that’s a very important skill. So, the pivot.
– What’s next for you in terms of the pivot? We have Life of the Party Entertainment. We have Rob Ferre, DJ Rob Ferre, we have robferre.com, Rob the emcee, the game show host, all that kind of stuff. Where do you see yourself with all the smoke clearing here from COVID or maybe it’s just the soft powder from Utah’s snow clearing?
– Yeah, it’s a good question. And I think I want to continue on the path that will bring me more money. I enjoy weddings. I do enjoy doing those events. But I think sometimes it’s a sign when everybody’s saying yes to you, that means it’s time to raise your prices. And so the pivot for me is also to expand my presence as a speaker, as an emcee, and to raise my prices for weddings. And so I’m only doing the weddings that are like the most important ones that will pay for that. But what I see myself doing is doing multi-day conferences as an emcee. That’s the thing I enjoy doing most. I’ve done that for WeddingWire World and also DWP, Destination Wedding Planners Congress. And so that is-
– In Lake Como, Italy, by the way.
– Oh, well, that was, and so Como, that was the Planners Extraordinaire, where I did a keynote.
– Oh, okay, right.
– And DWP was in Dubai.
– That’s right, in Dubai, that’s right.
– Yeah. And so, but I think it’s really important for me to lean into these different things that are coming my way. Because of the pandemic, it expanded my brand. So, for those of you who are thinking about pivoting and expanding into different markets and different things… Also, I want to let people know, the thing that brought me the most success this last year was my relationships. Most of the events I got were because of referrals. People saying, “Rob does this thing that nobody else does. He has a certain skill set that nobody else has. Go to Rob.” So, that was speakers, that was DJs, that was friends. These were all these people that I’ve networked with. And so be that unicorn within whatever you do, because then you’ll be able to do more of it.
– Well, and the interesting thing is, how does that happen? That doesn’t happen by itself. That’s because Rob is actively involved in his National Speakers Association chapter. Rob is on groups online. Rob is going on other people’s podcasts, and he’s also giving, he is giving him his time.
– And Clubhouse.
– And Clubhouse. Giving of his time, right. So, people see the giver, right, but it’s also showcasing your talents at the same time. So-
– And in the beginning, just like, you know, you did the first speaking for your sister or sister-in-law, whatever it is and you may not get paid for something like that. It’s people see what the talent is and then they want to have you do more of that. So, the pivot again is go back to that, you know, what is luck? The intersection of preparation and opportunity. Your networking was not an accident, right? People referring you because if somebody said, “Hey, I need an emcee, can you, who can do something fun for this?” Whatever, it’s, “Oh, I just saw Rob do this.” It’s not, you know, they didn’t just pull that out of thin air. That was because of all the other things that you do, that planting the seeds and laying the groundwork. So, that that’s all part of that.
– Yeah, two things. Top of mind awareness, as I call it. Telling everybody what you do. We’re in the business of self-promotion. So, you’re promoting your podcast constantly, and you have to let people know, “This is what I do.” So, that’s one thing being top of mind, putting it on your socials. And then the second thing is, once you do that pivot, you gotta lean all in. You can’t just do it like, “Well, you know, maybe I’ll dabble in it.” If this is something you really want to do, you have to lean in. And so that’s what I did last year. I leaned in by building this virtual studio at home and people said, “Oh, well, he’s got the thing, he’s doing the thing. Let’s send that his way.”
– Right, you’re prepared for that. But again, they’ve seen you do it. They’ve heard about it. You’re putting yourself out there on social. If you don’t follow Rob on Instagram or on Facebook, you’ll see he’s putting, “Here I am, I just did this thing. Here’s me on stage for this virtual thing. I just did my first hybrid event.” I think I’m relating all of your last recent social posts there.
– Exactly, yeah.
– But that’s the thing is I’m seeing that, not because I’m actively seeking Rob out. It’s I follow Rob and I see the things that he’s doing, and I always joke that I live in New Jersey now for the last 10 years, so you have to have a guy, right, for everything. And if somebody says, “I need an emcee, who’s fun? I need somebody who can do a game show. I need somebody who can do a virtual whatever with a mirrored ball.” I’m like, “I got a guy.” Right? And I wanted somebody on my podcast to talk about pivoting. I knew a guy, you know, it was the guy that I know. And a lot of this, let’s go back to how you and I first really connected, was at a conference and walking down the hall and it was you, me, and Alex, I believe it was.
– Alex, yep.
– Right? And the three of us just went and sat and had something to eat, right? And I didn’t really know you. You probably knew me more than I knew you because-
– Yeah, I watched you on stage.
– I was the guy on stage, right.
– And Rob-
– But the whole idea behind that was is that you had that human connection. You said, “Why don’t we go out to dinner? Let’s connect.” And I think not enough people do that. In whatever that may be, it’s taking the time out of the event to say, “Let’s connect on a human level.” And so right now, maybe virtually you, you say, “Let’s have a virtual cup of coffee.” So, you set up those appointments, you reach out to people, and that’s what you did with us and Alex. And so you were seeking to understand and know us better instead of seeking the sale. Like you create those relationships. Not about like, “Hey, maybe Rob will eventually become a customer.” No, it’s like, let’s be friends first before we even explore this, whatever that may be. ‘Cause I know Rob will come to me because I give him value beyond.
– Right. And again, my thought was, “Hey, I’m hungry. Are you hungry?”
– Right. That’s what it was, yeah.
– That was my thought, and I never think about the money, and I never, I had no thought that you or Alex would do business with me. You were already at this conference, therefore you already have this connection with me. And it’s so funny, Rob, you probably get the same thing sometimes. You’re at a conference and you’re a speaker, you’re an emcee, whatever. And then you go to the bar, you go to have a dinner with people, or there’s a party, and you go to the party, and people like, “Hey, thanks for coming to the party.” And you’re like, “Thanks for inviting me. I could be sitting in my hotel room by myself right now. But you invited me to come here. So, this is okay, I’m all right with this.” But part of my brand is approachability. Certainly it’s part of your brand is approachability. I was doing sales training yesterday and I said, one of the things I said, they wanted me to talk about attitude. And I said, “Who do you know that just being around them just makes you feel good?” Right? And Rob is one of those people that he’s just a positive person. I’ve been with him and his wife. They’re just positive people, and you like being around them. But then the followup to that was, who do you know that just being around them sucks the life out of you? And we all can think about people like that as well, that are, you know, not the positive influence there. So, all right, wrapping a bow on, go ahead.
– Well, you said, you know, hanging out with my wife and I, and that’s the cool thing is we’re friends. And when we spoke at WeddingWire World in San Francisco, we went out of our way just to spend the day together. And so one more thing I want to point out to you. This is something that you do very well. And I don’t know if you know about this concept, but I’ve talked about it. It’s called relationship arrogance. Prioritizing a relationship based on forecasted return on investment. So, you’re not the kind of guy that walks into a room and says, “Who’s the person that’s going to bring back my investment in time?” Right? You don’t do that. And so anybody who’s stepping into a situation that is a networking event, and whenever you see somebody, you are going to give them your time, not based on the forecasted return of investment of time, but because of that connection. And that’s what Alan does so well.
– Thank you, thank you. And you know, if you go in not expecting anything, you’ll never be disappointed.
– Right, exactly.
– Right, you’ll never be disappointed. And it, like you said, if I’m looking and putting dollar signs on people, that’s not a good human connection, and people will see right through that. I can remember a younger me, when I would make a sale in, different business, when it would make a sale, it was like, “Ooh, I made this much money.” It was not the thought about the return about, oh, that person, what did they just get, and what’s the value to them? And now it’s completely about that. It’s, yes, the money’s there, but it’s not about that, yeah.
– And one more point, sorry, I have to keep doing this because you’ve inspired me in so many different ways. And you made a quote to me that I use in my keynote, which is called, “Be the first person on the dance floor. “How to create a movement.” And you said to me, that’s very profound. It was, “It’s always more fun doing than watching.”
– Because there’s so many people who are on the sidelines watching and saying, “Oh, wow, that looks like a lot of fun. I can’t believe Alan’s doing this.” Or he’s on the dance floor. And the dance floor is the metaphor for whatever you want to be doing. So, if anything, when it comes to the pivot, it’s always more fun doing than watching others do it! So, get out there.
– That’s it, don’t be the wallflower. So, Rob, thank you so much for joining me. I appreciate you sharing your wisdom with everyone, sharing the ideas that you do. And it is your enthusiasm for that pivot, enthusiasm for following that. We can talk another time about the raising your prices thing. Actually, that is another one of my podcasts already. Can you raise your prices? And the answer is yes, you can.
– So, you do that, so you do that. Rob, if people want to get ahold of you, I will put it into the show notes as well, but with what would be a website that people should go look at?
– Yeah, RobFerre.com, R-O-B-F-E-R-R-E. That is for all the things that I do. My business here in Utah is Life of the Party Utah. And then if you want to follow me on Instagram, @robferre, R-O-B-F-E-R-R-E.
– Thank you so much. I will see you at the next conference, my friend.
I’m Alan Berg. Thanks for listening. If you have any questions about this or if you’d like to suggest other topics for “The Wedding Business Solutions Podcast” please let me know. My email is Alan@WeddingBusinessSolutions.com. Look forward to seeing you on the next episode. Thanks.
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