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Microphone Mishap & The Unprofessional Party Planner

A few weeks ago I was at a Bar Mitzvah. The event took place at a golf club in one of their pavilions. I was part of a four-person team, me as the MC, a DJ, and two motivators.


I want to start this story from the ending for a better understanding and then we will go back and bring this story full circle.


At the end of the event, I went up to the family as normal to say Mazel Tov, thank you for having us, and the good-bye. I started with the mother of the Bar Mitzvah boy. She was smiling and talking with her friends and I patiently waited until her friend looked at me and pointed. The mother acknowledged my presence, but something seemed off as the smile on her face dropped a little bit and turned to one of those fake smiles you put on just to be polite. I can tell something was wrong. I offered my words of respect and extended my hand. She seemed reluctant to reach back so I dropped my hand back down. She responded with, “it was a fun party and it seemed like everyone had a good time”. I responded, “we had a great time too! Thank you so much for having us”! At this point, I put my fake smile on too as I was already irritated by something that happened prior to these end of the night rounds. But, we’ll get to that.


The Bar Mitzvah boy was right there beside her, and without me prompting it, he looked at me and said, “Yeah! That was such a great party! Thank you!” and then proceeded to dab me up. ‘This new young man was raised well’, I thought to myself. He knew how to show respect and give credit where credit was due. This is the only member of the family to actually thanked us.


I was just about to leave and forget about saying goodbye to the father. Deep in my gut, something told me I shouldn’t. But, as much as I wanted to, I chose to be the bigger man and I went back to find him to say goodbye. The father has been avoiding me all night and hasn’t said one word to me since the beginning of the celebration. I go up to him and I say, “I just wanted to thank you for having us as part of your son’s big day. I hope you had a good time”. I extended my hand and he immediately reached back and pulled me a little closer. He looks me straight in the eyes and in a very stern tone said, “you really need to fix your microphone issues. The cutting in and out was unacceptable. I work in IT and your wifi based microphone should not be doing that you should have fixed your signals. We would not have had issues if you came here at 4pm for a sound check”. Oh, how badly I wanted to come back at him. I could feel my blood start pumping. I could feel my fake smile falling to a frown. But, I had to keep it professional and save all my feelings for this blog post. I said, “I am sorry sir. I will have out tech team take a look at the equipment on Monday. Thank you for having us and I hope you have a great rest of your night”. I walked away back to my team and one of our motivators told me that I looked really heated and that I was just about ready to fight him. I responded with, “I was… Let’s get the gear packed and go”.





This is where our story begins.


Our DJ’s scheduled start time was at 5pm and is expected to be on-site 30 minutes prior to his start time. He got there earlier than that. He came extra early just to double check our crew’s equipment testing. I know this because I received a call from him at 4:12pm saying that he couldn’t get the mic working. Now as the MC, I wasn’t scheduled to start until 6pm. But this was a new system with new mics, and I wanted to help him as best as I could. I told him I was on my way. While I drove, I tried to help him troubleshoot to find the solution before I got there to run sound checks. He still couldn’t figure it out.


I arrive to the venue at 4:42pm and ran in quickly to figure out a solution to the problem. Now, if you are a DJ reading this, you will find this very frustrating… We had 3 XLR’s; one for the master out to the right speaker, one from the master out to the left speaker, and one from the microphone receiver into the board. The XLR was plugged into the receiver was not connected to the board. Rookie mistake. But I had to cut him some slack as he was kind of new to DJing.


Anyway, we solved the problem and I went up front with the microphone to put it on the stand. I met with the cantor who would be leading the entire service. After everything was all set up, I asked the cantor to talk into the microphone while I went back to our booth to adjust the volume and EQ’s. The cantor spoke while close to the microphone and there were no issues. Perfect. Now that everything is all set and ready to go, I run back to my car, put on my suit jacket, gathered my extra gear, and came back to the booth.


It is now 5pm and the service is just about to start. I helped my DJ run sound despite the fact that I was scheduled for 6pm. The client is now getting and extra ‘audio tech’ for free. The cantor whips out a guitar and starts the service. Now that the service has started and the cantor is standing further from the microphone than he was during our sound check. This is when we started having issues with the sound. The sound was cutting in and out every time the cantor spoke. I frantically started looking for the problem trying to find a solution. This is an RF (radio frequency) microphone so there shouldn’t be any interference from cellphones like wifi microphones have sometimes. The feed coming from the microphone was coming through on the receiver. It had to be something else. The board we were running it through had two microphone ports. I tried moving the XLR to the other microphone and we still had the same issues.


Luckily in my ‘oh shit bag’ I had an extra wired microphone with XLR. However, my XLR was shorter than what our crew left us with. So, I had to switch the XLR during the service. I turned off one speaker and made the change. I slowly snake my wired microphone up to the front and switch it with the wireless microphone while the family was undressing the torah. The Bar Mitzvah boy tried to use the microphone and we were still having the same issue. At this point, I restarted the mix board hoping that would be the solution and there was just and internal software malfunction. Before the board turned back on, the father got mad and took the mic off to the side and angerly dropped it down causing my personal microphone to fall to the ground. Talk about not having respect for a person’s property especially when they are going out of their way to try and help. After that, we gave up and we turned off the microphone and waited until the end of the service so we can test everything again and hopefully find a solution. In hind-sight, I should have tried to plug the microphone directly into the speaker and maybe the problem would have been resolved. But that’s the thing about hind-sight, it’s always 20/20.


The service has now ended, and I go to pick up my microphone and plug the wireless microphone back in. I told the DJ to turn my volume up as I walk over to where the cantor and the Bar Mitzvah boy were standing during the service. I talk into the microphone four fingers away from my mouth. Zero issues. My voice was coming through just fine without cutting in and out. I walked around the whole pavilion testing the microphone. No issues anywhere. This was very perplexing to me and I thought, maybe they just weren’t close enough to the microphone. The weird part is that I have had this same set up with me for 3 weekends in a row. No one touches any of the settings but me. We had no issues at the last few events, why is it giving us problems today?


So, we left it alone now that it seemed like it is working again. We played some games and did some dancing. I went through the introductions and announced the hora. Right after that, the sister and the father had both prepared toasts. Before I gave them the microphone, I told them exactly where to hold it. Grab from the center of the microphone, hold it at about a 45-degree angle, and four fingers away from your mouth. They told me they got it. So, I left it with them stepped back to the booth. This is where the unprofessional party planner comes into play.


She steps into the booth with my DJ and I, and in the most commanding voice, she says, “you need to teach them how to use the microphone”! The way she spoke to me was a little off-putting and unprofessional. She was loud enough for my whole team to hear her. A little taken back, I responded calmly, “I just ran through that with them. Also, I really don’t know what happened during the service. The mic has been working fine for me all night”. She said, “well, if the mic starts cutting out again you need to go up there, stop them, and show them how to hold the mic”. This was one of the most unprofessional pieces of advice I had ever heard. It is very rude to interrupt people. I told her that I was not going to interrupt them especially after I just taught them how to use the microphone. She rolled her eyes and stormed away. This was the last time she spoke to anyone on my team for the rest of the night. Thank God!


The sister has the mic and is ready to speak. I turned up the volume and crossed my fingers. After explaining how to use the mic, guess what she does when she starts her speech. She holds the mic at chest level twirling it around. Face palm. Because of her lack of ability to follow my directions, the mic cuts in and out until she decides to put it down on the table and not use it. She is very soft spoken and no one heard her. There was nothing I can do but hope that the father would listen to me. It is now his turn to speak. He grabs the mic and holds it in the air and says, “this microphone has been having so many issues tonight that I am not going to even use it. I have a loud enough voice. I don’t need it”. He walks it over and hands it to me with a nasty, angry look on his face. After he’s done speaking, I make it a point to show everyone that the microphone works. Right after the father was done speaking, I got on the microphone and said “thank you _____. Alright, both buffets are open. Young adults to my right and adults to my left. Please enjoy your dinner”. I still had zero issues with the microphone.


As I write this blog I am starting to think that I embarrassed the family because I can make the mic work and they can’t. I was still under the impression it was because they weren’t holding the microphone close enough. I continued to feel that way through the whole night. Especially when came time for candle lighting.


To try and avoid all the problems we were having, before candle lighting, I brought the Bar Mitzvah boy over to our booth and I showed him where to hold the mic and how close it needed to be. I had him practice and show me how he was going to hold it. I had high hopes that this was going to work. He went up to the candle lighting board. I was very nervous and prayed that he listens to me. I stood right next to the speaker and listened carefully. He put the microphone up to his mouth and started speaking. BEHOLD! THE MICROPHONE WORKED!!! I heard every word that came out of his mouth. I know that the guests did too because they came up for their respective candle as he said their names. No one can say that the microphone didn’t work because it worked when the holder actually followed my instructions.


The candle lighting validated my feelings that the cantor, the sister, the father didn’t listen to my instructions by holding the mic too far from them. Although, I can blame them all day for not listening to me, I have to admit that I know there was still something wrong with the mic. I do an average of about 80 weddings and Mitzvahs a year. I know that it doesn’t matter how far they hold it, it shouldn’t be cutting in and out like it was. It definitely needed further investigation and that wasn’t the time or place to do it.


After that, no one needed to use the microphone but me. I continued to MC through it all night still without any issues. We had a packed dance floor with the adults and the kids. As far as I could tell, everyone seemed to be having a great time all the way until the end. We got compliments from some of the guests who said we did a great job and thanked us.


While we were packing up, the spiteful party planner stood in front of our booth, said bye to all the other staff that were part of the event, turned away and left. She didn’t say bye to us, she didn’t even look at us. “What a b*tch” one of my motivators said. I am glad someone said it. I have decided that we will never work with that planner again. I think the feeling is mutual.


This is where our story goes back to the beginning. You now understand why the interactions with the family was so tense. I get it. The microphone issues in a way did sort of mess up the service which is a big part of a Bar Mitzvah. This piece tainted the whole event for this family. I tried to fix it the best that I could. I still have a heavy heart about everything that happened. I take full responsibility for not being able to save the day. I hate disappointing people and I will carry that burden for days, maybe weeks. Sometimes I wonder if I should have even gone up to front to try and fix the situation. Would you have?



Update:


After the event, I met with my tech team and we put together the same exact set-up that was at the Mitzvah in our studio. I tested the microphone at different distances away from my face. I got the microphone to cut in and out. We have a Denon Prime 4 and we looked deeper into the setting and found the issue. The threshold on the microphone was set to 0db. This means that if your voice is less that 0db, the microphone won’t pick you up. That is why I had no issues. I have a loud booming voice and the microphone was able to pick me up. But when they were standing far from the microphone or being softspoken, that led to the microphone cutting out. We turned the threshold off and it didn’t matter how far away from the microphone I was, it would not cut out anymore.


We got the call from the father asking for a refund for 1/3 of the total price. He said that the microphone really tainted the whole event for him and the family. He was really upset about that and the fact that I “interrupted to the service” (which later in the night the planner said that’s what I should have done) when I tried to remedy the situation. We told him we would get back to him. He said he was a lawyer and was going away on business and we can pick things up when he comes back. This bothered me because he told me he worked in IT. But nope. Of course, it had to be the Bar Mitzvah with a father who’s a lawyer that we had the most technical issues with. He said that the mic was making a “feedback” sound. I laughed because the technical problem we had was just the opposite. We weren’t getting too much sound, we weren’t getting any. Therefore, there was no hum, no feedback.


He also mentioned that we did not play all their songs that they wanted and that we played songs that were not on their list. Well, they gave us a list of “must play” songs and a list of “alternate requests”. We looked at the history from our libraries and determined we play all their must plays and 60% of their alternate requests. All while the DJ was taking requests from the guests as well. He really kept that dance floor going. The father really shouldn’t be complaining about that when he was not specific enough to say that all their requests were must plays. Otherwise, our DJs job would have been easy and could have just gone down the list and played everything they wanted.


The negotiations are over and settled… finally. I still just can’t shake my feelings of disappointment. I always feel like I take things like this very personally as it was my job to manage the event. I must remind myself that there are things that are out of my control. But that’s how we grow. We learn from our mistakes so we can ourselves better for the next one.


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