Music and the Main Stage

DJ Graffiti — business owner, DJ, emcee, inspirational speaker, and marketer — brings his unique style of event moderating to edUcon 2024.

Author: Curt Wagner       

smiling man waving working dj consule

Detroit’s DJ Graffiti, who will emcee PCMA’s edUcon this week, said he left the traditional entertainment world “because the impact and joy I bring to business events is unparalleled.” (Doug Coombe photo)

The Main Stage sessions at this year’s edUcon will be tied together by an emcee, but DJ Graffiti is “unlike any emcee that you’ve probably ever seen at a conference before,” said Kristi Casey, PCMA education strategist.

DJ Graffiti (aka Martin L. Smith), is a Detroit DJ who not only has shared stages with top music talent, but has made a business out of tying the programs of corporate events together with music. Casey said he elevates the mood and atmosphere of conferences not only with music but his fun introductions and interviews with audience members.

Prior to edUcon, DJ Graffiti answered a few questions from Convene via email about his career — the DJ and emcee is an alum of both the University of Michigan Business and Law Schools and the founder of the marketing agency Overflow — what inspires him, and what advice he can share with edUcon attendees.

How did you get into the business of facilitating corporate events?

As DJ Graffiti, I take people on transformative music journeys. As a speaker, I enjoy engaging and inspiring audiences. As an executive, I realize every corporate event has business goals that must be fulfilled.

During COVID, some of my in-person DJ clients saw me playing sets on Facebook and YouTube and asked if I’d do events for them. Since, I’ve collaborated with more than 70 organizations including Amazon, Nike, and Campbell’s.

I’m most proud to collaborate regularly with PCMA, MPI, IMEX, and Skift Meetings. It’s special that the people who drive the world of events choose to work with me.

Whats your approach to being the emcee at corporate events? (Or do you see yourself as DJ over emcee?) What sets you apart?

I’m DJ Graffiti, The Keynote DJ™️. The Keynote DJ™️ Experience is a combination of my being a DJ, emcee, inspirational speaker, and marketer. That mix itself is unique, but what really sets me apart is that most DJs see corporate events as second class. They’d give anything to trade them for travelling the world playing clubs and concerts.

I walked away from success in the traditional entertainment world, because the impact and joy I bring to business events is unparalleled.

What do you like about this area of interest as opposed to a more traditional DJ focus?

I’ve shared stages with Snoop Dogg, Beyoncé, and Eminem. I was voted Best DJ in Detroit and Underground Mixtape King of Michigan. I love traditional DJ outlets, but becoming a member of the eventprofs community helped me realize DJing and speaking are only two of the tools in my experience design toolkit. I need to regularly use both my creative and analytical business sides to be fulfilled.

You have a special interest in virtual events. What are your thoughts about the importance of online events now that people are back to meeting face to face after the pandemic?

I have a unique skill for engaging virtual audiences. I love bringing festival vibes to otherwise lackluster virtual events.

Virtual is the iPad of the events world. The iPad didn’t come to replace a computer or smartphone. It’s a new way to work. There are fewer virtual conferences than during the pandemic, but today webinars, Zoom meetings and asynchronous chats are the norm. Virtual gatherings have enabled increased levels of access, inclusivity, and make global distributed teams possible.

We talk a lot about creating community and connection and providing excitement at meetings. How do those concerns factor into your work?

Shared music experiences create community and connection better than just about anything else in the world.

What inspires and/or motivates you?

The fact that I get to wake up and pour out good energy for a living motivates me. I know I’m on the right track because the most frequent comment I get after my events is, “I didn’t know how much I needed this.”

How do you define success, and what lessons have you learned in your life that would be helpful to an auditorium full of event professionals?

I measure success by the positive impact I make on others. For years, I always thought there was something external I needed [in order] to be “more successful.” In time I realized everything I needed was already inside of me.

Improving my mindset changed everything. That includes what I believe, how I speak to myself, what I allow others to speak over me, and my ability to be self-aware.

By being self-aware, I mean monitoring what attracts and repels you. Find ways to do more of what you can’t get enough of, and less of what makes you feel the opposite. We all have unique gifts. That thing you hate is what someone else lives for.

Curt Wagner is digital editor at Convene.

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