The Amani Experience Sparks Leadership (and Laughter) Through Turntables
Some days it can feel like everyone on your team is dancing to their own rhythm. While each one is creative in their individual realms, they’re not syncing well together; maybe someone’s grooving to Cardi B while another person jams to Creedence Clearwater Revival, making for a less than pleasurable mix. Sound like your team? Then it’s time to call in teambuilding master Amani Roberts.
Roberts, a professionally trained DJ, is the founder of The Amani Experience, a Los Angeles-based company that specializes in bringing teams together through music. Working with corporate groups and events around the country, from San Diego to Washington, D.C., Roberts and his team provide a memorable experience for teams looking for something way different.
“When an event planner hires me and we bring in our activity, it shows they’re really thinking outside the box,” says Roberts. Specifically, they’re going beyond the box to the turntable.
The Amani Experience works like this: Roberts and his team set up a room like a DJ station, complete with turntables, microphones, speakers and controllers. Sometimes they opt to have larger groups gather around a few turntables, and sometimes attendees are divided into more groups with fewer people, says Roberts. They handle all the logistics and work with your venue’s audiovisual team directly so planners don’t have to worry.
Then comes the fun part. As I’m learning about the experience, Roberts walks me through it as though I’m participating myself.
“If you were going to have a DJ name, what would it be?” he asks me, posing the same question that all participants in his activity get asked. “It could be a favorite nickname you had as a kid, a derivative of a favorite TV character, anything.” One dentist in a group picked “DJ Flossy,” for example, he tells me. I wasn’t that creative on the fly, so I went with “DJ Kels.”
Once everyone on your team picks their DJ name, they have to get comfortable with each other by sharing their names out loud and describing why they selected those particular handles. From there, it’s time to pick your debut song, because that will reveal more about you to your team, says Roberts.
I chose the first thing that came into my head — Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” — because it was the song that kicked off my brother’s wedding reception last December, and it holds happy memories for me. Roberts assures me I’ve made a good choice.
As people start to open up to each other during the activity, another fear comes into play: actually working the turntable. “About 90 percent of people are scared to touch the records,” says Roberts. (Although, to be fair, those of a younger demographic may never have seen a record up close before.)
The tactile experience of overcoming that fear by touching a record and scratching it back and forth is very satisfying, says Roberts, and it also has takeaways that can be applied to office life. “For people to be effective in their jobs, they have to reduce fear as much as possible,” he notes.
Microphone work comes next. If you thought you were nervous to pick your DJ name and debut song, just wait until you actually have to announce it through booming speakers. It’s time to get over more fears, says Roberts, saying that in his experience, people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of dying. (Luckily, it was just he and I on the phone, so I got to skip this part.)
As participants get more into the activity, selecting their music genre and engaging in DJ competitions for 60-90 minutes, the teams as a whole learn a lot about each other and build camaraderie. There’s usually a lot of cheering, high-fiving and laughing throughout, too.
Roberts offers an example: at an executive leadership retreat for an insurance company, the CEO chose the name “DJ Skinny Boy,” while a group from San Francisco picked “Sweet Home Alabama” as their debut song.
Sometimes Roberts has to coax participants to speak a single sentence into the microphone, then by the end of the activity, he’s begging them to stop talking.
“That’s so inspiring — the transformation of people within an hour,” says Roberts. “They go from tentative and unsure to being at ease and becoming themselves.”
Another benefit of The Amani Experience is how it brings people on teams from different age demographics together without it being obvious. The developed leadership skills, bonding and creativity are just a bonus.
“It sneaks up on people,” Roberts says. “They don’t even realize they’ve grown until it’s over.”
To learn more or to book The Amani Experience for your group, go here.
Want to learn more about musical experiences for events? Check out this article on The Power of Participatory Music: Greater Engagement for Corporate Events.
What would your DJ name and debut song be? Share with us on Twitter, @CorpEventNews.