Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Take a Risk... On People

I've written several pieces about "taking a risk," but one very important aspect is "taking a risk on people." In better words, "give people a chance" whenever you can do so.

When I look back at a very long career in the event industry, I'm proud of the fact that I've done just that. As a result, I've launched some careers for people who have become successful and productive members of the events community. They have added creativity and expertise to the industry and gone on to educate others who then follow in their footsteps. I have asked a few of them to remind me of how we started out, and I joyfully share with you what happened when I took a chance on people I didn't know but about whom I just had a good feeling.

I invite you to pay it forward in your own world and do the same. The results can be remarkable.

Fred Tallaksen, Choreographer
To be totally honest, I was wearing a bad wig and doing a Fred and Ginger dance routine at a corporate event when I first met Andrea. (My Ginger had a bad wig, too.) We had a good laugh but developed an immediate friendship. I had just moved to Los Angeles from Manhattan in 1992, and didn't know many people. I was still a performer and just starting to think about possibly choreographing the corporate gigs I had been dancing in for years. Not only did Andrea encourage me and give me the confidence to step up and be a choreographer... but she also helped me start my own entertainment company and guided me through my first few years of business all the way up to today... hiring me, teaching me, supporting me, and sharing much of the important inside information about the special events world that takes a lifetime to gather. I still apply all that knowledge to this day, 26 years later. And at the end of the day, we're still laughing about lots of things and enjoying a close friendship which I cherish more than work or money in the long run!

It's hard to believe 31 years have passed. Andrea took a chance on us based on our Rose Parade background, and the rest is history. We will always be eternally grateful! Andrea and her team continue to be a champion, inspiration, and vital voice for the events industry.

Andrea and I first met some 30 years ago through a mutual friend, Don Gilmartin. Don and I had been working together for several years, and he wanted to introduce me to a dynamic woman doing amazing, cutting-edge work in our industry. I can still remember the day I met her. She asked piercing questions, and I quickly knew that I had to up my game to keep up with her. I must have said the right things, because she took a chance on a guy just starting out in the industry, with nothing but ideas and hopefully a good vision. She gave me a little show that became two more, and eventually she became one of my best clients, and a true friend.

It's an age-old conundrum. How can you work if no one knows who you are? And how can anyone know who you are if you don't get a chance to show them? 

I found myself in the same situation over 22 years ago. The Special Event Show was coming to my town, and I wanted in. I had an idea for a new band that didn't exist on the East Coast. With the help of some local friends, I found the name of the executive producer of the Gala Night and approached her with my idea. She was an icon in the industry, a soon-to-be Lifetime Achievement Award winner. I wasn't in her league. But still, she gave me her blessing, and I went to work producing the act. The evening was a smash success, and that was the beginning of a wonderful relationship. It started as mentor/pupil, moved to client/vendor and over the years, it's grown into so much more. Just a few years ago, I was honored with the same award that my mentor won so many years before. And, she was in the audience when it happened.

I've tried to live up to the bar she sets in her business, and I've tried to mirror the mentoring and teaching that she does with giving back of my own. That's what it's all about. Paying it forward. Looking toward the bigger picture. Growing an industry. I'm glad I met Andrea Michaels. Wouldn't it be great if everyone could find their own Andrea? What a great industry we would have! 

Andrea Michaels is the founder and president of Extraordinary Events, an award-winning, international event agency based in Los Angeles. She is the author of Reflections of a Wallflower – Lessons in Business; Lessons in Life. Andrea may be reached via

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The 25 Dollar Mistake

I always read Shep Hyken's articles because they are basic lessons in how we should all behave. This particular article resonated because we are always signing multi-year contracts, and within them there is a lot of fine print. And that's where the up-charges start to appear in a world where "transparency" is required yet very rarely provided. Is it worth losing customer loyalty over those little things that really don't matter in the long run? 
I recently had an experience where I did lose a client, and to this day wonder if it was worth it. I had a crew of 100 people on overtime after a very long day, and my client planned a rehearsal for 10 p.m. He didn't show up until after 2 a.m., and then didn't want to pay the overtime, which amounted to around $30,000. I had a significant profit on the job, so I could have acquiesced. I held my ground, and because of it lost a client that had the potential for major business for years to come. Was it worth it? Who knows? I might have not regained the business anyway and had not only no job, but no $30,000. 
Something to think about when you read Shep's article below. Thanks, Shep. -Andrea Michaels

-By Shep Hyken
I recently planned a small two-day meeting for about 25 people. This was the second year for this meeting. The previous year we had stayed at a hotel that did a magnificent job of taking care of us. After that meeting, I talked to our sales rep and mentioned that if they repeated the contract we signed for that first year, we would most likely come back. And, we did.
In looking over the final contract for our most recent meeting at the hotel, there were a few minor changes from the year prior. Most of those were due to slight increases in the room rate and food costs. I expected that this might happen, and so I was fine with those. However, there was one change in the agreement that was unacceptable. The first year, the hotel gave us free Internet service for our attendees. This year they wanted to charge us for it.
Asking for free Internet is a common negotiation. So, the hotel chose to go into negotiation mode on this point. They came back and said they would only charge $75 for everyone to have Internet access in the meeting room. That is reasonable, except I made it clear that I wanted the identical terms as the year before. Our sales rep said she would go back to her leadership team and ask them to honor last year’s contract terms. She came back and said they reduced the cost to us to $25.
Well, $25 wasn’t a deal-breaker, and staying at that hotel was definitely easier than starting over with another hotel. But I had to wonder, who on the leadership team was so short-sighted as to charge $25 for something they could simply give away? We were getting ready to book about 35 rooms in a slow week for the hotel and spend thousands of dollars in their restaurants, bar, and for our banquet meals. I asked to speak to the individual on the “leadership team” who was making this short-sighted decision. I never heard from that person.
When I arrived on the property for the meeting, my very nice salesperson met with me. She again apologized for the small Internet fee. It really wasn’t her fault, but I still wanted to get the explanation from the person who made the decision. I candidly told her that a little “nickel and dime” charge of $25 might have me looking at other hotels in the area for next year’s meeting. It wasn’t just the $25. That’s not worth switching hotels over. It was the idea that we had originally agreed to repeating last year’s contract, and that tiny charge was the only thing getting in the way of them honoring our verbal agreement.
The lesson here is that it’s not about the money. It didn’t break the bank for us to pay the $25 fee. The hotel violated several rules of customer service. They didn’t recognize the long-term value of their customer, and they were willing to lose him over a very small fee that, by the way, they had waived in the past. They changed the rules in the middle of the game when they didn’t honor their agreement of “same as last year,” even though it was just $25. And, with all they were charging, they “nickel and dimed” their customer. In their eyes, they could only see the money they were earning rather than all the money they could potentially lose when we decided to go elsewhere the next year.
Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling business author. For information, contact 314-692-2200 or For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

Andrea Michaels is the founder and president of Extraordinary Events, and the author of Reflections of a Successful Wallflower: Lessons in Business; Lessons in Life. She may be reached via

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Confluent Dynamics – Collaborative Leadership

When my 13-year-old grandson looks at me knowingly and boasts "I know everything", I can only hope he is joking. All I know for sure is how little I really do know.  So, when I read this insightful blog, I asked Kile Ozier to share it with all of you. -Andrea Michaels

-By Kile Ozier

Our industries are in the midst of a magnificent boom and concomitant crisis. It seems the world of themed entertainment and experience is at capacity in terms of experienced, skilled creative, tech and production personnel to design, build and open projects currently underway… and there are even more projects coming off the boards as this is written.

Ground is well-broken on massive, new, from-the-ground-up theme parks across all hemispheres. Beyond that are vast expansions of, and new Lands in, iconic parks, renovations of legacy installations and dynamic ideation of properties and experiences we haven’t yet seen.

It’s a tsunami of abundance…

Word on the street is that <name a conglomerate> is scrambling to find experienced people to support the myriad business plans and projects already in process; not to mention what’s coming down the pike.

At the same time, there are scores – if not hundreds (if not even more) – of smart, talented young people coming out of design schools, universities, technical schools and basements who possess the “book-learnin’,” the valuable objective knowledge and the passion that is going to drive Entertainment and Experience into the future.

…and these two Rivers of Project and Resource are flowing together at a moment of synchronicity that stands to greatly benefit our industries and very likely completely evolve the way things are designed, done, sold and experienced for the next few decades.

Thus, this Convergence of Harmonic Opportunity…

There was a conversation in this space some years back about the bestowing of titles that imply experience to those fresh out of school; an inflation that has historically been seen as diminishing of the title, itself (“Creative Director,” “Producer”…), misleading the person holding the premature title and undermining efficiency and quality.

Well… that’s not gonna change. These “darn millennials” are going to come out of school thinking they are ready for anything. In reality, this is not a problem; rather, it is a portentous opportunity… for all of us.

The opportunity, then, for the remaining grey-haired heads, our peers and colleagues in these industries is to embrace these folkx*, their aspirations and ambitions, and support them in becoming who and what they see in themselves.

Collaborative Leadership & The Apple Store

Rather than confront them for who they may not yet be, embrace them for what they are about to become.

During the Crash of 2009+, I was most fortunate to find myself immersed in 20-somethings at Apple SoHo** at a golden time for that company and the perfect time for me. Where I first walked-in to this sea of edgy youth thinking I’d never fit; I learned in short order that this was just the opportunity for me to completely recalibrate my own collaborative style – something of which I’d been proud and something I learned could be vastly revivified in that maelstrom of tech and humanity.

No one knows everything on the floor at Apple; but together, we knew it all. The context is one of ad hoc dynamic collaboration. Everyone is resource to each other, respect is paramount and the fundamental skill – the basis of success in that place- is Listening: to one another, to the customer.

(Listening. we may have spoken of this quality, before…)

We each had our own ways of addressing a given problem; yet, with successive interactions I would offer that each of our approaches evolved just a tad, time after time, as we collaborated with other Specialists or Geniuses on a given problem at hand.

We learned all the time; about the technology and about one another. The level of respect afforded every, single team member was radically empowering: we each knew something the person next to us did not, and we each could learn something from that same person.

There was an inherent, healthy curiosity, an inquisitiveness among the team. “Who ARE you…?”

Leadership / Mentorship

Those who feel fully Heard are far more likely to Listen and Learn. Listening first, hearing one out, offers the listener the opportunity to see through new lenses and gives the other a sense of validation and trust. Defenses evaporate, and true collaboration is more likely to ensue. When people don’t feel pressured to Prove, they improve.

And this, I believe, is our key to success from here on out. We must embrace these folkx for who they are and bring them along through collaboration as we address challenges together that will make them the leaders of the future…and ensure the best future for our industries.

If we Listen… really hear who these folkx are as we bring them onboard, we can create an almost immediate symbiosis. For having been fully heard engenders confidence, self-respect and respect for Leadership. Taking the time, up front, will pay off in massive dividends, creativity and loyalty…teamwork.

When I add new people to a team, my process is:

§  lay out the responsibilities of the job and get agreement
§  agree on schedule, milestones, deadlines
§  share my own methodology and how I would do it, then say
§  “you don’t need to do this ‘my’ way; I’m just showing you what I know works. If you have another way or idea, do that… just be sure to keep your eye on the ball and let me know if things seem to be going awry. Don’t hide errors or mistakes. Your way is fine; as long as it’s successful…”
§  more often than not, some effective hybrid evolves that we both embrace
§  then, if s/he comes to me with a problem, my first question is “what do you think we should do?” And chances are that I’ll suggest we try that; this person is closer to the problem – and solution – than I am.

Y’just gotta have their backs.

Thus empowered, these folkx grow fast…and may be more likely to realize their aspirations without the years of apprenticeship heretofore seen as necessary.

Learning Leadership – Listening & Respect: Respectful Listening

As Leaders, we must be willing to learn. The world is moving fast; and these folkx (loving this word!) think very differently than do we. While the physics of a given problem may remain pretty much the same, solutions can evolve from new perspectives, experiences, points of view, technological familiarity…

Our “tried and tested” are not the only options. All are models from past experience that have worked well; though not the be-all or end-all. Everyone can evolve; even we old guard… and this exercise in Listening creates trusted bonds as all parties discover one another.

Being in positions of “power,” it behooves us to take the first step.

Before we reveal or share what they don’t know; we must learn and acknowledge what they do know.

Some of our most progressive companies have recognized and embrace this philosophy and methodology; some have not quite, yet. It’s the ego-free way of the future.

Beware; it is ever so subtly easy for the Visionary to become a Dinosaur virtually overnight. Stay current, be open, be welcoming, share.

Remember “Don’t trust anyone over 30”?

Well, then. We must authentically, genuinely share and show that we can be trusted and that we trust. I’m telling you, it’s freakin’ exciting, surfing the surge of evolution with teams of disparate ages and open minds.

* (ht: to Clara Rice of Jack Rouse Associates for introducing me to this new, pangendered word.)

** (Shout out to Durk Snowden; an amazing, brilliant, powerful and supportive man and our kickass Flagship Store Manager at Apple SoHo.

Kile Ozier’s is a director, producer and writer of global reputation for crafting captivating experiences. He shares his techniques and philosophies… and opinions… on creating experiences (and on random experiences that have been created by others) in his iBook, “IMHO: Creating Compelling Experience” - a free download from iTunes or iBooks at

Meanwhile, his blog, “IMHO: Sharing What I’ve Learned,” is avidly read and embraced by billions of humans and others throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies. Kile may be reached via]

Andrea Michaels is the founder and President of Extraordinary Events, an award-winning, Los Angeles-based, international event agency. She is the author of Reflections of a Successful Wallflower - Lessons in Business; Lessons in Life. She may be reached at

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


I had a very revealing luncheon with a friend who is in the non-profit sector of the event industry.  While I was wailing about not having enough business (does anyone ever have enough?), he said, “Do you know the number one reason people give so generously to non-profits?” My response was, “because they get tax write offs?” He smiled indulgently and said, “They ask.” Light bulb in my head time. Of course. “They ask”.

Salespeople do a grand job of presenting brilliant ideas, solutions to problems, strategies to help their clients develop an idea. They spend a fortune on proposals, detailed graphics, renderings, 3d models, and all the bells and whistles, including expensive leave-behinds. And the usual ending is, “Thank you for this meeting. We are committed to making your event outstanding and blah, blah, blah.

What they almost never do is ASK for the business. And I must wonder why. Let me get anecdotal. Many years ago, my mother, a recent immigrant from Europe, went shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue. She found a coat she wanted. Let’s guess that at that time is was $49. She then told the salesperson that she would pay $40. The salesperson scoffed and said, “we don’t discount our fine clothes.” Unabashed my mother said, “please get your manager and let me ask her if she will sell it to me for $40.” Fast forward, and my mother paid $40 for that coat. She operated the same way at jewelry stores, the hairdresser, and even occasionally at the market. In Europe everyone bargained. It was not the way of life in the USA, but my mother didn’t know that. And in the end, with her beauty and charm and self confidence she usually got exactly what she wanted BECAUSE SHE ASKED FOR IT.

I could embellish and could probably tell many more stories, but there is a great point here. Do not leave your work… your creativity… yourself… on that table when you leave. Let the very last words from you be an honest “ask”. Ask for the business because you know you deserve it. “When will you be making a decision?” is not an “ask.”  A savvy question that leads into this is: “I am here asking you for your business. What else can we do to show you that we are the perfect match for this project and to work with you? We WANT to do business with you.” And then shut up and see what happens.

Andrea Michaels is the founder/president of Extraordinary Events, a Los Angeles-based, multi-award-winning event agency. She is the author of Reflections of a Successful Wallflower – Lessons in Business; Lessons in Life and a contributor to numerous other business books. She may be reached via

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


What to do, what not to do, and how to travel through the many ins and outs of working globally is an exhilarating challenge. This last week I attended a seminar that talked about what you need to know, and I realized how few people were truly educated on this subject. One question the facilitator asked of the group was, “What is your favorite country to work in?” and moments later the group was laughing at my transparent expression that revealed I mentally was ticking off all the places I had worked, and there are many of them.

Significant tip: Always double check the dates on your passport and your VISA. Don’t check “single entry” if you’re going to enter the country more than once.

Check departure dates. I found out the hard way that my visa to Russia expired the day before my flight back. Yes, I found out when I checked in, which meant I could not leave the country without applying for a new visa.

So, you know me; I tell stories and that’s how I learn. It’s also how I share. There’s lots to share, and I’ve even edited down these stories.

Here’s one I call “The Trip from Hell”:
My best friend, John Daly, and I had just finished a conference in India and took a day to sightsee and visit friends in Dubai. We were then planning a three-day vacation to see more of India as during the conference we went from hotel to convention center and back, other than a very short visit to the Taj Mahal.

We left Dubai at 2:00 p.m. on a Saturday after a wonderful time. The Ritz in Dubai had been first rate. We even found baby clothes for my grandson and a Starbucks. I bought nothing, NOTHING, for myself as I was saving up for those few days in India.

After we landed at the Delhi Airport, I went through immigration without mishap and then noticed that John was not behind me. Shortening this story, they did not allow John into India because his visa said, "single entry," and they had let him in before by mistake and were not going to do it this time. They wanted to send him back to Dubai where he could apply for another visa. We quickly figured out that this scenario wouldn’t work, because by the time he got his visa (remember it was a weekend) our vacation would be long gone.

Nothing worked after multiple calls to sort this out with the conference planners. We had a very nice tour, driver and rooms booked in India, which I had to cancel. They wouldn't let John out of immigration. Since I had had to go out to make phone calls, they wouldn’t let me back in with him. I finally negotiated that we could go home from Delhi, if John didn't “enter” the airport. Of course, our luggage was now at the Intercontinental Hotel in Delhi, far from the airport, especially in Delhi traffic. These negotiations for every decision went on for hours and hours with people who would listen (or pretend to) and then disappear, sometimes never to be seen again.

After a while, I sent a driver back to the hotel to get our luggage. And while John was still being guarded, I went outside of the airport (oh, if you think arriving is bad, you should see those huddled masses outside the domestic terminal late at night!) to look for the driver with our luggage. I had no clue who the driver was or what he looked like or how to find him. In the meantime, we had no tickets to get home three days early, and I couldn’t find any of the people to whom I had previously spoken.

When I tried to get back inside the terminal, they didn't want to let me in since I had no ticket. I finally was met by someone from Air India who ushered me in and helped me meet the driver with the luggage. Then I had to try to find John with no tickets to anywhere while being told that flights not only had no business class available but were sold out. We were told that we could wait in the lounge all night and fly to London, New York and then Los Angeles ... economy.

At the last minute, we did get business class to New York. This was after ALL AFTERNOON and NIGHT in the lounge with no food. There’s a poem that starts “let me count the ways.” Paraphrased it was “let me count the days” as we had now been gone from Dubai more than 24 hours and had not either food or beverage of any kind since we left.

Here was our itinerary. Delhi to London to New York and then transfer to American to Los Angeles.

Our luggage did arrive in New York, and we got through customs and immigration and over to the American terminal. There we were told that the flight was a code share and, therefore, we needed to go to Qantas. So, we changed terminals and stood in another line. Alas, Qantas said "no" we could not go to Los Angeles unless we went to Australia first. So, back to Air India we went.

You can imagine how helpful they were. Not! Finally, though, they accommodated us on an American flight that would get us home close to midnight, L.A. time. Unfortunately, no one knew where our luggage was, but we thought it MIGHT be on the Qantas flight. No business class was available. We took it. ANYTHING. I had a cold and a bladder infection. As I think about it, that was the best part of the trip.

In any case, we arrived back in Los Angeles around 12:30 a.m., and as we went to report our lost luggage, I looked around at the long line of people waiting to report their own lost bags. What a line!  And then I spotted our luggage sitting on the floor in front of the “lost baggage” area. It had arrived on the Qantas flight an hour before we did. By the way, other than a pair of earrings I got at the Delhi airport, nothing to declare. That’s a first!

John rented a car and drove me home. Finally, I curled up in my own bed with my cats. Wired to the gills. Hungry. But ever so glad to be there. Home. Was anything ever more wonderful?

The Lesson:  There’s no place like home, Auntie Em.

If you want more travel adventures, click here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


I was recently asked if success is a goal for which I strive. And I immediately, without even thinking about it, said, “NO!”

“Why not?” was the surprised reply in a very shocked tone of voice.

Here’s what I think: What happens when you establish a goal, and you then reach it? What do you do then? Do you stop? Is there no more to do? It’s “done?”

To me, success is something that is a continuous process. For example, I could set a goal and say, “When I complete this project, I will be a success.” Or “When I have this amount of money, I will have achieved success.” When that project is completed or that amount of money is in the bank, what happens after that? Am I done? Do I set another goal?

I think success is something else entirely. Success is a continuum-always striving to do more, doing better, continuing to travel the path and grow and achieve. So, success to me is not a goal. It’s a pathway.

Let me add that I don’t think success can truly be defined because it means something entirely different to each person. If you are doing the best that you can do and optimizing your life in every way possible, that would probably be my definition of success. Please consider this: Can you honestly say that you couldn’t be doing some things better? So, no, I don’t really define success as an actuality.

The person who asked me the original question then asked, “What happens when you reach the state you define as successful?” 

My reply was that I don’t reach that state, nor do I want to. When most people reach it, they get complacent; they stop moving forward. Either that or they set unrealistic goals and then invite failure, or at least their perception of failure.

If I could advise anyone, including myself, who says, “I want to be a success,” I would say the following: Don’t look at “success” as the end of a road. Don’t define success because you won’t know what to do with yourself once you have realized that definition. Rather, just keep expanding your horizons, loving what you do, reaching for the stars, and dreaming of the possibilities. When you just keep dreaming, that becomes your forever goal.

Andrea Michaels is the founder and president of Extraordinary Events, an international, multi-award-winning event agency based in Los Angeles. She is the author of Reflections of a Successful Wallflower: Lessons in Business; Lessons in Life. She may be reached at

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


So, I’ll start with my personal experiences. Over the last few years I have heard people tell me about their good intentions. “Let’s get together” followed by… nothing. Or in the case of my grandchildren (with me present) “I’ll call you, so I can take you out on my boat” followed by… nothing. I could fill a novel the size of Gone with The Wind with the promises made and unkept.

Why are these personal disappointments so applicable to business? And I ask you kindly to be honest with yourselves and remember the times you might have said to a vendor, “We haven’t made any decisions yet” …. Or “Call me back in a few days so we can get together” which meant “call me never.”

Or any number of things that were not honest. And when you say, “We do everything in house” is that an honest statement when you do source out many parts of your projects?

On a personal level I would rather people said nothing than make promises they have no intention of keeping. Once they say they will do something, do it, and if they are only filling time with empty statements, say nothing at all except pleasantries. Don’t make me (or my family) hopeful of an event or action that will never happen.

On a business level, are we fair to our clients when we make promises we might not be able to keep, don’t meet deadlines, and say “did you check your spam?” when the proposal was never sent via email? Or is it ethical to intimate that we can meet a budget that is unreasonable because we are hopeful our client will eventually find more money and operate a program on a bigger budget? Again, I could go on forever with these examples. And feel free to add your own.  

Ah, client, did you think you were exempt? When you tell your suppliers that you don’t know what your budget is, is this true? “I don’t want to stifle your creativity” is an oft used phrase. And my response is “stifle away please.” Because my time and creativity are worth something, and I don’t want to waste my time (and therefore money) proposing a million-dollar event or entertainer when the budget is a tenth of that.

Tritely, honesty IS the best policy. So, think before you speak. And, when you speak, make sure to mean what you say. Please.

Andrea Michaels is the founder and president of Extraordinary Events, an international, multi-award-winning event agency based in Los Angeles. She is the author of Reflections of a Successful Wallflower: Lessons in Business; Lessons in Life. She may be reached at