Monday, December 21, 2015


Sunday, December 13, my son Jon called me after his basketball game. He said he was having some severe pains and had taken an Advil and some GasX and was going to lie down for a bit. We were supposed to have dinner that night to celebrate my birthday the next day. I suggested we postpone it, and he asked me if I could change my plans and do it ON my birthday, the next day. I told him we could postpone it for any time at all. Just being together was what mattered. We chatted a bit even though he was in severe pain. His priority was to celebrate with me. When he said the pains were really bad, he told me that he needed to lie down. We ended our conversation as we always do with, “I love you” and “I love you, too” Always. Every conversation. Every day.

Shortly after that conversation Jon  drove himself to urgent care. He had his eight-year-old son, Ethan, with him. Danielle, his wife, called me to meet him there. Ethan was sitting alone in the waiting room sucking on a popsicle, totally alone. When I tried to talk to Jon, he was in so much pain that he couldn’t speak. He was hurriedly ambulanced to Holy Cross Hospital, given morphine, which didn’t at all help. Danielle joined me at the emergency room and we all thought it was either a hernia or a kidney stone, either of which needed surgery. I left to take Ethan away from the hospital atmosphere, and subsequently Danielle called me because Jon was to undergo surgery.  I dropped Ethan off with his other grandmother and joined Danielle in the waiting room. It was still December 13, which turned into December 14, my birthday. It was not a simple operation.

Jon died on my birthday. Now I will always remember that day, yes with pain, but also it will act as a reminder that for 45 years every second of my life was filled with the most wonderful man ever born, a man to be proud of, to be admired. I raised this sensitive, loving, caring, considerate and generous man who supported me, loved me and whom I would trust with my life. To me, December 14 will always be all about him and only him. Our history started in a hospital because from the moment my beautiful baby was laid in my arms I was filled with a sense of wonder. That wonder lasted 45 years.

I have learned in the last days that the qualities I so admired were shared with many of you as he is laid to rest. The hospital still is talking about all of their waiting rooms filled to capacity with family and his friends, so very many friends. Though they wanted to kick us out of the hallways, there were so many people who loved him there that there was no other room. All day and all night no one left. It was out of love for Jon, their friend, and every moment in his presence, whether he knew it or not, was precious.

Danielle and her entire family were there. Of all the images I will always remember Danielle holding Jon tenderly in her arms, her hand on his heart, his great big huge heart, as he passed away. Her love for him, her tender caring was indeed the fairy tale she called it, and I am grateful that he had such love and respect in his life. Danielle, I know that he was the man of your dreams; you told me, his mother, that, and nothing could ever have meant more to me than knowing he shared his life with you.

As much as you loved him, he loved you back. Danielle, you were his everything, always his beautiful Irish bride. Every moment of every day was filled with thoughts of what you shared, most especially your two beautiful boys. I don’t think any father could have loved more fiercely and protectively, or been more proud of Cameron and Ethan, both so handsome and so well-mannered and loving. Every thought centered around his family. On a scale of 1-10, you took at least the first five spots, and the rest of the family and friends and business friends, happily experienced what remained…and it was enough. Even five minutes with Jon made him into a friend.  There was never a day that he didn’t think only about getting home to the three of you, his family. He would rather take red eyes, or drive all night to get to an event, than lose any time with you. Baseball practices, school meetings…it didn’t matter. Jon often told me that he couldn’t wait to get home to see them.

He loved his friends, and there are many of you. What a testament to your friendship that you were there for him, leaving your jobs and your families to show Jon your love for him. His coworkers, though he had to act like “a boss,” were so very much appreciated by him. He always talked of your talents and capabilities with great respect. And worried that he would not be considered part of “the gang” when he had to act like a boss. He really needed to be liked. And in the last days, you’ve all shown me how much he really did affect your lives. Thank you. He wanted so much not to be your boss, but your friend.

I want to thank all of you for enriching his life. I believe he enriched the life of everyone he encountered.

I will miss the twinkling of those beautiful blue eyes which was usually followed by a slightly teasing comment and then that Jon-smirk. I imagine most of you know exactly what I mean. But beside that twinkle and smirk was an ethical, honest and articulate man with great business acumen, a sense of fair play and a tremendous desire to always make things right, even in the most trying of circumstances.

I loved my son with all my heart. I will miss him forever. And right now forever seems like a very long time. I have lost not only my son, but my partner and my very best friend.

When my mother, his grandmother, died, Jon wrote something for her funeral that I had not remembered at the time. Jon had spent many Friday nights with her, and it was traditional that they watched The Love Boat and then Fantasy Island. When that show was over his grandmother would say "Fantasy Island is over, Jon. It’s time to turn out the lights."

Jon, my beloved, beloved son… Fantasy Island is over. It’s time to turn out the lights.

Andrea Michaels, Founder and President of Extraordinary Events, gave this speech at her son's funeral on December 17, 2015.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Polite Society: Be a Nice Customer

What rings so true from this article is the word “respect” and how that affects so much of our business transactions. That means respect for not only your customers, but also your suppliers. So as always I’m happy to share Shep Hyken's inspiring words. –Andrea Michaels
-By Shep Hyken 


Customer service is usually about the people who work at a company being polite to the customer. But how about the customer being polite to the employee? Be nice and maybe you’ll get nice back.

So, this article is from the perspective of the customer.
No doubt that a squeaky wheel gets the oil. For those that aren’t familiar with this old saying, it basically means if you are loud enough, you’ll get noticed. To put it in business terms, if you feel you’re not getting the customer service you think you deserve, stomp your feet up and down and you might get what you want. Sounds like a good plan, but there may be a better way.
There is another old saying: You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Being nice to the people serving you may beget nice customer service in return. If you don’t believe me, try it. It’s the right thing to do anyway.
The catching flies with honey concept comes to life in a couple of amazing examples I read about in an excellent article in Companies will reward you for being nice and polite to their people and the other customers around you.
Last year McDonald’s and Coca-Cola got together for a special promotion that rewarded diners for not using their cell phones. I don’t mind someone using their phone in a public area if they are discreet and respectful of others. The idea of rewarding a customer for their good behavior intrigues me. The promotion encouraged customers to take a “timeout” from talking, tweeting, Facebooking and texting. The longer you stayed in “timeout,” the more points you receive. Participants could win prizes, including a free trip.
I can’t vouch for the success of the app, but the premise is sound. Just the other day I was at the grocery store and standing in the checkout lane. The person in front of me was on her phone. She was loud and showed little respect for the people around her; specifically the cashier who had to wait to catch the customer’s attention to pay for her groceries.
In that same Trendwatching article, there was another excellent example. La Petite Syrah, a French cafĂ©, had a pricing policy based on politeness. The customers who were kind to the barista and used the word “please” were charged less than those who weren’t so polite. The two prices were posted on their menu board. A cup of coffee for the polite customer cost EUR 1.40 versus EUR 7. That’s an 80% discount, just for being nice. Sign me up for that one!
Here’s the point of this article: Respect.
As a person, respect the people around you. As a customer, respect the people you do business with. They just may give it back to you, and sometimes even more so. Dealing with someone having a bad day? Smile. Be polite. Be the nice customer that’s easy to do business with, that potentially can make that bad day a little better. Then, watch how you’re treated.

Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is a customer service expert, hall-of-fame speaker and New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. He works with organizations to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. He is also the creator of The Customer Focus, a customer service training program that helps organizations develop a customer service culture and loyalty mindset. For more information contact (314) 692-2200 or

For more information about Andrea Michaels and Extraordinary Events, please visit,

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Don't Spill Your Candy in the Lobby

I thought this great article by Douglas Kolker so invaluable that I wanted to share it with you. Learn and implement! -Andrea Michaels

Have you ever had a qualified prospect pick your brain for information - and then turn around and buy from the competition?

Most salespeople have had this frustrating experience. It's a function of following the buyer's process (which of course favors the purchaser) rather than following a clear professional selling process that levels the playing field. All too often, we lose a customer to the competition because we decide to share loads of information before we've identified the prospective buyer's emotional motivations. We don't uncover the pain the prospect is trying to eliminate.

Instead of showering the prospect with product information, we should ask questions that will clarify whether there's an emotional gap between where the prospect is and where the prospect wants to be, or the prospect's pain. Then we should figure out whether we can fill that gap.


Last weekend, Jim went to a "big box" appliance store. Jim had absolutely no intention of buying a widescreen television from the store. He went into the store with the goal of gathering information so he could buy a television for a cheaper price online. He walked over to the television department and asked the woman at the counter, Juanita, a few questions about widescreen TVs.

What do you think Juanita did?

Here's a big hint: She was following the buyer's system.

Juanita answered Jim's questions. And then some. She didn't do anything to try to identify the reasons behind Jim's desire to learn more about widescreen televisions. She wasn't interested in learning about the emotional gap between where Jim was and where he wanted to go. All she was interested in doing was reciting features and benefits.

So Juanita recited three or four brochures' worth of product information at Jim, while Jim scribbled down notes. She didn't ask a single probing question. She didn't ask whether Jim had been to the store before, or why he had decided to come in today. She didn't even ask whether Jim currently had a television. She went right from "Can I help you?" to belching out product specifications.

We call what Juanita did "spilling your candy in the lobby." Think about how frustrating it would be to go to the movie theater, pay for your ticket, buy your drinks and popcorn and candy, and then spill all your refreshments on the lobby floor before you even had a chance to sit down and begin watching the film. That's what Juanita did. She launched into features and benefits, having uncovered no reasons why Jim was looking at TVs in the first place.

Had she engaged with Jim by asking just a few simple questions, she could have learned that he was buying a widescreen television for a high-traffic area of his bar and grill. She could have learned that Jim's customers frequently used (and abused) the TV set, and that his last three units had all been handled so roughly by tipsy sports fans that he'd had to replace them.

Jim was sick and tired of replacing television sets. That was his pain. He was focused on price, but he could very easily have become a prime candidate for an extended service plan, which would have been far less expensive than buying a new set every six months or so.

Juanita never knew that, so she never brought it up. As a result, she gave Jim lots of free consulting, watched him take plenty of notes, and lost the sale to an online retailer that offered no service plan at all.


Juanita's behavior was probably the result of an attempt to establish credibility and display her expertise. She may have satisfied her own desire to look and sound like an expert, but she didn't get the sale.

Juanita deserved to lose that sale. Every time we pass up an opportunity to have a meaningful discussion with the prospect about where he wants to go and what's keeping him from getting there, we deserve to lose, too. It's our professional obligation, once we've engaged with a prospect, to start that discussion and follow it through to its conclusion.

Don't spill your candy in the lobby! Instead, ask questions that uncover your prospect's pain. Your closing ratio will thank you.

Douglas Kolker is President of Sandler Training based in Van Nuys, California. To find out more about what Sandler Training can do and how they can help you, call 818-995-7197, or contact them on the Web at

Andrea Michaels is founder and president of Extraordinary Events, a multi-award-winning international meeting and event planning and production firm based in Los Angeles. Andrea is the author of Reflections of a Successful Wallflower: Lessons in Business; Lessons in Life and an in-demand speaker and leading voice in the special events industry. She may be reached via

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

How to Amass and Wield Great Power & Influence

This is simply great, and I needed to share it with you. -Andrea Michaels

-By Kile Ozier
Security Pin/ID for 1994 GGIV Opening Ceremonies
designed by Steve Boyd

Give Everything Away.
Take Responsibility.
Be Responsible.

That’s it. That’s all y’gotta do.

As a Production Executive, Creative Executive or Director, Producer or any combination thereof; these three practices will set you up and keep you in a position of effective, essential power and influence.

You already know that, no matter how fantastic one’s own original vision of a production or project may have been; it is likely, virtually assured, that after having shared it with your team and having collaborated and tested and massaged it through design and production to launch or show it is far better, more compelling and resonant for having opened it up to collaboration and contribution with and by your team.

Be sure they know that you know that. Walk that talk and it will come back to you in spades.

Give Everything Away.

I’m talking credit, here; acknowledgement. Put your people in the spotlight as they create or deliver exceptional or exemplary work.

Everyone already knows you are The One, the Creative Visionary, the Impresario Producer…that you drive the Idea or Concept and the Team…are In Charge. The world already knows that. My suggestion is to be relaxed and secure in your position and give all the credit to those who deliver for you.

So, when someone comes up to you after seeing your show or experiencing the thing you made and says, “Oh, Kile (if, in fact, your name is Kile); that was amazing! I still can’t get over The Moment when <whatever impressed them> happened: I will remember that for the rest of my life! THANK YOU!” That is your opportunity to publicly and graciously point to and acknowledge the person or team that made that one component happen for you; throwing attention and accolade their way.

“You know who did that? That was David, John and Melissa; they’re right over there, I’d appreciate it if you’d go over and tell them what you just told me. In fact, let me introduce you…”

…or some practical form of immediate acknowledgement…
  • share their contact informations
  • cite their work when interviewed
  • spontaneously recommend them when the subject of their craft comes up amongst peers and colleagues
Push and promote those who have delivered for you; it only makes you look generous and supportive and ego free…and we know you are at least two of those things, anyway…

The rewards and benefits of such a stance are legion. I can attest to the good feeling of handing off compliments, the power of the trust that is built and grows when your team knows you respect and appreciate them and the security that exists and builds in knowing that these professionals will likely jump with alacrity at the chance to work again with someone who treats them fairly and who readily shares the Glory.

And who pays them on time. (We’ve talked about this)

So, what am I talking about?


Take Responsibility

Responsibility of The One in Charge extends well beyond the Production, itself.
  • Know your team. Know the individuals who make up your team beyond Job Titles. Know them. Know whether they have families, where they are from, other jobs they’ve had. Assuming an individual is only the title held can cut you off from great amounts of information and resource. The more you know of the background, activities, historical contexts and interests of the people who make up your team, the more I guarantee you will find resources you did not know you had.
  • Especially in an emergency. Who knows: the wind comes up, the tarps come loose, rain is imminent, your production coordinator is also a Scout Leader or was a Forest Ranger in a past life. Knots you need? Done. You never know. Find out.
  • Keep your agreements with your team. (see link, above.) Pay ‘em on time, don’t make them feel they have to ask for their money.
  • Respect their private / home lives.
  • Respect them. This has to be genuine and authentic. Another guarantee: if you treat your people with full-on respect, they will deliver anything for you.
  • Respect the expertise. A good leader should know a little bit about a lot of things and not pretend to know everything about anything. Knowing enough to know your team members are doing good work is important; thinking they need your close supervision in order to do their jobs is a sure way to get them to leave you. Ask for what you want, refrain from telling them how it’s done. If they don’t know more than you, you’ve hired the wrong people.
  • Never assume “ownership” of anyone on your team. They serve and support you out of their respect for you and your work or vision…and because they know you respect them, their expertise, their contributions. Should they sense an absence of respect on your part; they will likely be the next thing that is Absent.
  • Responsibility? Basically, if the show goes great, it’s due to them; if it goes awry, it’s your fault. Deal with any actual person who err’d in private; but publicly, that buck stops at your desk and must fall no further below it.


Finally, Be Responsible

Words are one thing; actions quite another. A Solid Leader pays attention to the little things that might be overlooked or fall between the cracks in a large bureaucracy.

This does not mean be a micromanager. For that, I will lead the mob with stakes and torches in hand. (There is, I hope, a special place in whatever Afterlife there may be for Micromanagers.) What it means is that, as a production ramps up and the work is getting done; the One in Charge must be sure the team is being supported by the infrastructure. Payments are made on time, insurance is carried and covered, breaks are taken and people are fed…and that craft services has carbs, protein and abundant amounts of chocolate and sugar.

Seriously: it is not unusual for a show to close or a project to wrap with a vendor or freelancer not yet paid. It should be unusual but it isn’t, unfortunately. Sometimes things move fast, invoices get lost, payment is assumed but not actually delivered. Many such things can result in that one payment not happening.
When this happens, the One Who Was in Charge remains responsible for the clearing of accounts. You may be on to another project, as may the individual or vendor the former client owes your team member. But being separated from the project is irrelevant; it remains your responsibility see to it that that artist or technician is paid…especially if you are ever going to want work from that person, again.

These are your relationships to protect.

Developing and maintaining a reputation for being committed to the well-being and professional treatment of those who work under you will ultimately give you a great reputation for respecting your people…and will result in those people trusting you, implicitly, and returning to you in the future.

Anecdotally; this is how it has played out for me…

I do work in theme parks, for non-profits and NGO’s, for corporations. When I have a good budget and a well-paying gig, I pay my teams accordingly … and always on time. The men and women who have worked for me in stadiums, theatres, Urban Malls and ballrooms have been doubt-free about the respect (and often awe) in which I hold and treat them. We get great results, every time.

(Well, there was that one time…)

At other times, when I have accepted a project for a weakly-funded charity or smaller entity; I can reach out to these same people, sharing with them the fact that “…there’s no money in this one…,” and they remain highly likely to jump onboard and join me on the project, because:

  • they know that they will be treated with respect
  • they will be paid on time, no matter how minuscule the payment
  • they will be asked to collaborate on something that will be emotionally engaging and likely quite fulfilling to them, personally and professionally, and
  • they will very likely get to see me cry, more than once, as the Experience unfolds…and chances are they will also be moved.

Not a bad reputation to have. Not a bad offer to make. Good practice for work and life.

To the point of the title of this piece; it is working in this way that will ensure the power to attract good people to do good work, it is working in this way that will offer the reputation for edge, for creativity, for creating healthy collaborative and fun environments that yield compelling experiences, it will make your teams attractive to others, lessen the amount of coal in your stocking at Christmas and lower the number of voodoo dolls made in your image.

Make sense?

Hope so.

A visionary and nimble Director, Producer and Writer, Kile Ozier has a global reputation for crafting Experience such that audiences are captivated and rapt; brought to their feet with thunderous applause or deeply touched by his ability to tell a story and connect, emotionally. His strong work ethic, creativity and empathetic management style has consistently delivered Show Experience that continues to resonate in the memories of his audiences long after the lights are doused.

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. To learn more about Kile, visit To contact Kile, email him via

To learn more about Extraordinary Events, visit