Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Sharing Economy - Trending

I read a lot about trends. And by that I mean I don't really care what the trendiest color in linens and flowers might be. I want to know about how to engage the participants at my events. What will move them emotionally to achieve the results my clients are searching for?

So I'm going to share a few with you and see what you think. These are ideas that have been shared with me through some experts' advice or about which I have read. I encourage you to explore them more deeply because I don't believe that white lounge furniture ever got a room full of people to "feel" anything or that a combination of taupe linen with saffron colored roses ever influenced how people felt about a new product. If you do, I accept that. But, if you don't, read on.

  • The trend has moved away from being a generalist (you know, "I do EVERYTHING") to being a specialist. In other words, you do one thing well, if not better than anyone else.
  • The trend is moving away from commoditization ... if you are a commodity, the only thing that distinguishes you is price so it becomes all about who is cheaper. Do you want that to be you?
  • The trend is collaboration, even with your competitors. I've been doing that for 20 years and fail to understand why the thought of such collaboration is scary to so many.
  • The trend is to find your passion and work within that passion. You love cars? Read all about that industry. Attend every trade show. Speak at those conferences. Put yourself on Google Alerts. Meet everyone involved. You will work harder for that about which you care.
  • The trend is to respect time. The time of your clients. The time of your vendors. That shows you value them. If you respect their time, in all likelihood, they will give you some of theirs.
  • The trend is to find trend scouts who can help you find current progressions. Try out a 14-16 year old. They know where the future is headed.
  • The trend is to create emotional bonds, not transactions.
  • The trend is to move outside your own personal field or employees and search out ideas that come from the outside ... marketing, new trends, new clients ... when we expand our community of ideators, we generate innovation at a new level. For instance, if you want to learn how to launch a product, ask its customers and not its designers.
  • The trend is to put together thought groups. For instance, ask a thought group to tell you who they think you are, and you will learn how to market yourself.
  • The trend is knowing that customer experience is bigger than customer service, so deliver an experience and not a product or event.
  • The trend is knowing that today's customers are smarter, savvier and better informed. Selling to them is obsolete. They are looking for inspiration. And relevance.
So those are trends in how to approach business. Look for the next blog which will be new trends from some very creative minds that have achieved great success in branding and delivering results.

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 amichaels@extraordinaryevents.net.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Creating a Niche in Your Marketplace

Differentiation ... it's an interesting word and an even more interesting concept. It's difficult to define. If I were to ask you what differentiates you from every other person, how would you answer that?

Would you say, "I'm very intelligent"? Well, so are a lot of other people.


Would you say, "I hold the world's record for the 100 meters, running backwards"? I dare to say that would differentiate you.

So in business, when we are all promoting who we are, what are we saying about ourselves? I've been listening to some great minds, reading as many articles as I can by some great thinkers, and a few things pop out that I'd like to share. Because with all the world being able to look at us so closely (ah yes, social media, blessing and curse), we have to understand what defines us.

Let me give you an example:

A client says, "Tell me about your company." And you respond:

  • We are available 24/7.
  • We have dedicated account teams.
  • We offer exceptional service.
  • We are creative.

Guess what? That's exactly what your competitors are saying, too. Here's a suggestion: Go to your competitors' websites (take the top 3) and line them up. Get a marking pen and mark the words that they use that you use, too, then find a way to eliminate them from your website. Instead, come up with those words and phrases that will set you apart. In other words, find your "differentiator."

If you do live pitches, think carefully about the words you will choose. You need to find a way to set yourself apart, and it's not by saying "blah, blah, blah" ... It's about saying specific things that show you understand your clients and their brands. In the words of Norman Drummond, "Be at the point of need, NOT at the point of repair."

Think about that one. And then define yourself.

Good luck!

Andrea Michaels is the president and founder of multiple award-winning Extraordinary Events, an international meeting and event planning and production firm based in Los Angeles. She is the published author of Reflections of a Successful Wallflower: Lessons in Business; Lessons in Life and a noted pioneer and speaker in the special events industry. To learn more about her and her company, click here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Entrepreneur/Business Owner/Creative Director: How Many Hats Can One Person Wear?

I wear one hat size. But I wear many hats. Do all those hats fit on my one very tired, sometimes relatively stressed out head? Something to ponder for those of us who multi-task in our professional lives.

It’s easy to say to someone, “Yes, you can have it all,” but what is harder to say is, “Yes, you can do it all.”  Better yet, “You can do it all well.”

So how do we prioritize, or do we?


Creative Director

Without clients, there would be no business to be entrepreneurial about, so of course it is hugely important to focus on how to develop and nurture a creative environment that concentrates on making each and every client feel like they are your only client. And then to come up with creative solutions to the marketing/event/strategic needs so that they can't live without you. A tall order. Add to that all the research it takes to stay ahead of the trends, and time will be a much sought-after commodity.


Entrepreneur/Business Owner

Being an entrepreneur/business owner takes just as much creativity, perhaps even more, because it's far more subjective and usually more personal. Every day is comprised of problem solving, combined with diplomatic skills which rival the United Nations. First of all, most of us have a variety of age groups within our own companies, and each of these groups has a different way of communicating. As a "boss" you need to find ways to communicate your needs but in a way that each generation might understand differently. Then of course there are different views of productivity, time management and, ah yes, commitment.

Creating a team approach is the ultimate in creativity. Much like developing a team approach when working on a project where you have a producer, creative director, associate producers, technical directors (and the list can go on from there), you need to create a functioning office team. How? Patience. Perseverance. Organization. And simply listening and giving every team member the opportunity to be heard and  respected. Though flow charts are updated and are replaced by a circle concept (the circle shows that everyone is on an equal playing field and connected to every other person), it is important to be a combination of leader ... but a leader with an open mind.

The Commonality

So this "hat" I wear really is the same for both clients and employees. Am I not using my creative skills to solve problems both externally with clients and internally with employees? Same process; different participants, right? With one aspect that transcends both ... how you communicate, which is the most creative element of all.


Your client wants the world without the budget to deliver what they dream of; your employee wants a huge raise but hasn't earned it; a producer puts forth an idea which really doesn't work for your brand; a vendor's truck breaks down, and they are late to deliver the goods. In all cases, how you communicate to each of these people is key to continuing a healthy and productive relationship. I give full credit to Susan Allan for teaching me about the six-part conversation which is a combination of listening, restating, empathizing, asking for permission to share my own thoughts and needs and then creating a solution that is win-win. It is a matter of respect for the other party at all times combined with clarity of thought and clarity of wording. Ambiguity doesn't work here.


Try these Words

I understand (client) what you are asking for… and then repeat what they’ve asked and ask them to clarify. The result is that they are heard and you can then offer some alternatives to help them reach their objectives.


I understand that you are asking for a four-million-dollar increase in salary (20 year old associate producer … I exaggerate of course). Would you be willing to let me share my thoughts on how you can ultimately earn this much of an increase? You are not saying, “You’re nuts!”


I appreciate that you have offered up such creative thoughts for our project. These might not fit into our client’s objectives, but I think it would be wonderful to have this in our arsenal so we can find the right client for this very creative idea and make it come to life.


I understand that your truck broke down and you will be running late. I understand that this situation was out of your control. And then you can discuss how to solve the problem … call another vendor; send out a truck. But you’ve eliminated an argument, a guilt trip, etc. which solves nothing.

And in All Other Aspects of Life

I take that same hat off to those who juggle parenthood, spouse-hood and a job. This is much the same.One person plays many roles. My question would be if any of them suffer, and so I pose that question to all of you. What do you think?

Andrea Michaels is the founder and president of Extraordinary Events, an award-winning, international meeting and event planning and production firm based in Los Angeles. She is the author of Reflections of a Successful Wallflower - Lessons in Business; Lessons in Life, a sought-after speaker and a pioneering and highly awarded leader in the events industry. To learn more about Andrea or her company, visit http:www.extraordinaryevents.net. To contact Andrea, email amichaels@extraordinaryevents.net.