An Interview with Andrea Michaels, Special Events Industry Pioneer Superstar!
It has been a privilege to interview Andrea Michaels, international event producer, the president and founder of Extraordinary Events, winner of 35 Special Event Gala Awards, and the first inductee into the Special Event Industry Hall of Fame. She is a truly incredible woman who has been acknowledged as one of, if not the most, recognizable and dominating influences in the special events industry. Her work has helped shape the modern world by influencing culture and the way the United States is viewed around the world by other nations and peoples. Special event planning and production have brought her international recognition and industry acclaim. Michaels has brought glamour and excitement to the masses and yet, outside of the industry she helped to create, few of us realize how this amazing woman has touched our lives or the impact her work has had on us. She is everything that you hope she will be and more. Easily recognized by her fire and zest for living, she is as exciting as the events she orchestrates. Andrea Michaels has recently celebrated the release of her memoirs, which contain lessons in business and in life drawn from her experiences and from 35 years in the special events industry. It is in relation to her latest adventure, that I am able to bring this interview to the
Andrea, your book is titled Reflections of a Successful Wallflower. When looking back over the years and your career in the special events industry, how closely does business as you have encountered it resemble life?
Michaels: To me life and business are exactly the same; the same challenges, presented in different ways. You lose a life partner if you divorce. You lose a business partner if you have a business divorce. Your kids grow up and move away from home. Your employees grow up and move away from your business home. Your spouse cheats on you. Your employee steals a client. It’s the same thing, different setting.
Faroqui: How would you describe the events industry today as compared with the industry when you first began your career?
Michaels: There are absolutely no similarities. When I entered the business in 1973, there was no industry, and today it is one of the world’s leading industries. I was one of the pioneers who along with a few others invented the special events industry. So let’s go back to 1973. Overhead slides. A speaker at a meeting with a microphone and maybe, maybe a spotlight. At a gala dinner (at a hotel) a table with linen draped ½ inch off of the top of the table with a carnation centerpiece. No lighting. No special chairs. No special linen. Maybe a quartet playing or maybe only a pianist for background music. Think about that and compare it to how we
perceive events today.
Faroqui: Your son, Jon Michaels, Executive VP of operations for Extraordinary Events, talks about the sacrifices you've made for the industry. What kind of sacrifices did you have to make, and, more importantly, why did you feel it was important to make them?
Michaels: I gave up a lot of family time. I put my career first, not in terms of love, but in terms of time. I had to. I needed to support both of us as a single parent. I had to travel and so I dragged my son around with me; which at the time was a rather unacceptable notion. Even when I was home . . . I was mentally “out”. Communication was not so easy. No computers. No internet. So you had to go to the office to work, to type, later to fax, and later still to use the one office computer. I felt it was important to provide us with a good life, and I needed to satisfy what was deep within me, a desire for adventure and to seek opportunity. I’ve always been a sucker for both. Did I sacrifice the “Brady Bunch” mentality? Yes I did.
Faroqui: What does being the first inductee into the special events industry hall of fame mean to you? Of the many awards you've received, which has the most personal meaning for you?
Michaels: It meant a lot to me to receive that award and be amongst the first group of inductees; people like Jack Morton, Jim Steeg, and my dearest friend, John Daly. I think the award I won for a philanthropic event meant the most to me. I convinced a corporate client to completely rebuild a school using their products and their executives. When it was acknowledged, I remember saying to the audience “. . . just know that as event planners we are not just party people; we can change the world!” I really meant that . . . because I had done it, and I wanted to lead others into doing it, too.
Faroqui: The special events industry's logistical details are absolutely mind-boggling and become more so with inevitable unforeseen changes. Newcomers to this line of work are bound to get intimidated. What words of encouragement do you have for them?
Michaels: Learn your craft. Planning your third cousin’s wedding isn’t enough. Intern yourself to the best. Learn, learn, and learn. Then get great legal and accounting advice and do it right. Get the right insurance. Tell the truth. Associate yourself with the best, the most honest. And tell the truth again and always. It is a fabulous industry. You won’t die rich but you might die inspired.
Faroqui: Andrea, what inspired you to write a book telling your story?
Michaels: I did it for me. I wanted to be a part of history. One of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced is to hold that book in my hands and know that I wrote it, that I lived it, and that I was honest about sharing what I hoped would be useful to others.
Faroqui: What do you hope sharing your experiences in this way will accomplish?
Michaels: Maybe some people would learn that challenges can be overcome, hurdles can be jumped over. There are always obstacles. To inspire others to be solution driven, and not problem driven. And to show them that women have the power to be all they want to be. Plus we all make mistakes and there’s no shame in that.
Faroqui: What have you learned about yourself from the writing experience and what advice do you have to offer other writers that you wish you had been given when you started writing?
Michaels: A friend of mine wants to write a book and cannot get started. She cannot think of a title or a first chapter. I told her forget that bullshit. Write the end last, or the middle chapter. The title will come after she starts writing. Stop thinking of it as a traditional start-at-page-one lesson. In the words of Nike, “Just do it.” What I personally learned is that at some point you have to say “enough” and stop. I would be editing from my grave otherwise. At some point you have to just say “done” and let it be.
Faroqui: Thank you, Andrea, for your time and for sharing your experiences with us.
Copies of of Andrea Michaels’ book Reflections of a Successful Wallflower: Lessons in Business, Lessons in Life, are available through Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble books. To learn more about her business visit ExtraordinaryEvents.net.
Please join us Friday August 20th for Andrea's podcast interview where she will be answering more questions and sharing her writing and editing experiences as well as advice for other writers.