Reflections of a Successful Wallflower

Lessons in Business; Lessons in Life

by Andrea Michaels


Book Details

Who Is Andrea Michaels? What Does She Know that We Don't?

Andrea Michaels is literally one of the backbones of the special events industry. Launching her business when there was no formalized or defined marketplace, she was and still is a trailblazer, pioneering the way for others to follow. Always on the cutting edge of the business, she has stacked up a pile of firsts (and 50 prestigious awards) in her legendary career - from initiating corporate branding and messaging into events and interactive themes that create experiences for the guests to entering the international market ahead of her colleagues and incorporating never-before-used technology into her events, just to name a few. That alone should make her extraordinary, but she runs much deeper. Noted as one of the most caring and giving educators of our time, she has traveled the world to teach others not just her art and craft but to help them learn from her own mistakes. How did this genius evolve? Why is she so revered by all her peers? What does she know that we don't?

Reflections of a Successful Wallflower can only be compared to reading Andrea's diaries. This first inductee into the industry Hall of Fame shares, openly and candidly, not only the public wunderkind but the inner woman. Discover the workings of one of the foremost event producers in the world. You'll laugh; you'll cry; you'll be in disbelief and fascinated at the same time. She is a storyteller, and her stories and her life are great lessons for everyone.

What Her Peers Are Saying ...

"She is a leader, mentor and educator to virtually the entire industry. Andrea Michaels has set the extraordinary standard against which all special event professionals strive to be measured!" -Steve Kemble, America's Sassiest Lifestyle Guru

"This book is a life lesson, a success road map and a laugh-out-loud look into one of the great business and creative minds working today." - John Klymshyn, Author of How To Sell Without Being A JERK! and The Ultimate Sales Managers' Guide

"Meet Andrea Michaels and enjoy, learn and sometimes marvel at the stories she tells from her more than 30 years in the event production business. Her stories are entertaining at their surface, but read deeply and find the lessons to be learned planning events vicariously through Andrea's accounts. By the end of this fun read, it will be apparent how it is that Andrea Michaels seems to have never met a sow's ear she couldn't make into a silk purse. It's that special talent -- no, it's her Gift that has made her such a sought-after producer and guest speaker at event conferences worldwide.

"You'll laugh at some of her stories, a few might raise some ire at the incredible unreasonableness of some of her clients, but all will inspire you to look beyond the task toward the 'what marvelous thing can this become if...'" -Robert Abbott, Director - Corporate Marketing Communication, Mueller Co.

"Andrea has such fascinating stories to tell ... I think this will be essential reading for anyone who is in the business and can relate to all her experiences and how she lived and laughed through them." -James D. Murphy, Vice President, Asia Pacific Operations,George P. Johnson

"Andrea's work is truly outstanding and whilst she is imitated by many, she is equaled by few." -Sally Webb, Managing Director, The Special Event Company, London, England and North Carolina.


Book Excerpt

Reflections of a Successful Wallflower

Lessons in Business; Lessons in Life

Andrea Michaels


“You eat too fast,” my good friend Jose said to me as we were having dinner in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, not too long ago.

I thought, yeah, Jose, I do everything fast. Absolutely everything.

That defines how I approach life and, of course, then that means it’s the way I approach events. There simply isn’t enough time to do everything I want to do. So, if I don’t do everything quickly, I’ll miss out on something. And I don’t want to miss out on anything … ever.

Where did that start? Actually, I remember my mother telling me from a very young age that I didn’t have “sitzfleisch,” which in German/Jewish means I couldn’t stay in one place for very long doing one thing … I had to move and do a lot of things at once. Yes, I’m one of those people who watches TV, reads a book, talks on the phone and makes dinner at the same time. Or at the office, does my email, writes a proposal and talks to clients simultaneously. Now this might be wrong if I did any of those things badly, but I don’t. It is my way. I know no other.

You might call me an opportunist. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. I just see possibilities in everything that I encounter or experience.

You’ll see as you read on that I am a storyteller (that started at the age of five or six), so let me share a story to show you what I mean.

A couple of years ago I traveled to Milan prior to a business trip to Torino. It was holiday time; it was snowing but I wanted to see the city anyway. Most of all I wanted to go to La Scala. My parents raised me to love opera, and I have always dreamed of La Scala. As luck would have it, La Scala was closed, but its museum was open. Better than nothing, right? So I wandered through the museum, and, in one corner behind an exhibit, I saw a door. Well, what would you do if you saw a door? I opened it and discovered a stairway leading downward. So down I went into a dimly lit stairwell. Down and down some more, and finally I reached another door. So I opened that one too. And what was on the other side … the orchestra pit where the La Scala orchestra was about to begin dress rehearsal for opening night’s Elixir of Love. I approached one of the musicians and told him of my love for the opera, and he invited me to sit in the pit and enjoy the entire rehearsal. The point? There are opportunities everywhere. I believe in seizing them quickly, or they might be missed.

In events, this same philosophy began in 1973, with a part-time job for Ron Rubin, a Southern California band leader, a job I needed while I was completing my college degree at U.C.L.A. That evolved into my working with him for a decade (five or six of those years as his partner.) And how did that evolve into what I do now? In the 1970s, there was no real event industry, and I was sure there should be. It was an opportunity to create an industry where none existed. I couldn’t stand to lose an opportunity! Just wasn’t possible. Still isn’t.

Some associates and clients have called me a visionary. But that’s not how I see it. My philosophy has always been, if it’s out there, grab it. If it isn’t, create it and then grab it!

This book is my opportunity to share stories that relate to not just my life but my life in events. How did it all begin for me? Where has it gone? What does the future hold? How did I keep it together with all of the personal and business challenges that are a part of everyone’s life? The events in this book will define that process. They all go back to the questions that people have been posing to me for years: How do you deal with the stress? How did you venture out globally? How did you manage to raise a child with a career that took up so much of your time and energy? How do you work effectively with different cultures and values? What do you do when nothing goes right? Unions? Missteps? What about the weather? How do you deal with inexperienced and difficult clients? Develop trust? What do you do about new and current trends like “Going Green” and “Sustainability” and “Social Responsibility”?

I’ve included all of that and much more. So curl up with a glass of wine, snuggle next to your favorite person, cat, dog or pillow and get ready to be entertained. Didn’t someone say life and its events are really just another form of entertainment?


An Excerpt from

Chapter 1

Dealing with Stress – The Space Shuttle Development Conference

“Houston, We Have A Problem”

Weeks and weeks of work. Constant checking with the client. Was he happy? Yes, everything was fine. The Director of Sales (DOS) was great! She gave him tickets to Aerosmith; his seats were in front of the Texas governor and most celebrities in attendance. DOS was terrific! SO creative!

The Account Executive (AE) and I asked to see what this creativity was all about. "It's coming." We demanded to see the budget. "It's coming." The client began to ask for paperwork. "I sent it!" she said. "Where is it?" we asked. "It's coming!"

I finally flew to Las Vegas and demanded to see "the book" with all notes in it. "It's at home." I was able to get handwritten notes for the budget. I went over it line item by line item. To keep from being excessively tedious, there was a lot of paper shuffling, next to no backup, and we had to carefully readjust the figures. The concept she seemed not to "get" was that the budget was THE BUDGET. We were assured that everything was handled. We again checked with the client who was very happy.

The dates of the event approached. According to DOS, technical elements were being donated because of the high visibility of this event. Wasn't it terrific that so much was being given to us? A Jumbotron; a high-resolution video truck to film and memorialize the entire conference; food and beverage. Wow! Lucky us!

Days before the event our Line Producer, the AE and I asked to see all creative, plus a sign-off from the client on all budgeted elements. Finally a very loose creative treatment came in the middle of the night with no budget. We were all uncomfortable, but it was time to get on our planes and start "producing." After all, with years and years of experience in the industry, this person had to know what she was doing. And the client was happy.

The day before DOS was to fly to San Jose for the first day of load-in, I left a message that I didn't have all contracts in hand to execute payments for items being delivered the next day.

On Thursday, Load-in day, I checked voice mail at my office at 4:00 a.m. "Hi, this is (well, name-dropping isn't polite, so I'll be good and not name names), and I just want to tell you that I'm disassociating myself from this project and Extraordinary Events."

We did not have the master production book. We did not have contracts. We did not have agreements. We called our Las Vegas office and were told that she had instructed them to forward all calls to our Los Angeles office. We called her home, her cell. Only voice mail. She had gone underground.

Our first call was to the Line Producer. Get on the next flight. The next was to the client. The truth. Yes, you heard me, the truth. This is the situation. Tell me every last thing you are expecting, and we will deliver it. Let's not discuss the whys or wherefores. Let's just get it done. With excellence.

Our Line Producer arrived in San Jose to be met with a barrage of people and their questions. Every sentence started with "She promised" or "She said she'd taken care of that." Seventy tour guides showed up to walk the route of the tours. WHAT TOURS??

Boeing showed up with a jet propulsion engine from a shuttle. Where's the fork lift? WHAT FORK LIFT?!

Again, I'll shorten the story. No equipment had been ordered. No labor had been ordered. No food had been ordered. The conference was woven around the introduction of this amazing video that we produced. No AV had been ordered. There was no sound.

We had a dirigible hangar, the size of three football fields, where we were producing a meeting and tradeshow, with five Space Shuttle commanders as our bosses. We had to make it happen.

On Friday, the Line Producer was in San Jose, and the AE was on his way. I remained in Los Angeles. My first job was to preview the video. Excellent. What do we show it on? Oh, yes, the donated Jumbotron. Wrong! It didn't exist. Broadcast from the donated high-resolution truck. Donated?

“Who told you that? It's $98,000, and ‘she’ confirmed it with me. By the way, it's 58-feet long, and we need to park it in the hangar. It's on its way now. Have the check ready.”

In the midst of this, the Line Producer called. “The FAA is calling. There are jets circling the field and they want to land.” WHAT JETS? Oh yes, “she” had promised five astronauts that they could fly their private planes into the field and she’d provide clearance. Keep circling, boys, we’ll take care of it … somehow.

I begged, borrowed favors and stole from my accumulated years of professionalism to get everything in place. We secured sound and audio visual equipment and the best professionals in the business. Then the bombshell hit. The meetings were during broad daylight, and this dirigible hangar (remember the size, folks?) had 360-degree windows bringing in the beautiful July sunshine. And "she" had promised the client that all their AV, all their PowerPoint, would show up beautifully. How? “She” told them that Navy Seals would rappel down the hangar with velon to cover all the windows. Guess who got to break the news that it wouldn't and couldn’t happen this way?

With more intense brainstorming we found some solutions, like building an expensive tunnel to shelter the equipment, but it wasn't easy.

I arrived on Monday morning to find both the Line Producer and AE in remarkably good spirits, considering.

I was approached by one of the shuttle commanders. "When do we see our speeches?" SPEECHES?

"Yes, 'she' promised she'd write our scripts, cues ...." FOR SPACE SHUTTLE COMMANDERS. By that night? Two hours worth? No problem!

"Who's directing the show?" SHOW? WHAT SHOW? "Why, 'she' said we'd have a professional director, stage manager, producer and emcee."

I could go on. But I think this might give you a good picture. Unfortunately, not the financial one. I can't even bear to talk about that. From Thursday night load-in day one, I never asked how much. I just said, "Do it." I had to stand behind the company, keep my own troupes from slashing their wrists, diffuse the tension with the vendors and communicate with the client like this was just one more daily challenge.

So, that’s the story. After reading it, you might label this event stressful, but was it? Yes, but not worth hyperventilating about … not for me anyway. Why not?

The Lesson

My life is filled with would-be stressful events like my NASA event. For example, several years ago I gave one of many seminars for the International Special Events Society (ISES). Exactly as I mounted the podium and started thanking everyone for attending, my phone rang. As usual, it was a client demanding I do something immediately, a dire emergency, with no time to waste. As I was explaining where I was and what I was doing, my pager went off with a 911, while a bellman simultaneously ran in with a message about an emergency in some part of the globe and that my staff needed me immediately. Everyone needed something that second.

In the midst of it all, I simply looked up at my audience and said, “I was born in a concentration camp. When I was three weeks old my mother, my grandparents and I escaped on a fishing boat across the Adriatic and went into hiding in Italy for the next three years. The other boats with the rest of my family were shot out of the water, and they all went to Auschwitz. None survived. In Italy, my mother met and later married an American pilot, moved to the United States and left me with my grandparents. The next time I saw her, four years later, I had no idea who she was.

“Do I get stressed out because one rose in a centerpiece is a little wilted or a drummer is 15 minutes late or the client demands unplanned elements at the last minute or the producer quits and I have to build the event from zero up on load-in day? If no one dies on the job or I don’t read about it in the New York Times, it simply isn’t that important and not worth stressing over. And when you really look at it, what do you accomplish by getting stressed? Absolutely nothing.”


About the Author

Andrea Michaels

Andrea Michaels, an international meeting and event producer, is the President/Founder of Extraordinary Events and winner of 33 Special Event Gala Awards. She is the first inductee into the Special Event Industry Hall of Fame and a winner of both the SITE Crystal and MPI Global Paragon Awards, among many other recognitions. All of these are for impeccable and innovative meetings and events. Prominent events include the openings of Las Vegas' Venetian Hotel and that city's Town Square, Lumiere Place in St. Louis and G.M. Place in Vancouver, and international road shows for The Hong Kong Tourist Board, as well as a variety of clients globally. Additionally her seminars on Creativity, Sustainability, The Profitability of Doing Business and Anatomy of an Event have earned her international kudos. In a few words, she sets the trends; others follow. Visit: to learn more.

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