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[00:00:00] Joelle Morgan: Hi, and welcome to the meetings and advanced podcast. I’m your host, Joel Morgan. Today, I’m speaking with Michael Domingez, CEO and president of associated luxury hotels, international, Michael and I had one of the best conversations that I’ve had in a long time, about many subjects that were broad and far reach.
[00:00:23] We talked about the importance of our industry in creating social change and growth. We talked about the primary reason. We have events at all being connection with each other and what that does for human behavior and for growth in the world and in our companies and lives. We had some great laughs about our most challenging moments in our careers.
[00:00:47] And we also deep dived into some areas that we all personally can get involved in, in creating change both in our industry and abroad. I think one of my takeaways was really understanding that our industry, as the events and meetings industry. Really does have the capacity to create incredible social good, and that we have tools and powerful mechanisms at our hands to really start to see those changes affected that can change lives both young and old and far reaching into the future as well.
[00:01:21] I hope that you enjoy our conversation as much as I did.
[00:01:33] Welcome Michael.
[00:01:34] Michael Dominguez: Oh, thank you. I am, I couldn’t be more excited. I, think there is just gonna be a lot of energy and I’m excited about the conversation, but thank you for the invite.
[00:01:42] Joelle Morgan: I’m so pleased, you said yes. I remember the first time I met you, which was earlier this year at an event you were hosting and ALHI was hosting.
[00:01:50] And just the energy that comes from you is tangible and palpable. You are one of those people that has the ability to change the atmosphere in every room that you walk into, and I just so appreciate that about you and just want to call that out and say, it’s one of the biggest gifts that I think some people can have, which is to bring energy to a situation and then start being able to unpack what vision looks like and what the future looks like.
[00:02:19] Michael Dominguez: Sure. Thank you. Y ou know, I’ve always had this mentality and I blame my mother in a good way because I am my mother and she drove this into me. But since I was a kid, she’ll tell you I’ve always been referenced by people around my positivity and my energy. There’s this really funny story…
[00:02:35] My kids played club soccer and we were together for a long period of time and we had moved and then we came back to this community two years later. My daughter’s on a new team. My wife’s at, practice. I show up to practice because I’m coming from work. They’re already going. I wanna go say hello to the girls.
[00:02:50] Well, my wife’s there, and she’s talking to some lady that we had just met and I say, hello, and introduced myself. Then I go, and then my wife comes back later and she goes, “the lady said, ‘God, he has so much energy.’ And she goes, “he said, ‘hello.’ how did you get that outta it?” So I do mean it, even in my personal life, people have said that. And you know what I really do think it is?
[00:03:12] I think when you talk about energy, it’s intentional focus on people and the individual, and that I’m excited about the moment. I always like to say life is grace, and I try to celebrate that every moment. I do think it is a privilege for us to be alive, and to be able to do the things we get to do.
[00:03:29] So I come in with a real positive attitude. That’s why the energy is there.
[00:03:32] Joelle Morgan: I love that. I think that’s fantastic. I couldn’t agree more. And I know that you’ve been in our industry for a long time and I’m kind of curious to have that unpacked today on our show, just in terms of an overview of your background. You’ve got a background in operations, you’ve worked for some of the most major hotel lines around the world. And being in this industry a long, long time, currently you sit on several boards and give advice and give leadership, but you started at 16 busing tables. So tell us about that trajectory.
[00:04:06] Michael Dominguez: Well, I’m trying to keep the story legal. I actually started at 15 busing tables. I wasn’t supposed to be working yet, but I did. And literally I’m one of those in this industry that got here by accident. I literally was working while I was going to school. I worked part-time busing tables, as you said. The Hyatt in San Antonio on the Riverwalk in the original Hyatt that was there. As I advanced and got through high school, I literally started waiting tables, which I only did for about six months. Then I was supervising a restaurant and then had my first management job literally within a year of graduating from high school. So I was a 20 year old kid, running a restaurant and I was in food and beverage for nine years of my career. I started in F and B, and I always thought I was gonna run a hotel. I’m gonna be a GM. That was my goal. I couldn’t even envision the career I have today. I really thought the epitome of all of it was being a GM at a hotel.
[00:05:01] I always put things together on reference points on how things happen, and I always say there’s events and there’s people and their decisions in our lives that completely changed our scale and scope of where we’re headed. And when you become 18, 19 years old, every decision, every event, those people will or could change the trajectory of your life and I reflect often. So I’ll tell you here’s the decision when I was graduating high school. I had a full paid scholarship to go to Texas A&M it was the President’s Achievement Award. I went and did my weekend. I hated it. I didn’t want to go to A&M. I always wanted to go to UT. I told my mother, I’m not gonna accept the scholarship.
[00:05:37] I’m gonna stay home. I’m gonna go to UT San Antonio until I can afford to go to UT Austin. I wouldn’t be talking to you today had I gone to A&M, because the reason I’m in the hotel industry is because I continued to work while I went to UT San Antonio in a hotel, and all of a sudden started to realize there’s a career here.
[00:05:55] That one decision changed the scope of my life. The event that impacted my career, and I really wouldn’t be here talking to you today if it wasn’t for the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco. There was a Hyatt Burling game in San Francisco that basically they had to shut down for a year.
[00:06:14] To rebuild, because of the damage from the earthquake, the team that was there included my food and beverage director who started my career that had been there only for two weeks. They moved that entire crew to Palm Springs to open up the Hyatt suites in Palm Springs. It was their first all suite property.
[00:06:31] I get a phone call in Austin saying, “I need you to come run a restaurant in Palm Springs.” I go. And the interesting part is I met Brad Poncher, who used to be part of Hyatt’s Worldwide Sales, and he’s the GM there. He’s the one that moved me into sales. He’s the one to put me on a different path. I never would have met Brad if it wasn’t for that earthquake.
[00:06:50] And I do reflect on that because that one event changed the course of my life with me saying yes. So when they said, ‘do you wanna come to Palm Springs?’ I said, yes. So, I think about that and that’s how I end up here.
[00:07:02] And I always think it’s important for people to reflect on the journey. We, sometimes look at the destination and we tend to forget how did I get here, and what decisions put me here? That’s something I reflect on often, probably too much. But I try to figure it out because I think the more you’re in tune with that, Joelle, the more you make better decisions, because you start to really understand the gravity of what you’re going to do.
[00:07:23] Joelle Morgan: Absolutely. I think the combination of everything that you’re saying – the balance points between being passionate and having a ‘yes’ has such capacity for momentum and propelling you into things that you would never have expected before. Is that something you’d probably agree with? If you could boil it down into a couple of sentences?
[00:07:44] Michael Dominguez: Oh, without a doubt. Look, I move and I move fast and I say yes to everything. And my wife reminds me of that often.
[00:07:49] You know, what drives me is I have a very short amount of time to make the biggest impact I possibly can. And that impact isn’t about me. It’s how do I make my industry better? How do I make people better? How do I help them in their careers and in their lives? We’re on this earth for a very short period of time. It seems much longer than it is.
[00:08:09] I actually had a talk with one of my executives today and I said, I was reading a book somewhere, and if you took the history of the universe, our entire lives represent one day. And yet what we think is such travesty and what we think is earth shattering, in the perspective of the broader picture, if anything can humble you, it’s that. So how do I make that one day the best day you can possibly make. That’s kind of how I live my life.
[00:08:30] Joelle Morgan: Yeah. I love that. So in terms of perspective, let’s apply perspective to our industry. You know, you’ve been in this industry a long time. I’ve been in it for 22 years as well, and I’m curious to kind of hear your thoughts around what the industry’s looking like at the moment. Like at this point in time, in that brief second of our one day on the grand scheme of things, what does it feel like in our broader industry with the breadth of years that you’ve seen? What does this moment look like currently? And what are you noticing?
[00:09:04] Michael Dominguez: You know, what’s funny is I sometimes, and I know this is gonna sound interesting, I sometimes think we overthink things. I do think as we’re coming out of this, there’s tremendous opportunity. We’re seeing tremendous demand. What we’re seeing is human behavior return to normal very quickly following a pandemic. When, if you rewind to mid 2020, people were never gonna gather again. They were never gonna travel again. We’re never gonna shake hands again. And as soon as we were allowed to, and we knew the water was safer, we’re starting to behave like the human beings we’ve always been. I sometimes think, Joelle, we so focus on what we think are changes. I always say, if behavior isn’t dramatically changing, then don’t overthink it. It doesn’t mean the mechanics aren’t changing in some regard. But you know what the behavior is? We spent two years trying to figure out how to meet. We now need to get back to why are we meeting? Let’s focus on engagement. Let’s focus on education. Let’s focus on being inspiring. What does that look and feel like? And it’s not a criticism, it’s just, our focus was trying to meet the protocols, and what were gonna to be the protocols, and how do I make this happen?
[00:10:10] Now we’re getting back to. Why are we meeting? And it’s always about being human, and human engagement, and human connection. And that is what I think hasn’t changed that much. I’m doing a presentation for a large corporation and they liked the changes there.
[00:10:26] One thing I mentioned is I’m a big believer that if there’s any shift, and this has been going on for about a decade, demographics do not matter yet. We keep talking about demographics. I believe psychographic matters. I believe the behavior, not the age, isimportant. If I like technology that doesn’t put me into an age category. It puts me into an interest category. If I like streaming video, that doesn’t put me into an age category, it puts me into a behavior category. And if you focus on the behaviors, you’ll cover all age groups. I think we spent a decade so worried about a millennial generation and I have three of them, you know, it’s not that there’s anything wrong with the millennials, it’s just, we thought they were gonna be so different. Well, to say that they’re a technology generation is like saying the boomers were the reason we have color televisions. Color televisions came out when they were in the middle of their life. Technology is coming out while the millennials are in their lives, but that doesn’t mean they’re the change of it. They’re just a large audience that’s getting to embrace it, but all society has embraced it. That is where I think we overthink it. I think we’re overthinking it sometimes as an industry. There’s an overcorrection right now in our industry that we have too many groups that are saying we’re doing nothing virtual.
[00:11:42] They’re so tired of virtual over the last two years, we’ve all heard about it. It’s the virtual fatigue, like, no, I’m not doing it. I think that’s an over correction. And I don’t mean that as a negative. I understand it, but I do think at some point we’re gonna settle somewhere in the middle where we understand there’s a place for it and we need face to face, and we need a little bit of some type of omnichannel approach to all of this.
[00:12:06] What that looks and feels like. I think it’s gonna take some time. I have a presentation in the industry I’ve actually titled “It’s an Important Time to be Decisively Indecisive”. And I mean it. It’s like quit making definitives about what we think has changed forever because it took us two years to get here. It’s gonna take us more than six months to figure out what it all means.
[00:12:25] I think the dust needs to settle a little bit before we quite understand because you’re seeing it in the markets. The retail organizations that were killing it during the pandemic are now having to reset, because the behaviors are changing as society has opened up. And that’s what you’re seeing in all the markets. What was really high during the pandemic is now coming back to a little bit of reality. And what was really low during the pandemic is now coming up to a reality. It’s this whole reset. Well, I don’t know what that all looks like until the dust settles. I think we gotta give it some time to let the dust settle to really understand what are going to be the permanent changes. What I’m excited about the most is people want to get together face to face. All we are dealing with right now are addendums, because everybody’s showing up.
[00:13:07] Joelle Morgan: That’s fantastic.
[00:13:09] Michael Dominguez: That is a really good sign across the board.
[00:13:11] Joelle Morgan: Great sign. No, you’re speaking our language, certainly. Our whole philosophy with behind what we do is all geared towards our top mission, which is connecting companies with their people. Creating connections and being able to create a multidimensional experience for people where they feel seen, they feel heard, they feel inspired, they feel educated and equipped to move into their respective futures and knowing that there is a vision in place and positivity available to them, I think is something that we’re certainly noticing from our perspective. Which is very much along what you were saying regardless of the demographics moving towards a future, or solutions, or ideas, or inspirational ways of doing things really has to be centered around human behavior. What makes people move? How can we understand the dynamics behind what makes people move towards something or away from something? And then how do we craft an experience that brings them to the table where they can engage with that holistically in a way that provides growth and change?
[00:14:18] Michael Dominguez: Yeah, I agree. The one thing I’ve always mentioned is that we used to always talk about content is king. We’ve heard that forever. I don’t believe content is king today. I believe context is. I don’t need a meeting. I don’t need your meeting. I don’t need my meeting to tell me something that I can Google or YouTube to learn anything I wanna learn.
[00:14:37] What I do need the meeting for is I need to understand how is it gonna make me better? How am I going to use it? Tell me the context around it. How is it gonna make me better personally or professionally? And I think that’s where meetings are invaluable today. It is us listening to the same keynote, and at lunch talking about what we heard from that, through our lens, and what we’re learning from others and having that discussion. When we meet, change the world, and I think that’s the purpose of meetings.
[00:15:04] You know, you talked about my volunteerism. Why do I volunteer all that time? Because I care about this industry and I think we could have the largest impact on most of the social ills in the world. If we, as an industry could get on the same, because when we’re focused on something, we, we literally can accomplish anything together, because we’re that broad.
[00:15:21] Joelle Morgan: Yeah, I love that. I think that that’s such a good reminder and I think we have to always remember when we’re putting on an event, we want the experience to be incredible. One of my things is like, “experience is king”. I love “context is king” agree. Because we’re creating something that is designed to be bigger than ourselves. And I don’t know if you would agree. I’m interested in your thoughts on this, but I think our attendees are becoming more sophisticated. I think they want more, they want to be challenged, like you said, information that I can get on Google is fantastic. I think gone are the days of sitting through esoteric keynote sessions where it’s so intellectual that people walk away and hear big words, but have no practical tools that they can put into their work lives yeah. So the connection between idea and practical tools, I think is such a key for our industry to remember with the humans that we get to curate experiences for.
[00:16:17] Michael Dominguez: I couldn’t agree more, Joelle. You’ve nailed it. I love the way you said that “a more sophisticated audience”. I think the expectations are tenfold, that I’m now vying for your time. And if I’m vying for your time, you better make it worth the journey. And, that’s how I look at it, that there’s a really intense eye on what we’re providing and how we’re providing it.
[00:16:38] And, you know, I just spoke at this SEMA conference recently, and that is a very sophisticated group of individuals. And I just had dinner with a good friend of mine that is the current chair of that organization. What was interesting is I told her, “look, I don’t get nervous speaking in front of a group. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I enjoy it, and I just make it a conversation. But I felt a little of the intensity before I got up there that I know I needed to deliver, because this was such a sophisticated audience. To your point. I think that’s where we are today. I knew I had to bring it, and I had to bring my A-game because of who was in the audience. But what you just said, I now know why. Because I couldn’t put it into words and you just did. The audience is more sophisticated and their expectation is so much more that you better bring it, because if not, you’re going to disappoint.
[00:17:29] And I do think Joelle, if there was anything as a society, that I think the meetings world can help is we’ve gotta get to a point to bring “civil” back into the civil discourse. Can we start having a conversation and know that not everybody is gonna have the same perspective, yet we don’t have to act like we’re persecuted because somebody has a different perspective.
[00:17:48] I think meetings can help bridge that divide. I just went to France for, a week and for people that have never traveled outside our country, you want to learn, and experience diversity. Your perspective has no option except to be diverse when you start to see the diversity around the world. I think that’s where ignorance comes from. And I think our industry and travel as a whole can really do. That’s when I go back to social impact. The ability for us to go see other cultures learn about other cultures to understand their perspective is what makes you much more broad and, literally I think much more accepting to understand.
[00:18:26] But I, do think meetings brings that in on steroids. And that’s the ability for us to really make some change.
[00:18:31] Joelle Morgan: Yeah, I love how you’re putting that. It’s like you have to have skin in the game in order to have opinion about the game. When you physically put yourself in a place or in connection with somebody else, you immediately have skin in the game to be a part of something that is not just in your own lunchbox. And I think travel does that, meetings do that, even you and me today on this call, like we have skin in the game right now. I get to learn from you and we get to have a conversation about bigger ideas your experience becomes a little bit of my shared experience. And that makes me better and broader.
[00:19:09] Michael Dominguez: I think the best conversations are when I walk away, and I’m learning something from it, and I’m better for that conversation. I’m a better person for having it.
[00:19:17] We have Dr. Layla Rack on our staff now, and I’ve known Layla for years. Over our 15, 20 year history together, over many glasses of wine, and many times we have argued the fate of the world, disagreed often and both walked away smarter and better for it. And we’ve always respected each other’s opinions in that when we disagree about something, it makes me curious, it doesn’t make me angry. It makes me curious to understand, “tell me how you have that perspective. Tell me how you got there.” and I think that’s missing in the world today, but I, again, I think meetings can help bridge that gap in a big way.
[00:19:52] Joelle Morgan: Yep. Absolutely. I think meetings can help people open their minds. They can show them something and it’s almost like you have to suspend the mind in order to capture the heart, and then you can change the mind because you’ve entered in through a different door that was not expected. And so mental defense goes down when an audience comes into a general session and the lights go down and then.
[00:20:20] The brand Anthem video starts to play and it’s telling a story that is going to move my heart so that my mind is open to the message. And I think if we can craft events and moments that seek to hit the heart in order to reach the mind, then we are really being able to holistically, not for any goal, but to open the mind. That is the goal. That is to create a moment where there’s connection and conversation.
[00:20:55] Michael Dominguez: I ‘m just smiling the whole time because we have the same belief system and our goal is to move you emotionally in a meeting and we sometimes forget about that. We remember the intellectual side, but we forget about the emotional side and you can’t become a good intellect without moving the emotion. I love when you’re saying shut down the brain and open the heart. I mean that is just brilliant the way you phrased it.
[00:21:15] Here’s my philosophy around meetings. Can we keep it in perspective? I need to make sure we entertain and we bring some laughter and we lighten it because our world is deep enough and hard enough that it’s important for us to bring laughter into play. And then, you know, the last part of it is can I move your emotions? Can I move your emotions to where even if you’re not the crier that you almost wanted to, I got you on the edge where you wanted to go. I really do keep that in perspective because I try to bookend that even in our meetings that you’ve experienced, I try to move us emotionally to start and to end and in between, we’re gonna think a lot and laugh a lot. And that’s kind of how we try to capture it all together.
[00:21:56] Joelle Morgan: So let me take a little bit of a left turn because you’ve dropped some little nuggets in our conversation up until now, and, I’m gonna frame it up first and then have you think about it and give us your thoughts, but one of the key things that, I take away from our conversations, and certainly what you’ve kind of mentioned is this social good element. That the meetings industry, the events industry has the capacity to create incredible social good. Now, unless you’re at the coal face of that every single time and seeing those changes, I think that it’s sometimes really hard for meeting planners or teams behind the scenes to really, come to the point where they realize the impact of their work. And particularly over the last couple of years, as we’ve been talking about, we’ve been reduced to being more in front of screens. Mm-hmm and less having skin in the game like we’re talking about. And so there’s this part where you can, I know several meeting planners that have left our industry at, to not return and then others really asking the question, well, why do this? Why am I still here? Because I think you probably agree, it takes a special kind of crazy to work in our industry. You have to have just a little bit of taste for blood and like ready to go at 20 hours a day and still be happy for a drink afterwards. So it does take a special type of crazy, I think, to thrive.
[00:23:15] But for those who are tired, those that are missing that bigger perspective, tell us what this social good is. And what does that mean for the meeting planner at home or in front of a zoom call to know that what they choose today could be affecting the lives or dynamics of culture outside their own space.
[00:23:39] Michael Dominguez: The one thing most people don’t realize is when you bring in thousands of people to a community, 90% of the occupancy taxes in our industry goes to the general fund of those cities, which means you are providing for fire safety schooling for that community. You have an impact in those communities. Why are these communities hurting even worse? Because we quit. When you think about the major Metro areas and how they have been lagging in this recovery coming out of our industry, part of it is because we’re not there and it’s this big catch 22, because we need all the people there to have all the money to do all the things we need to do, but we need to do all those things to get the people there, to actually get the money, to do all the things we need to do it.
[00:24:18] As a society, we tend to always talk about the carbon footprint we’ve left behind. We haven’t talked about the finances we’ve left behind that are helping that community in other ways.
[00:24:27] We’ve made sure ALHI is highly committed to the human trafficking issue that we have in the world. I’ve taken that on because we know we have a platform, we have a voice and we can impact social change.
[00:24:36] Let’s make sure people understand it. You’d be surprised probably how many people I have a conversation and they’re like, I had no idea. The one that strikes me is when I tell them at an NBA game here in Dallas, during the playoffs, a 15 year old girl was taken as she was going to the bathroom and she’s there at the game with her dad. She was gone for 10 days. They found her walking on a highway in Oklahoma City. After she’s been trafficked for 10 days. She was at an NBA game, Joelle. I mean, if there’s anything to put it into highlight that it can happen anywhere at any time, that was it.
[00:25:09] And the reason I’m so passionate about it, and I say this, knowing I probably offend some people, but I would like a 10th of the anger we saw when we saw a video with a turtle with plastic wrapped around its neck around a human trafficking issue where kids are being trafficked for sex around the world.
[00:25:28] Can I get a 10th of that anger? And it doesn’t mean I don’t care about saving the planet. I would like to see the same intention around human conditions, because when I talked about that, we can make a change in nine months, we got rid of plastic straws for the most part. If we could have that same focus think about the impact we could have around homelessness, the impact we could have around human trafficking, but we seem to only get irate on certain things. And I cannot understand how people cannot get irate about a child being trafficked for sex. That is what I mean, by we can do this.
[00:26:05] My issue is that unless we’re singing from the same hymn book, we’re not gonna be heard. If we can all get on the same page, God, we are a loud voice.
[00:26:15] Joelle Morgan: So tell us what ALHI is doing to really tackle that issue head on and how could other people get involved in that? Like what does that look like on the ground for someone like me, for someone that’s listening into this podcast today?
[00:26:27] Michael Dominguez: Thank you for the question. I mean, that, that is such an easy one. First is getting educated. We’re part of ECPAT, we’ve signed the code, and because of that, that’s why you see at all of our meetings, we communicate and talk about the issue that is the code we’ve signed up and committed that we will educate everybody that we possibly can. I wear right now, this little button you see, and it says “end it now.” And I love that when I travel it’s on me and you know what happens? I’ll walk onto an airplane and the flight attendant will say, “what’s that?” I go, “I’m glad you asked. Yeah. Let me tell you…” and people just randomly, “what’s that?” let me tell you. That’s why I do it from an awareness standpoint, but if you go to ECPAT they are, one of the leading organizations on education and awareness around human trafficking and it tells you what you can do. The biggest thing is when you say, ‘what can you do,’ when you’re at an airport, will you please get off your device and start looking around? When you’re out and about, you know, what we used to do? We used to watch people. We used to look. Now we’re buried into our devices. And the reason I say that is we were the eyes and ears that would watch when things are off. And the things that you’re told to watch, this is where you can help. You’re at an airport. It’s the middle of February. You’re flying to Chicago and you see a man traveling with a young girl that doesn’t look like she’s completely aware. And by the way, she’s wearing shorts in a tank top. She has no luggage. She has no coat. Who would be flying to Chicago in the middle of winter dressed like that?
[00:27:53] Those are the things that stand off. And the one thing we always tell everybody don’t ever try to intervene, just go talk, because the airline industry has done a beautiful job of educating themselves and really working towards this mission. And then there’s one other thing that I can add. And this is where anybody can help at any time.
[00:28:09] There’s an app called Traffik Cam, and if you go to, it’s a quick app that you will download. And what it asks you is anytime you’re traveling in any hotel room, it’s gonna ask you to take four pictures and it lines up what pictures it wants you to take.
[00:28:27] What you are doing is helping create a national database that our agencies use, that we have prosecuted and rescued kids. And, and the best way I can explain it is, think about facial recognition technology, but it’s based on a guest room, because unfortunately, most of the kids are marketed from a hotel room.
[00:28:46] So by being able to help build a database, you’re actually helping the cause. And if you’re saying it’s too big an issue, you can’t do anything, just need you to take four pictures, and you’ve done your part. But to educate and be aware. And it’s funny when I tell people about it, they get excited because they actually feel that they can make a difference and they will.
[00:29:03] And you just need to know, people have been rescued, and they have then been prosecuted because of that. So, yeah, that’s probably my best advice on that.
[00:29:10] Joelle Morgan: No, I think that’s really inspirational and it’s on a personal level and it’s on a larger level for us in our industry, because we’re all traveling every week. That’s something we can immediately do, and then that’s something that we can think about for our future in terms of alignment around a greater cause as well.
[00:29:27] Michael Dominguez: When I’ve worked with the ECPAT they’re very excited that I’m so involved on this because they said they get very few male voices. Okay, that really speak to this. Now that is beyond me, uh, kind of incomprehensible that there’s not more because to me, this is a natural. We have a podcast and it’s called “beyond the meeting room” and it’s just to talk about things outside the meeting area. The only reason I’m mentioning it is, you know, July 30th was human trafficking awareness day. It’s probably the hardest podcast I’ve done because I interviewed a young lady named Faith Ramos, a beautiful young woman that had been trafficked from 14 to 17 years old. And was able to escape her captors and has moved on. And we didn’t talk about her experience. We talked about what she’s done since then, because she has started a foundation to help people that are trafficked to get back on their feet and to get going again and to get the education they need and to get the resources they need. A beautiful spirit that has every reason to be angry at the world and has taken that experience to say, I’m gonna make the world better. And those are the things that move me because when I get to talk to somebody, it makes it so real. And you understand when it becomes that personal it’s like we should be doing more. And nobody saved her. She escaped from her captor, except I will say somebody saved her. She ran to a police department and she said the first detective she met at that point, never left her. He was there to make sure that no matter what she was gonna get where she needed to go. So, you know, there are good people in this world.
[00:30:58] Joelle Morgan: Thank you. Thank you for sharing that. I will definitely go over and listen to that podcast and I think you’ve brought into complete clarity, the power that we in this industry have in our hands. To be able to create incredible social change, not just the fire departments and spending money in locations that improve the culture and the area of that social area, but also to these far graver challenges that we as a society face. And it’s not just sustainability and plastics, it’s actually human lives at stake. And when we think about the opportunity that is within our hands to really buy in and to really commit, then that becomes like this undergirding strength I think for all of us in the hard days where we’re so busy and we’re trying to keep our heads above water, when we realize that there’s such a bigger sea out there, and that we have the capacity to pull other people up from drowning.
[00:32:02] Now, one of the questions that I ask all of my guests is what is the wildest thing that’s ever happened to you? That’s been hilarious in your event life? So for example, I think when I’m training up my teams, there’s always this moment where I’m like, you will hit a moment where everything will hit the fan and will be the worst moment. And you will think that the whole event is now completely caput as a result of this moment, when you get to that moment. You don’t know how you’re gonna get through it. Yeah. You don’t know how it’s going to end and we call it the ‘moment of mystery’ because it’s a mystery as to how we’re going to get through it. And my big moment of mystery Michael was when I was in my twenties and I was leading an event in Outback Australia. And it was a fundraising event for a nonprofit looking at raising money for, at risk youth. And so we did this city slicker thing where really high level executives would pay a lot of money to have an Outback experience. And we would take them and we did a 600 mile cattle drove and we slept under the stars and they would come and join us for six days at a time.
[00:33:08] And they would have a horse and we would give them a swag in true Australian style. And then we would actually fly in country music artists, right from around Australia and the world to do a fireside evening on a couple of those nights. And so we repeated that over several months and then we culminated in the middle of nowhere, which is black all Queensland for the record, in case anyone’s wondering where that is.
[00:33:30] (It is nowhere) with a big gala dinner and fundraising event. And halfway through the gala fundraising event, we had flown in everybody from all major cities in Australia and also internationally. Through this place. And so it was high stakes and right in the middle, the ovens broke. We had brought in a three Michelin star chef. And so we had this moment and the team is freaking out and they’re like, Joelle we don’t know what to do. And I said, I just need a minute. And I locked myself in the bathroom for four minutes, and I’m like, I don’t know how we’re gonna get this done, but it’s a mystery. And when I walked out, someone said to me, we’re taking all of the food to the local hospital in a four wheel drive, and we’re going to cook everything there and bring it back. And I said, let’s just gimme a second. I’m gonna kick the ovens. And so I came in and myself and another, the mayor of black hole we kicked the ovens and within two minutes, those babies lit back up and we did the whole night without anyone ever knowing. But that was my biggest moment of mystery where my whole, like, Moment of like, how are we gonna get through this, and no one’s going to eat in the middle of nowhere and there’s no cafes around here. And so I wanna know what your moment of mystery looks like.
[00:34:52] Michael Dominguez: My moment of mystery. I was a young M.O.D. And if you’re in the hotel business, you get manager on duty and it means you get to be there from Friday to Sunday, and you are the person 24 7, if anything breaks out and you gotta think about, ‘ I’m 20, some odd years old. I’m on duty at this hotel. And, we have a person in our bar that we know was definitely from the street and is now getting very loud. And really disruptive in the bar. Now I come walking over and I’m smart enough at 20 to say, I don’t get paid enough to take this on by myself. So I called our head of security. And the head of security talked to him, the guy started yelling. He was not gonna move. , we call the police department, the police come and they start to exit this guy and the guy is screaming completely. And again, . I’m M.O.D. I’m in the middle of this. So I’m starting to walk out with them as we get outside.
[00:35:45] And lo and behold, as soon as we get outside, the guy takes a swing at one of the police officers. He gets tackled I’m in between the police officer and the guys, as we all go into the bushes, the cop pulls out his stun gun. I see that coming out. I roll out of the way. As he zaps this guy and the moment I’ll never forget.
[00:36:08] As soon as the barbs hit and they hit the button. All you heard was “Jesus Christ!” as the guy was screaming, as he got zapped. I couldn’t make this up. I’m in the bushes. I’ve got leaves in my hair. I’ve got grass all over me and I’m in the middle, laying on the ground and I had no idea that this was coming at us.
[00:36:31] They go back and find this guy had his belongings in a hat. He had a knife, he had things that could have been a weapon, and you realize how dangerous the situation is, even though how funny the situation ended up being at the end. I tell people I can’t make this stuff up.
[00:36:46] Joelle Morgan: Oh, that’s a fantastic story. I think the level of absurdity that we often see, in our careers is extremely hilarious.
[00:36:54] Michael Dominguez: There’s one, one other story. And it was a moment of freak out, basically, because like I’m okay talking on stage educating and that type of thing. I’m bad if I’m scripting or acting. That’s not me. But at WEC when we were in Vegas, we had a lady named Dina who was a standup comedian. That was our MC for about three to four years. Brilliant lady, really, really funny. Well, we had Magic Johnson that was supposed to be our keynote. We got him here Tuesday night at about 6:00 PM. They tell us he’s not coming, because when we hired him, he wasn’t in this role, but in the middle of that season, he became President of the Lakers. It was the day before the draft. They made a big trade before the draft that evening, which means he was busy the next day.
[00:37:38] And he wasn’t gonna be able to come so long story short, great lesson for the planners, because we ended up having this fireside chat afterwards the next day to tell the planners what we did to pull off the lunch that next day. The first thing we did was call all of the hotels in town to figure out what conventions were there and who were their keynotes to see if we could pull one of their keynotes. We came this close to Dr. Phil because Dr. Phil was doing another one, but he was leaving. You’re talking about within 12 hours, I’ve gotta have somebody on stage. The story though is Dina goes, okay, I got an idea, Mike, just go with me. I’m like, okay. And she scares the hell outta me, because I don’t know where she’s going. So we’re backstage and then there’s a camera behind me, so everybody in the audience is watching her talk to me. And she goes, “Mike,” she goes, “I know we didn’t have Magic, and I know that was the plan, but I got a better idea. This is Vegas. And I know what’s playing. ‘MagicMike!'” She starts to undress me backstage and I am holding on for dear life as she’s pulling out my shirt, she starts to unbuckle my belt, and I go, “I promise there is no magic in this Mike.”
[00:38:42] That was my mystery story, because I didn’t know where it was gonna go.
[00:38:45] Joelle Morgan: Well, Mike, it has actually been magic spending some time with you today. I so appreciate you. I love the way you see the world, the way you see our industry. I love that you’re constantly driving people to think bigger, go bigger, like expand, expand, expand. What could this look like in two years, five years, 10 years. And what do the results look like? And I love the fact that you think both big picture, but individually with the people that you are with in that moment as well. And I just wanna thank you and honor you and you’re really quite a gift in our space. I could talk to you for hours and hours and hours, and I hope to do that at some stage.
[00:39:23] Michael Dominguez: Yeah, we, we absolutely will, Joelle. Thank you for the invite and thank you for your friendship and the partnership with your organization, because look, you guys do a lot to keep this conversation going and to move our industry, and I couldn’t thank you enough for what you do for us as well.
[00:39:37] Joelle Morgan: It’s our pleasure.

Our host Joelle Morgan, VP of Event Strategy at Unbridled Solutions, joins Michael Dominguez, President & CEO of ALHI, to discuss the state of the events industry. Where is the trend of events going from here, what trends are emerging, as well as what it means to reach a “mature audience.”

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