TEA Connect Blog

19 October 2020

TEA in 2020: What a Year! A letter from Michael Blau, International Board President

Michael Blau addresses TEA leadership in January 2020 at the annual Strategic Planning Meeting

I was asked to reflect on my year as Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) International Board President.  Suffice to say, it has been one like no other. Like no other.

At the annual TEA Members Meeting in November 2019, I gave a presentation that used the analogy of the TEA as a ship out on the ocean. A ship where we all need to work together - exploring, collaborating, celebrating – journeying toward new and better places. A goal for this year has been to establish a “navigational” plan to focus the tremendous energy of the TEA organization. I believe we have launched that process even in a year when the industry (and world) has been challenged.

There were many moments of frustration, anxiety, and stress. Too many. I am personally saddened by the personal losses our members experienced. Loss of future plans, opportunity…their jobs. Loss of respect, dignity, and sadly even the passing of colleagues, friends and family members. I am hopeful that things will improve.

I believe the world will get better, more caring and more collaborative. In my own life, I have found that, with hope comes a drive to embrace the inevitable change in positive, creative ways with renewed energy. I am a hopeful person.

I am blessed to have loyal, supportive and caring colleagues, friends and loved ones. I am thankful for the times where they reached out to me to bolster my spirits and energies. I thank them. I hope I was able to do the same for them and for many of you.

I have learned in greater detail the passion and energy of TEA members. They are tough, resilient and dedicated to doing things at the highest level. I have such respect for all of you.

This year the TEA, as with everyone else, was a ship in a storm. We still are. But our “crew” - leaders, staff and members - responded quickly to batten down the hatches and to change course toward safer, more prosperous waters. 

So what did the TEA do? Many things - and with great success!

Headquarters and staff, along with key leaders built a brand-new, online #TEAdigital platform in response to the need to cancel all in-person programming. In four weeks! We all miss getting together for the Thea Awards Gala and TEA Summit, SATE conferences, regional events and mixers around the world and even our annual Members Meeting (coming up in November) but our programming has been brilliantly reimagined using this new digital platform. 

The TEA implemented seven new procedures and policies that have helped the TEA to be more efficient, better at listening and to reduce risk to the association. Look for the list in in the Annual Report we will publish for the Members Meeting.

We engaged a professional consulting firm (Tecker International) to assist the TEA in an organizational assessment so we can better clarify the roles and responsibilities of our Staff, Leaders and Members. At the same time we performed a much-needed cultural assessment of how we behave and communicate as professionals. Not small tasks in and of themselves.

The TEA formed a new (and much needed) standing Committee on Diversity, chaired by our current Vice President of the International Board, Nathan Jones. I know the Committee will help bring change to the TEA. We all need to support this.

We instituted a formal Mentor program through the efforts of dedicated TEA NextGen Committee members and Staff.

All of these things were accomplished while continuing core programming. Unable to gather in person for a live TEA Thea Awards Gala, we have been celebrating the 26th Annual Thea Awards by producing a seven-part Thea Awards Digital Case Studies (at this writing, the series is still running) and publishing the official Thea Awards Program online - and we continued the Thea Awards nomination cycle, with a new slate to be announced very soon. We published the annual TEA/AECOM Theme Index on schedule. We kept the TEA Masters program active and will be announcing and celebrating seven new TEA Masters. We made the TEA Job Board a free resource. And, as mentioned above, we hosted over 56 digital events that ranged from regional learnings and networking events, to educational programming and celebrations.

We did all of this while operating at reduced annual revenue of 67%. Talk about a ship in a storm!

This would not have been possible without our generous, committed sponsors and members and passionate, dedicated professional staff. Your commitment to support gives us strength. Thank you.

The TEA recognizes the industry has a serious need right now. Members need our help more than ever before. I know that Chuck Fawcett - who is stepping into the role of TEA International Board President this November at the TEA annual Member Meeting - will build on the foundational changes we have set into motion. I will continue to help him, our COO Jennie Nevin and our leadership in future years.             

So look to the next year with all of our key programs in place. And we are already filling our schedule with fun, new, informative programming. Knowing the creativity of our members, I am confident there will be even more innovative ways we will serve members and our industry better.

In a year that started with great hopes of foundation building for the association, the core of what and how we work was put to the test. But here we are, working harder, smarter and bringing what we know best to the world: creative thinking. I want to thank you for the help, support and yes…even the challenges along the way. Thank you for the opportunity to serve. 

All the best to you and yours in what I know will be better times.

-- Michael Blau




Posted by Judy Rubin



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