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Special Events Editor on Big Michael Jackson Memorial Event

A billion — with a “b.” That's how many people reportedly watched the televised memorial service for pop superstar Michael Jackson, held in Los Angeles in July. Some 17,500 lucky souls were in the audience at Staples Center to witness the event, out of the 1.6 million who vied for the chance.

Do special events get any bigger?

Besides the drama and dancing and music, what was also remarkable about the event was what didn't happen. The police reportedly did not make a single arrest, despite initial reports that more than 700,000 ardent fans from throughout the world might show up at Staples just to be part of the scene.

Much credit for this silent success goes to the skill and foresight of the event's planners.

Well before event day, the team sealed off the area around Staples — and broadcasted this fact. Those who did score tickets were instructed to pick them up at Dodger Stadium, which is some distance from Staples.

Even before the memorial, veteran event producer Mark Flaisher told me he believed that these strategies would pay off. Mark, who has overseen such mega events as the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, predicted that these measures would dim the allure of the venue as a place for fans to congregate — and he was right. Rather than 700,000 fans, only 1,000 showed up.

I don't mean to suggest that the planner who runs into problems just didn't plan well enough. But it's instructive to study successes such as these to see what techniques might help your next event succeed.

On another note, I urge you to enter the Gala Awards this year. (You'll find the entry form on page 88 of this issue and online at

I entered a big magazine contest in January, even though we hadn't won a trophy in six years. It's time-consuming — and pricey! — to complete the entries. The good news — we got a nomination and we won. Nothing beats that feeling.

The funny thing about our new publishing trophy is that — in an effort to keep costs in line — the competition's organizers downsized the trophies themselves. My new one stands about 3 inches shorter than his brother from 2003.

I promise that when you take the stage to accept your Gala Award, the trophy will be just as big and beautiful as it always is.


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Crowd Control for Special Events

Wow, the Crowds! Festivals that Draw Huge Attendance Bring Logistical Challenges

Festival Season Not so Festive as Public Funding Dries Up

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