Maureen Andersen is on a quest to eradicate the phrase “just the box office” from the English language.
As president and CEO of INTIX, the global organization for ticketing professionals, Andersen serves as an enthusiastic cheerleader for a career path that doesn’t always get the respect it deserves. She outlines her pent-up exasperation that a lifetime of being asked, “So, what do you do?” is met with a dismissive, “Oh, just the box office.” “We’re not just anything!” she explains. “We’re circus masters in the big top. We’re type A, organized, loyal, talented individuals who make up the incredibly diverse ticketing industry.”
Standing before a nearly full house at JWU Providence’s Schneider Auditorium, she’s clearly fired up to share her expertise with the next generation of hospitality professionals — make that two generations, as roughly 150 Rhode Island high school students are also in attendance — and she’s going to make the most of the opportunity.
No matter where you go, there will always be a need for your skills.”
Andersen’s 35+ years of experience encompass nearly every aspect of working the back-of-house, including more than 20 years as director of ticketing services at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA).
Throughout her career, she has made it her mission to demystify a multidimensional profession spanning Broadway, nonprofit, commercial arts, regional ticketing, stadiums and colleges — “we’re the magic behind the curtain,” she notes. “If you want to learn this business of show business from the inside out, consider ticketing. If you want access to the backbone of any venue or organization, try ticketing. If you want to be recognized and available for multiple opportunities, try a stint in the ticket office.”
Here are her top reasons JWU hospitality students should think about a career in ticketing:
1) The skills you can learn in this industry are practically infinite.
“I started as a history and English major, then quickly began adding more and more theater classes. I received a theater scholarship that included an internship, and they weren’t sure where to place me. I offered up that I could type, and they put me in the box office. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I liked it, was good at it and could support myself.
“Since then, I have gotten to do it all and try it all. I learned how to write press releases. I learned the nuances of Thursday vs. Sunday ad placement. I learned technology, finance and media relations.
“I also learned that success and failure are two sides of the same coin, and that failures can be opportunities in disguise if you’re hungry enough. I stood my ground when I knew I was right, and I had humility when I knew I was wrong. It’s all a learning experience!”
I’ve learned that success and failure are two sides of the same coin.”
2) Your skills are your passport.
“I quickly learned that this job skill was extremely portable — I could work anywhere in the world. I learned how to work in theaters, stadiums, stock shows — you name it. No matter where you go, there will always be a need for your skills.”
3) Learn to embrace chaos, but be a problem-solver.
“This industry can be wonderful, and it can be chaotic. But you learn to be flexible and to turn on a dime. Just imagine what it was like behind the scenes when the Yankees had to delay their opening day because of snow the other day — a well-oiled machine kicking into gear. Every day it’s like putting a million-piece jigsaw puzzle together, then doing it all again the next day!”
4) Take the industry into its next frontier.
“With the advent of ticketless ticketing, we’re on the edge of another profound transition. I challenge all of you to solve some of the major problems that are presenting themselves:
- Accessibility/one-click buying
- Partnering with the next generation of resellers
- Reducing top-heavy fee structures that can be a barrier
- Strategies for enhancing the customer service experience
“The key is to provide choice for the patron that enables them to have the experience they want, when they want it.”
Read another perspective on Andersen’s JWU talk over at INTIX’s Access blog.