Getting Personal - Laura Swartz
Opportunity is the result of preparation and hard workPublished in April 2010 profile | Departments
Opportunity is the result of preparation and hard work
Laura Schwartz, renowned White House event director, author, featured television guest and principal of White House Strategies, has already accomplished more than many of us will in our lifetimes. But her success wasn’t given to her; it has been a result of hard work, perseverance and networking and should be an inspiration to us all.
What is the craziest thing you have ever seen at an event?
We were 30 minutes away from a live political event in a field in Iowa when an unscheduled freight train came into view directly behind the press platform…then it just stopped! We called our contact at the railroad to ask when it would be moving again and they didn’t know; there was a mechanical malfunction. The view from the press platform was the stage and behind it, 10 train cars now sat all on a row, bright red, with the word “CANADA” in huge letters. Since the guy wasn’t running for president of Canada, I asked everyone to pitch in and we flipped the stage and press area accordingly. The event was able to start on time with the beautiful cornfields of America as the backdrop.
What is the one thing you never go to an event without?
For an event I am attending, business cards. For an event I’m producing, my “event card,” which I make up before every event and contains the names and numbers of everyone involved. This way, if I need a status on music arrival, catering, sound, etc., I can get it in one call—not three. That event card is my key to quick, accurate information that doesn’t rely on a battery or cell signal!
How did you get your first break into the events industry?
My break was not simply being in the right place at the right time, it was building trust, confidence and a continuation of learning professionally and personally throughout and in any position. At age 19, I started volunteering in the White House Press Office and by 20, I was hired as a staff assistant. I went on to become the Midwest press secretary where I verbally translated the President’s message, and when the President traveled, I would arrive five days early to coordinate media coverage. In 1995, I became the White House director of television where I was responsible for visually shaping the President’s message. Then in 1997, I was asked to move to the East Wing and become the director of events.
Do you enjoy attending events you’re not working?
Absolutely! If I am not working an event I am out at an event. I love being with friends—those I’ve just met that night or have known for years. It also gives me the opportunity to see things that I may want to add my own events, or see something that does not work and stay away from it. I’m always learning through attending events as well as producing them!
What advice has profoundly changed your life?
It’s not just what you are saying, it is why you are saying it that counts.
What has been the highlight of your career?
The White House experience, no doubt—it has been my professional foundation and I am so very grateful for the people that took the time to teach and inspire me to create without boundaries. But though the state dinners were glamorous and America’s Millennium at the White House was amazing, my favorite events to produce and create have been the events with the most individual importance, like The Children’s Miracle Network. Every year, they would bring terminally ill children and their families to the White House for a tour and private event with the President. No press, no pomp and circumstance, it just created memories, took them away from their trials and gave them something else to think about, enjoy and remember—something I think each one of us should do for our guests at every event!