MAY 2017

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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Page 14 of 85

M A Y 2 0 1 7 ⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 13 PLANNER PROFILE became the Associate Director for Scheduling Correspondence. After that, I was able to move into other positions that opened up. What were your biggest challenges in arranging high-level events? The number one fact that you can never forget in this type of job is that you are working for the Office of the President of the United States. Whatever you feel, you have to separate those feelings from your work. The same principle is important in planning all events; you need to put what you feel aside and serve your clients. Aside from that, logistics were often a chal- lenge. The White House is a historical struc- ture and basically, it's a small museum. There's not enough room to accommodate all the peo- ple who want to attend many of the events and that makes establishing the guest lists a real challenge. Also, I was often working with very short lead times. While there are many long-term staples, such as the Governors' Ball and the White House Easter Egg Hunt, many of the events involving the president and first lady are spontaneous, such as press conferences and bill signings. Celebrities were the most demanding, when it came to making arrangements for them to come to events at the White House. We did not have a big budget and could not justify some of their demands, such as private jets. In most cases, they paid their own expenses, but some were challenging. What were your main concerns when you arranged for the presi- dent and first lady to travel and how did you address them? I did not really have to be too involved with security issues, since that is the role of the Se- cret Service. But when arranging for vacations and other types of trips the president and first family made, we had to pick out lodging ahead of time and have a team go to the location to check it out. That worked great for me, because I enjoyed picking out hotels! But there is a lot of protocol and, because of the security needed, we had to book entire floors of some hotels. In the case of smaller hotels, we often had to book the entire hotel. What did you like most about the job? I liked the excitement and sense of history that come with being in the White House. One of the very best things was that Michelle Obama became a friend and mentor to me. She gave me a chance. She is a real person; what you see is what you get. I espe- cially loved her initiative on the Let's Move and Get Active programs. What advice would you give to other meeting professionals who may want to pursue a high-profile position? Take every opportunity to network and go for it! Applying for a job is antiquated. Now, it's more likely you'll get a job when someone who knows you and your skills remembers you when an opportunity arises. Also, I recommend that people broaden their horizons in terms of what they do and whom they do it with. A lot of planners seem to get stuck in their lanes and stay with one type of planning. I suggest getting to know people in other lanes, possibly by volunteer- ing with groups that interest you. The more exposure you get, the more people you get to know, the more likely it is that you'll be considered for other positions. Be sure to always ask people what they do, how they do it and if they like what they do. Don't be afraid to learn. What are your future plans? I am involved with, which was started in 2014 as a pro- gram to empower teenage girls in Philadelphia and encourage them to consider global travel and careers. We want them to learn that they can go beyond the limits of the city where they live, explore other parts of the world and widen their experiences. Much of what they need involves practical skills but they also need en- couragement. I am also working with the Special Olympics on the Winter World Games (which took place in Austria in March). I'm working with them on programming and logistics. Getting back to your White House experience, did you ever lose the sense of wonder about being there? No. I was in disbelief when I first started that I was actually working in the White House and that feeling lasted until the very last day I was there. Of course, there were many tiring and frustrating days – it was definitely not all unicorns and roses – and sometimes I felt less confident than I would have liked. I sometimes thought 'should I be here?' I think anyone who works in the White House should always have deep respect for what the place means to the country and our history and never take it lightly. I stayed overnight at the White House during my last night on the job. I walked around for the last time and still felt in awe of being there. n Q: Q: Q: Q: Q: Q:

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