Schwartz spends his time away from meeting and event planning with his awesome parents, siblings, and four highly energized nieces and nephews. He is actively involved in his community, volunteering, and serving as chair for various organizations including the Singing Angels Alumni Organization and Welcome House, Inc.
Todd Schwartz: It honestly started back in high school when I was nominated and won the role of Coordinator for our Men’s Chorus and Girls Glee Club. I was coordinating 5:00 am breakfasts for 200+ kids. I remember working with parents while at high school to keep the doors of their homes unlocked the night before the breakfast so upperclassmen could sneak in and ‘kidnap’ their underclassman child who just joined the chorus and whisk them away to a tree lawn for bagels, coffee, juice, and games at 6:00 am! It was our fall initiation into the choir. This first experience in event planning actually came easy to me... and the rest is history!!
MM: Tell us about your job(s).
TS: From concept to completion I source, manage, and execute a wide variety of events, meetings, and conferences from various industries and sectors. I build in ROI/ROO and survey work so as to gauge the health of the event in meeting/exceeding program goals and objectives. In my heyday I was managing 8-10 programs a month! Industries range from non-profits and professional service firms (legal and consulting firms, banks, etc) to corporate, association, and insurance markets. They are all different in their goals/objectives, size, scope, and budgets, yet they are all the same in that they need rooms, food, AV, speakers, breakouts, etc.
MM: What is your favorite part of your job?
TS: I love the variety and challenges I encounter with each program. I look at these as obstacles to overcome so as to collectively get to the finish line with success. I enjoy putting these event puzzle pieces together and making them fit. Getting creative and making things work for the stakeholder and watching it all come together onsite at the program is awesome as well. The most rewarding aspect is watching the guests/attendees ‘get it,’ whether that be a key message, the interaction, the fun, the education piece, whatever. When their eyes light up - so do mine. The client may not see it at first but watching him/her get it and give me a ‘thumbs up’ across a crowded room is an awesome thing!
MM:What do you like most about this industry?
TS: I like the constant changes that challenge us as event/ meeting professionals. There are always new trends in technology, food, topics, contracts, and more that push us to do better and be smarter. I also like the people in the industry as I truly believe the majority of us lie in one segment of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test. We feed off each other at conferences and shows and, it’s a wonderful thing to see!MM: What has been your most memorable moment in your career?
TS: As I’ve been in this field for many years, there have been many highlights. One of the most memorable and recent was managing a program from A-Z for a global group of 1,500 attendees. I received a call from a company needing urgent assistance, as their meeting planner left within a month of the program commencing. The only big piece of the program that was completed was signing the contract - with no concessions built in. I literally jumped in the next day and managed to save the company $35,000, in addition to assisting cost savings of $20,000 for another program in just four short weeks. There were many pieces and parts I had to manage and secure - conduct sourcing, transportation, vendors, gifts, staffing, and travel needs, in addition to retrieving breakout needs from many managers overseas and much more. From a black-tie gala for a new product launch to educational sessions in 14 breakout rooms, guest celebrity speaker needs to interpreters, hotel blocks for two hotels (as there was a buyout) to tours at their corporate headquarters, and working with teams, CEO, CIO, CFO, and more…. I was told by many I did an amazing job in a very, very short timeframe. The highlight was when the CEO and CFO came up to me in the middle of the black-tie and gave me a very heartfelt kiss on the cheek and hug (with a drink in hand) thanking me for all my work and thanking me on stage amongst their 1,500 global attendees. (I made lemonade out of lemons, mixed with lots of vodka, on that event, that’s for sure!)
MM: Any interesting challenges you’ve faced and overcome over the years?
TS: I think the ups and downs of having your own business and rolling with them is a challenge in itself. Wearing the hats of salesperson/manager/accountant/marketing/project manager/coach and more really can be stressful. I’ve had clients who’ve come and gone due to their program being a one-shot deal, but at the end of the day you have to continue to push higher, be your own cheerleader, and keep at it.
I also managed, produced, and directed a three-day 50th Anniversary event with a core team whereby I covered everything from set up/load in/load out, marketing, leading committee meetings, website execution, emcee host, contracts, transportation, hotel blocks, city permits, celebrity and city leader management, video production and signage, giveaways and more. It was a lot to undertake but I enjoyed the challenge and all that went with it.
I believe you have to know your value and know your worth to yourself, your family, and your stakeholders.
MM: What do you attribute your success to?
TS: My tenacity, passion for the industry, and continued quest to learn and do better/be smarter. I collaborate and work well with everyone I come into contact with. From C-level execs to the guys/gals in the mailroom, to volunteers and corporate internal teams, we all have a job to do, and I respect each one and what they bring to the table. I was blessed to receive great advice from a pioneer in the industry, Bruce Harris of Conferon, who saw my ability, leadership, and passion for the field and gave me great advice. I think success can be defined in many different ways to many different people... but to me, in the end? It’s all about delivering ‘WOW’ programming with cost savings built in and establishing great relationships that hopefully continue to build over time. I like to come to work happy and challenged... and leave work happy and fulfilled.
MM: Best advice you’ve ever given or received?
TS: As I constantly look at the wine glass as half full (insert joke here), I seriously think it’s better to be positive than negative. I often get asked by friends and colleagues needing advice about work and personal challenges and have offered advice from my readings, research, and my own experiences as I’ve been my own coach. The best advice I’ve received was from Oprah: keep going, keep yourself balanced, and keep things in perspective. Things will always change, sometimes more often than we want, but when they do, take these things slow and pull them apart versus jumbling them together so as not to get too much anxiety. As we know the saying, “when life throws you lemons….” - I say add vodka and more! As our industry can be stressful, you have to learn to shut yourself off. Run/meditate/be with family or friends or do whatever you need so as to maintain balance and perspective. Be your own best coach and take your time. Your life is not a race. It’s truly a wonderful journey with many ups and downs and you can, and will, come out on top. Treat others the way you want to be treated, and if they don’t, realize who they are and what their capacity is about and keep that relationship in perspective.
MM: What challenges do you feel meeting and event planners face today and what is your approach to those challenges?
TS: I believe the biggest challenge is to still educate people as to who we are and what we do. Many people look at us and our industry as ‘party planners,’ and I for one get annoyed at that label as we are soooooo much more. We do more than confetti, cake, and centerpieces. There’s strategy, procurement, project management, coaching, mentoring, researching, leading, analyzing, and more that comes into play as to how we research, manage, execute, and procure our programs. I constantly share my latest findings in trends, topics and relevancy, and business models to clients to showcase we aren’t just here for a party. In the classroom, I teach about the various roles in our industry and get them excited about our business and the education behind it all: from CMP to CMM to other credentials and more. We have to be our own best resource as well. In business, I constantly communicate with clients and senior management about being strategic in rolling out events and meetings and how it needs to sometimes tie-in with branding, messaging, KPI, or other goals or objectives, and more.
I think with any challenge you run into in your life, you need to break it down and look at it as an obstacle to overcome. You should try to go through it, around it, over it, under it . . . but don’t avoid it. See yourself to the other side and be your own best coach and try to come out on top. If you don’t try, you won’t know… and that’s success in itself.
Before You Go
Last vacation I took: Chicago (AMAZING city and awesome people - everyone’s very friendly and food choices are plentiful!)
Last thing I misplaced: I, um... never do that? Ok, ok... keys/wallet/ computer/cords… um… daily.
Last time I laughed out loud: About a 1/2 hour ago. I am generally a happy guy that laughs a lot. I find humor in almost everything in some twisted way.
Last movie I watched: Jurassic World - I’d say Siskel & Ebert would rate it a 5 out of 10 if you’d ask me. (Come on… weren’t we all wanting more guts and humor?!?!) - The first one was way better.
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