Ep. 193 - Ellie Schafer served as a special assistant to President Barrack Obama and as director of the white house of visitors’ office in Washington DC from 2009 to 2017. As head of the firm, Ellie sharpened her skills in field organizing and media relations and gained a reputation as a go-to consultant for dozens of races, ballot measures, and legislative projects. Ellie helped transform how guests perceive and experience 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. From private VIP visits to the sprawling Easter Egg Roll, which draws 35,000 children and parents to the South Lawn, Schafer managed more than 1,500 events during her tenure, which resulted in more than 4.5 million guests visiting. She restored the White House as a place that is fascinating, educational, and fun to visit. Most importantly, however, she established a documented record of success in helping shape public opinion toward individuals and institutions. She’s a nationally recognized leader for being extremely effective in high-pressure and fast-paced environments. In this episode, Ellie shares her experience working in the white house and as an events manager in high-paced environments, especially during the pandemic. Listen in to learn the art of setting up a successful virtual event that feels engaged and personalized. You will also learn why it is important that we go back to in-person events for the close contact and engagement that cannot be found in virtual events.
- Learn how to find the balance between working under high pressure and enjoying life
- The importance of creating a personalized experience for clients in the age of virtual meetings
- How to rely on your network to help and support you when you’re in need
- Learn to remain authentic and kind to others and not beat yourself up for past mistakes
""Laughing about stuff takes the pressure off of you, individually and collectively. Understand that you don't have to be perfect. You don't have to have everything right; it can be okay. Mistakes can happen, and they don't have to be detrimental." -Ellie Schafer
In this episode you’ll discover:
Ellie explains how her career working in strategic planning and leadership began [2:38]
The ups, downs, and the lessons from working as the special assistant to the president [7:16]
How she found the balance between working in high pressure and living an enjoyable life [10:46]
How she established a balanced relationship with her family despite their varied political views [12:18]
Why women are capable of running businesses, politics, and leadership [17:14]
She explains how she pivoted to virtual events that felt exciting and personal during quarantine [20:06]
How she managed to pull off a big virtual event through learning the ropes and asking for help [21:20]
Why thinking of the unlikely scenarios is what makes digital events successful [28:07]
Ellie on how it was like working closely with the former first lady Michelle Obama [33:17]
How she engaged the audience to ensure virtual events were successful and valuable [35:13]
She describes the habits she has formed that helps her enjoy life and make it through challenges [37:29]
The importance of having in-person events and meetings even after the success of virtual ones [41:50]
The skills you need to develop to become a good events manager [42:53]
Some of the sharing tools that proved useful during her virtual events planning [43:46]
How to hold events that create a sense of community for people’s mental wellbeing [46:03]
Ellie shares her final thoughts and actions she’d like us to take [47:56]
Ellie Schafter is the Founder and CEO of South Law Strategies, a company that specializes in elite, high-profile events. They manage the moment (politics, logistics, protocol, security) for clients who are at critical pivot points.
Ellie Schafer’s career took a new direction in the late 1990s when she focused on advance and logistical work for political campaigns, foundations, national and world leaders.
Among them: His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Heinz Family Philanthropies, The California Endowment, John Kerry for President, Former President Bill Clinton and Former Vice Presidential Couple Tipper and Al Gore.
In 2006, she accompanied (then) U.S. Senator Barack Obama on a tour promoting his book, “The Audacity of Hope.’’
A year later, when Obama announced his candidacy for President of the United States, Schafer was on his team from day one and was tapped to serve the 44th President of the United States at the White House.
Schafer helped transform how guests perceive and experience 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. From private VIP visits to the sprawling Easter Egg Roll, which draws 35,000 children and parents to the South Lawn, Schafer managed more than 1,500 events during her tenure, which resulted in more than 5 million guests visiting. More importantly, she restored the White House as a place that is fascinating, educational, and fun to visit.
Schafer managed a staff of eight and more than 1,000 volunteers. Besides the well-known Easter Egg Roll, National Tree Lighting Ceremony, and Garden Tours, she handled Holiday Open Houses, the White House tour program for all members of Congress, and State Arrival Ceremonies for world leaders from Pope Francis and the Holy See to such nations as India, Mexico, and France. She also played a key role in July 4th festivities, Halloween trick-or-treating at the White House, and other large events.
She has consulted with Buckingham Palace and the FBI to make their tour programs more open and accessible to the public. She also worked closely with the United States Secret Service to ensure that increased access never jeopardized the safety and security of the First Family or their guests.
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