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Making the connection at the SMM Conference

Laura Schwartz

In her years as director of events for President Bill Clinton, Laura Schwartz was a witness to networking at its highest levels as world leaders and other notables connected over cocktails and multicourse meals.

Like the state dinner in 1994, where movie director Steven Spielberg, buttoned up in a tux, struck up a conversation with a couple of other guys from L.A., Jeffrey Katz and David Geffen. Out of that chat came a business partnership. “Thirteen days later, Dreamworks was formed,” said Schwartz.

In her book, “Eat, Drink and Succeed: Climb Your Way to the Top Using the Networking Power of Social Events,” Schwartz gives meeting planners and others a reference for making the most of the multitude of networking opportunities that exist.

Here are a few of her tips, which she discussed in her presentation at the Small Market Meetings Conference:

Networking is more about you than me.
For some, networking has a negative connotation. “I’ve struggled with the word because some people only see the manipulative aspect of it,” said Schwartz. “Some look at networking as ‘What can I get from you?’”

The most effective networkers take the reverse approach, more concerned about what they can do for others than about what others can do for them.

Focus makes networking more effective.
Being engaged in the moment is essential to networking, and the most effective networkers have laserlike focus. Schwartz cited her former boss, President Clinton, as an example. Although he was late for every engagement  — “We called it Clinton Standard Time,” she said  —  Clinton was always completely present when he did arrive. “I would ask him, ‘Sir, are you ready?’ He would say, ‘Laura, it’s showtime!’

“When he said that, I realized that the president is a multitasker, but when he said, ‘It’s showtime,’ he was putting all those other things to the side.”

After observing Clinton, Schwartz realized she would do well to emulate him. “I decided maybe I should put a little showtime in my own life.” The result showed in her event planning. “By being able to focus on the event at hand, we had a better event than ever before.”