From invitation design and seating arrangements to celebrity scheduling and band booking, Associate Social Secretary Samantha Tubman helps with the details of every event and ceremony held at the White House. Under the guidance of Social Secretary Desiree Rogers, the D.C. native makes sure all goes according to plan.
Tubman, 29, cut her teeth in event logistics as a member of the Obama campaign advance team, wherein she prepped town halls for the candidate and assisted members of the press. Sitting in the stately reception room of the White House’s East Wing, her BlackBerry constantly buzzing, she explains what goes on behind the scenes for the most influential event planners in the world.
ESSENCE.COM: What’s a typical day like for you?
SAMANTHA TUBMAN: Usually there’s something going on the state floor [the first floor of the White House, where formal receptions are held]. If we have an event at 11:30 in the morning, it involves working with the usher’s office and operations to make sure the room is set the way we had planned. We work with audiovisual, making sure chairs and staging are all placed where they’re supposed to be, and we work with other departments ensuring that the guests that day are getting in. I’m there to make sure that everything’s going as planned—that the pianist is playing in the foyer, that there are markings for people standing on stage and that there’s water at the podium. You get the press in, the crowd in, get everyone seated. Then you tell the AV folks it’s time to announce the President, and I’m literally there opening the door for the President to walk through and go in the East Room for the event. And that’s just one event!
ESSENCE.COM: How would you describe the White House’s point of view when it comes to events at the White House?
TUBMAN: The idea that they really want this place to be the people’s house. When we’re planning or thinking up any event, we’re thinking about how inclusive are we being in terms of the people who are coming to attend. We always make sure that we’re reaching out not only to DC, but people from all over, and getting a diverse group.
ESSENCE.COM: Have there been times when things didn’t go as planned?
TUBMAN: There are schedule changes all the time, when you go from having 30 minutes to do something to having it get cut down to ten. Or, you’ll get things added to the schedule, where you literally have to arrange a room overnight. We get stressed out, but then you realize that there are people here who are going to help make sure that we’re going to get it done and everything’s going to be okay.
ESSENCE.COM: Any tips for event planning?
TUBMAN: The thing is—it’s not about you; it’s about your guests. You should want them to have the best experience that they possibly can. Even if it’s just a small dinner party or you’re having people over for drinks, you’ve really got to think about the guests’ experience no matter what it is.