I’ve attended hundreds of Lobby Days in 47 states.
Since one of the features of most Lobby Days is a reception for politicians and staff, here are some ideas I’ve seen pay off if you are holding a reception meet-and-greet for politicians.
- An organization in Tennessee showed me a clever way to get elected officials to their reception. Each politician gets a key when they come in the door by pulling it out of a jar of keys. Later in the evening each politician is invited on stage to try their key in a treasure chest. Inside are $500 checks to be given to the elected official’s favorite 501 (c) (3). For $5,000 the organization donates to 10 charitable groups and 10 elected officials get to present a check and get the credit. Attendance is high and the contributions are hard to criticize.
- Make sure your volunteer advocates contact the person they can vote for IN PERSON and say that the grass roots key contacts from that district will be at the reception and hope the elected official and staff can come.
- Make it easy for advocates and politicians to get together. Group reception areas or tables by regions of the state or by numbered house and senate districts.
- Give senators one color name tag, representatives another, staff a third. This helps your advocates know who is who.
- Have someone, such as assigned grass roots key contacts, waiting OUTSIDE the reception area to take elected officials to the bar and then to the area where they can meet their constituents.Many times I train advocates how to maximize receptions. They need to understand that while there may be an open bar, this is not just a party. It’s a working event with goals. Spell out what you want them to do: shake hands, introduce new comer/first timers from the district, maybe talk a few issues, find out events coming up back in the district that advocates can attend to strengthen relationships.Without training and instruction your advocates may not perform well.
The first time I realized this possibility was many years back. I have a picture of me and four state senators in Lincoln NE at a reception. We talked for half an hour and no one approached us although the room was full of grass roots key contacts.
Thereafter I started recommending training and instruction to maximize your reception.Tell your leadership especially to seek out elected officials standing alone and try to hook them up with constituents or at least make them feel welcome. (that’s why you need the colored name tags).
Once in Austin a meeting planner told me she had a problem. All the grass roots people would rush the shrimp table and ignore the politicians. We developed a game that I included in my training. I would have vouchers good for shrimp and they would only get them after they talked to a politician and reported to me. It worked and everyone had fun.
Coming up next: Do we really need another panel discussion?