Large public lectures give you a chance to accomplish all sorts of goals. There are four keys to a successful event. It’s great to get professor to tell their students to come or even to offer extra credit for attending!
First- get a good speaker, or plan a Teach-In by asking popular/knowledgeable faculty to be on a panel, perhaps with students or a Democracy Matters staff person as well, to talk about money in politics related to different relevant subjects like the environment, social policy, college tuition etc. (See Speakers Bureau.)
Second- publicity is the key to a successful event. Remember your publicity has three goals: (1) to get people to attend the talk, (2) to get your message out on campus about the issue, and (3) to build student interest in joining your group. (See Campus Publicity Ideas.)
Third- manage the details. This is easy but important. Book a room that is appropriate. The room should have enough chairs, but not too many. You do not want an empty room. Make sure you figure out technology. Do you need a microphone, overhead projector or other things. If so, make sure they are delivered and that YOU know how to make them work.
Fourth- follow through. Make sure that you take a sign up sheet. You want to know who attended the talk. Add those people to your email distribution list. Now, you have a large list to send announcements to!
Since publicity is the key, we want to focus on it:
Typically, you want to publicize by using the following 6-step strategy:
1. Create A Flyer Announcing The Talk. Your flyer should be visually striking. It should announce the event while also educating people about the issue and your group. Many more people will read the flyer than attend the talk. As they read the flyer you have a brief moment to make a couple of specific points about the issue and your group. (See Handouts and Flyers.)
2. Tabling and Grassroots Work. You should find some way to have face-to-face interaction with people. These will be brief interactions where you invite them to the lecture in a way that leaves them educated about the issue and your group. You can do it by standing in a public place (tabling at the student union) or by going door-to-door in dorms (grassroots work). (See Tabling Tricks and Dorm Storming.)
3. Announcements. You should try to locate newspapers, newsletters, email distributions, and classes where you have a chance to announce the event to large groups of people. Classes are great. (See Campus Publicity Ideas.)
4. Incentives. You want to give people incentives to come. Try to get faculty to require classes to come. Or, get faculty to give extra-credit.
5. Last Minute Reminders. It is crucial to create a list of people who might come and a mechanism to send them a last minute reminder to come.
6. Post-Publicity. You should work to get residuals post-event. The most important one is media coverage. Get the school newspaper to attend and cover the talk. Try to get local papers to attend and cover the talk. You might also ask students to write letters to the school newspaper reflecting on the event, or thanking your group for organizing. (See Using the Media.)
This is a strategic plan developed by the Democracy Matters chapter at Cornell University. It led to a successful lecture where over 150 people turned out. It also doubled the size of their active membership. Take a look at it.
• We tabled both outside and inside the Student Union on campus (Willard Straight Hall) on the Thursday, Monday, and Tuesday leading up the event, which was on that Tuesday (10/30). We reserved tables for both outside and inside the building each day, and made our decisions where to table initially based on the weather. However, because of the wind, we realized that tabling inside was much more effective. So, in the end, we tabled outside on Ho-Plaza (the main walkway outside Willard Straight Hall) on Thursday, and inside the building on both Monday and Tuesday.
• Materials on the table:
– A map of all the locations where Clean Money is actually in place, and where all other DM chapters are located to foster discussion about CFR and about our National Organization.
– Educational handouts including materials from Public Campaign and the 2-sided flyer from Democracy Maters.
– Democracy Matters candy
– Sign-up sheet which 43 people filled out to be on our email list!
• Note: For tabling, we thought it was important to always have at least 2-3 people at the booth at one time, if not more, to make the table look more inviting.
• At our table, we engaged students on a 1:1 basis to discuss the issue of private money in politics, to encourage them to sign up on our membership/email list and to at least attend our event that upcoming Tuesday.
• We rented a TV/VCR and brought an additional VCR to the table to play the “Road to Clean Elections” video. The additional VCR (and video) was used to keep a second video rewound “on-deck” so we could quickly switch videos instead of having to wait to rewind the initial video. The video worked extremely well at drawing people’s attention and increasing an appearance of professionalism. While not many people actually stood by to watch the video, it’s appearance and noise definitely drew students to the table.
• Quarter-Carding, which will be explained below, was also used to draw people to the table.
• On each of the three days that we were tabling, we also had 1-2 people outside of Willard Straight Hall on Ho-Plaza handing out one of the three designed quarter-page handouts, which we call “quarter-cards.”
• This is known to be one of the most effective methods of advertising an event because the actual “handoff” ensures 1:1 contact and recognition of the material advertisement (unless, of course, the student prefers not to take the card). Often, discussions or debates may ensue from the quarter-card exchange, initiating dialogue on the issue.
• In addition to personally handing off the quarter-cards to people on Ho Plaza, we also placed quarter-cards by computer stations in computer labs and on numerous tables in various cafeterias on the Monday and Tuesday of the event.
• We handed out about an estimated 500 quarter-cards in total. This amount is below or about average for advertising a major event, as the Cornell Concert Commission often hands out between 1000-2000 quarter-cards per event/concert.
• We designed a series of flyers with a consistent main format that have 5 different variations of statistics/quotes on the top of the flyer demonstrating problems with the current campaign financing system. The purposes of these flyers with the provocative statistics/quotes were to 1) draw people’s attention, 2) advertise the upcoming meeting/event, and 3) educate people about the problems with the current campaign financing system.
• We PLASTERED these flyers around campus on the Thursday of the week before the event, and re-PLASTERED them again that Sunday (the event was on Tuesday).
• At Cornell, in order to put up flyers in dorms, all student organizations are required to get their flyers stamped by the office of Campus Life. Fortunately, to save time for student organizations, Campus Life distributes all the stamped flyers for us (if we so choose) by passing them off to Residence Hall Advisors who then put the flyers up on the floors of their respective dorms.
4. Email / Electronic Advertisements:
• Every Inner Core officer in the group contributed 10-20 names of potentially interested new members for a compiled mass list of about 150 emails.
• We sent out a first mass email to these 150 names (BCC-ing their emails in one email sent out from my computer) over the weekend before the event that both advertised the event, briefly explained the importance of campaign finance reform, and gave a quick background of our organization that included our mission statement.
• We also sent out a second email through a number of listserves of other organizations that was compiled by our Coalition Coordinator. This person compiled the list by contacting the presidents of other organizations that we thought would allow us to market our event on their listserves. In some cases, the president would post the email for us; in other cases, he or she would give us permission to post it to the listserve ourselves.
• In addition, we sent out three electronic advertisements/postings through the university. One was posted in a weekly newsletter by the College of Human Ecology, a second was sent out through a bi-weekly online newsletter that goes out to all freshmen, and a third electronic advertisement was sent out by a staff person in the Government department.
• 1-2 days before the event, each officer made sure to send a follow-up email to each of their respective 10-20 people to tell them about the event and ask for their attendance on a more personal basis.
• Finally, on the morning of the day of the event, I sent out an extremely brief reminder email about the event.
• The Sunday night before our event all the officers met up on campus at around 8pm to chalk LARGE advertisements for our event in 3 highly traversed areas of campus.
• In total, we made 2 separate chalkings on Ho Plaza, the main walkway of campus, 1 by the dorms on West Campus, and 1 by the dorms on North Campus.
– The main newspaper on campus is the Cornell Daily Sun, which allows registered student organizations to publish one 1/4 page advertisement or two 1/8 page advertisements for FREE if the group is publicizing an official event! So, we published two 1/8 page advertisements on the Monday before and day of the event. The design for the advertisement can be found on our section of the Student Resource Center on the DM website.
– We also submitted a press release to the Cornell Daily Sun, targeted at getting them to write an article about Democracy Matters’ start-up on campus and Adam’s speech. The Daily Sun had a reporter interview me and other officers on the phone, and sent a reporter to the event. They forgot to send a photographer, but we took pictures and dropped them off at their office that night.
– We attempted to advertise the event in a more academic publication called the Cornell Chronicle, but missed the deadline.
– We attempted to advertise in the Ithaca Journal and the Ithaca Times, but missed the deadlines for both.
– We did not contact any radio or television for the event, but hope to for future events.
7. Class Announcements:
• We picked 5 large classes consisting of between 200-500 students and emailed the respective professors asking if we could make a 1-2 minute announcement at the beginning of their class to publicize our event and briefly explain the problem of private money in politics. These 5 classes were Intro to Government, Human Bonding, Making a Difference by Design, Campaigns and Elections, and Economics of Consumer Law.
• While only 3/5 professors emailed us back, we approached the remaining 2 professors in person 10 minutes before class and they each either gladly made the announcements for us or allowed us to make the announcement ourselves.
• For the announcements, we made transparencies of the flyers to put up on the overheads, and had a speech prepared beforehand.