Attending a meeting where your elected officials or candidates for office are speaking and asking questions is an important method to build visibility for the secular community and issues important to our community. In addition to the people attending the event – the media may also be present, which may provide additional visibility.
Tips on Attending a Candidate Forum or Community Event
1. Research the event and elected official/candidate
Learn when and where the elected official/candidate will be speaking and how/if questions will be received. Research the policy positions held by the elected official/candidate.
2. Prepare your question(s)
Write out your question(s) so you can be concise and thorough, and – if you have stage fright – a script to refer back.
3. Timing and presentation
Be assertive in the questioning period – there will be limited time for questions so you don’t want to be last in line for the microphone or the last person raising their hand to be recognized. In asking your question be confident in your approach, polite to the person you are asking the question, and considerate of others waiting to ask questions; however, be persistent about getting an answer to your question if you feel the elected official/candidate is deflecting. Stay on message – don’t get distracted or angry when the question is deflected – simply repeat the question or ask for an appropriate response.
4. Work in teams when possible
Have your team sit in different areas of the room to increase your chances of being called upon, and assign a person to take notes on the elected official/candidate’s response. Also, when working as a team you can have a team member video the interaction for use on social media.
5. You are not done once the question is asked
At the conclusion of the meeting, seek out the elected official/candidate to introduce yourself and follow up on your question, and/or talk to the media present to identify yourself and discuss the issue presented.
6. Build on your initial contact
After the event develop a plan to follow up with the elected official/candidate and/or their staff members on the issue. You want to make sure your issue is not forgotten following the meeting, and you want to build relationships with the elected official/candidate and their staff.