The Adventure: Politicon – 2019, Nashville
by Virginia Hammon | published
2256 12 minute read
Politicon was fun and exhilarating and tiring–all at once! The details are shared here in hopes that you will be inspired to venture out in your own community. Please email me with any questions, comments, or suggestions you may have, Virginia@HowWePay.US. Cards, buttons and banners can be purchased in the campaign shop on https://HowWePay.US.
The primary goals of the How We Pay campaign are to 1) expose 3 million people to how money reform can pay for a better world, and 2) get as many people as possible to fill out and mail a postcard to their Congress person asking them to learn about how money reform can pay for a better future and listing their top priorities. Some of our members have made contact with elected officials and been told that they have too much on their plates and no one is asking them to consider MR. So, our goal is to get their constituents to ask for MR!
We arrived a couple days ahead and had a day to get grounded. We chose to take a hike in Shelby Bottom, a nature preserve. It was a good choice. We saw a beaver dam, birds, the smooth level surface of little green plants that rest on the water surface among the trees of the ‘bottom’. The day was beautiful and we stored some outside sunshine energy for the rest of the weekend. Intrepid Sue Peters rented a bike and biked circles around Steven Walsh and me.
On Friday, our setup went quickly. We hadn’t known in advance what the space would look like. It had low dividers on each side and a red and blue curtain at the back. We had a variety of options and put up an earth curtain in the middle and some ‘money’ curtains on the side. Since curtains were already on the rods, we used a strong double-sided tape to attach the curtains, and clips to attach the banner. It looked great when we were finished setting up! See the list at the end for the materials we shipped to Nashville for the event.
On Saturday, Howard and Kate were the first to arrive. The money and earth curtains had fallen. Fleeting imaginations jumped to sabotage, but we figured the tape wasn’t strong enough to hold overnight. The banner was still up. LESSON: tape is not enough, use clips, too. We scrambled and put the earth curtain back up. We put one of the money curtains over the table, and stored the other. Too bad. The money curtains are well made, fun and available from https://www.ambesonne.com should you like to have some for an event. (The Earth is a shower curtain so that the image is all in one piece, and the money are 2-piece curtains of a heavier fabric.)
The doors opened
We were fortunate in our booth placement. It was facing a main entrance and was on the path to some of the lecture rooms. We knew in advance that Politicon is aimed at younger people and is modeled a bit on ComicCon. The photos of previous events showed people in costumes. Howard put together a ‘banker’ costume with a 10” top hat. I brought a banker pinstripe suit that I found at a thrift store that Sue wore with another top hat. I had some gorgeous fabric that I’d hoped to have time to turn into a well-crafted Lady Liberty costume. But, time was short and I whipped up a simple shift the night before we left. I’m a textile craftsperson, so it hurt to have such a hokey get-up and I lost a little sleep over whether I would look like a total idiot. Were costumes worth wearing?
LESSON: The answer is a resounding, YES! Costumes are worth the trouble and the courage to appear foolish. We were asked all weekend long to pose with people for selfies. Howard was interviewed six times and I was interviewed five times for various teams with big cameras. We have no idea who will eventually see these interviews, but hope they reach hundreds, if not thousands. Several of the camera crews asked what we’d like to say to young people, which was a great opportunity! The press is always looking for the unusual. Posing for a selfie gives one a 30 second opportunity to pitch MR. So, costumes get attention.
Over the two days, we each got a lot of practice making the pitch and used our individual strengths to advantage. Sue Peters went to several of the lectures where there were a couple hundred in the audience. She listened carefully to see how she could tie money reform into their topic and quickly got in the question line. She was able to make a money reform pitch/ question in three of the lectures! LESSON: It would be valuable to have enough people so that someone is sitting in on all lectures at a conference who is confident they can frame a relevant question and get in line quickly.
Howard Switzer sang his songs acapella by our booth as people came in the first day, and on each day he was given an opportunity to sing several songs on the stage of a group of young people promoting political activism, Free and Equal (sponsored by Dr. Bonner!). These were video-taped, but we don’t know what they will do with them or how far the message in the songs will spread. They got attention at the event, drawing people over to this group’s stage.
Steven Walsh and Mike White were ready with depth for those who wanted to dig deep into the topic of MR. I got it down to a 10 second pitch and got most of the postcards we collected signed. All of us were almost continuously busy talking to people, though Sunday morning it was slow. There was a big game on at the nearby stadium which surely made a difference in attendance. It did not feel like they had the 10,000 people that they advertised in their materials. Though, with just five people, we couldn’t have been spread much thinner.
LESSON: The big postcards were a big hit and very useful.Though the rules asked that we not put out materials beyond our booth, many were doing so. There were standup tables in several areas, and we put the big postcards on them a couple times. We don’t know how many were taken, but did our best to keep the tables refreshed.
So, was it worth it?
Yes. We learned. We got our feet wet and got a lot of practice with our pitch. Overall we’re guesstimating that we may have reached at least 2000 people with our message. And, we couldn’t have done it without the help of those who made donations or purchased the book special to make it happen– Lucille Eckrich, John Howell, Mark Pash, Sue Peters, Mary Sanderson, Govert Schuler, Steven Walsh, Mark Young, and me.
We figure we each averaged at least 5 people an hour over the two days–an average of about 25 people an hour between the five of us. So 325 people got a direct pitch varying in length from 1-30 minutes, depending on receptivity and questions. We got 57 postcards for Congressmen filled out. So one in 6 people that we talked to filled out the card. Sue’s questions in three lectures gave about 400 people a brief exposure to MR. Between Howard, Steven, and I, we did 13 video interviews of from 2-5 minutes. We’d like to think these reach at least several hundred people each, but there’s no way to know. And, Howard gave two performances on the stage and there were 20-30 people watching each time.
LESSON: It is extremely difficult to count how many people you talk to after the fact. Next time bring the little pocket counters so that people can click for each one. It will be interesting to see how actual results compare to our after-the-fact guesstimates.
Some people also only saw our banners and got that first exposure to the idea. We’d like to think that overall we reached at least 2,000, but there is no way to measure, or to measure the ripple effect.
WHAT DID IT COST?– about $2,300, so we spent roughly $1 per person to connect people to our message. That is what petition gatherers are paid per signature so that’s a ballpark comparison for cost-effectiveness. (That does not include our individual travel costs, which we each paid on our own.) Can we do better? Maybe, with experience, and at less expensive venues.
The booth cost was $1,000. Some national conventions can cost MANY times that. I checked on the National Community Banks’ convention and they wanted $5-10K for a vendor booth. Smaller conferences, markets, libraries, bookstores may all be less expensive venues… from preliminary investigation, booths at State Fairs, which can bring in hundreds of thousands of people over many days, can cost several thousand dollars. Check yours and consider having a booth at your State Fair next summer.These must be booked early Spring, so it’s time to at least get on their mailing list, round up some sponsors to cover expenses, and enlist volunteers.
We rented an inexpensive AirBnB that we all stayed in for $788 (7 nights…we added one more after the event, so I had time to ship booth setup materials back to Portland). The AirBnB was humble but comfortable and it was especially nice to have the down time together to build our friendships. That important value cannot be priced.
I shipped a total of 10 boxes. Four were direct ships of buttons, banners, and t-shirts, so the shipping cost is included in the materials costs. The other six cost about $400 to ship (only one was shipped back. I gave the rest of the materials to team mates to use and Steven purchased the vertical banner for his use. We gave away about $100 worth of books, postcards, and buttons.
Wholesale the 110 books cost $500, which Mark Pash contributed. I had 100 of 10 different buttons made. They sat in little boxes on the counter with a donation sign of $1. Each button promotes a different reason to support money reform. The plan was to count how many were taken from each basket to see what topics were of greatest importance to people. I also added one in a ‘patriotic’ style of red, white, and blue, to see if that would appeal. LESSON: Buttons are good! IF/When people wear them they take the message out into the world. The second day we figured if we offered people their choice of a button for FREE for filling in a postcard, more would fill the postcards out, and it worked. People love a freebee.
Priorities?? Did the button grab give us information? Too few buttons were taken for this to be particularly significant, and different venues would get different results. But about 60 buttons were taken. The Big Button(3.5”)was the favorite by far. Of the smaller buttons with issues, they ranked #2. Healthcare for All; #3. Was a tie between the red, white, and blue ‘patriotic’ style and “Reduce Inequality.” Then most of the rest were tied: Unite America; Clean energy; Healthy Economy: and, Great Education. These buttons can be purchased in the Shop on HowWePay.US.
LESSON: I was focused on getting people to fill out the campaign postcard which will go to their Congresspersons. In hindsight, we could have also had a signup to capture emails of interested people. NEXT TIME
Some more pictures…
Books, banners, and buttons
I shipped a total of 10 boxes to Howard Switzer and Kate Culver ahead of time. Three boxes of books (110 total). It’s a challenge to guess how many copies we could give away or sell. Politicon said about 10,000 people attend, but. We guessed that in 16 hours of conference, we’d likely give or sell about 50, which was a good guess. I shipped 3 cartons, about 110 books, just in case. We gave away about 25 copies, and sold about 10. Team members took the rest to use in upcoming events.I shipped a box with the banners and curtains, a box of the booth materials (postcards- small and large), curtain clip in case the setup required them (we should have used them, too!), baskets for the buttons, a mini steam-iron to take the wrinkles out of the curtains, and miscellany. The double stick tape was a last minute addition and it proved useful.