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[Organizing 101] How to Hold a Great Campaign Rally

Gabby Weiss

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During the most recent presidential election, the news cycle was dominated by coverage of huge stadium-style campaign rallies. The good news is that you don’t need to be running for president to bolster your campaign by holding a rally! The same enthusiasm and benefits can be scaled to any level of government and campaign, so we’ve compiled some tips to help you get started.

1. Make Sure a Rally is Right for You

Rallies can take a lot of time and resources, so it’s important to think through the outcomes that you want to achieve and make sure that they align with your overall campaign plan. Rallies are a great way to:

  • Introduce your campaign to the public, and convert undecided voters into supporters.
  • Energize and encourage your supporters, converting them to regular volunteers for your campaign.
  • Get press coverage of your campaign, increasing your name recognition and communicating your message to a broader audience.

Timing is very important when it comes to hosting rallies. At the beginning of your campaign, throwing an announcement event is a great way to kick off the season. Otherwise, rallies are generally saved for the final two weeks of the campaign, when the energy and enthusiasm is most likely to translate directly into votes and critical GOTV volunteer shifts.

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2. Plan the Details

Once you’ve decided to have a rally, it’s time to get down to the details of making sure that you pull off a successful event. Rallies are a great tool for building enthusiasm around your campaign, but without proper planning you can risk looking disorganized or unenthusiastic. Avoid some common mistakes by planning ahead to make sure that all of your bases are covered! Some of the main things you’ll want to consider are:

  • Location: Being creative with your location can provide a great hook for the press and attendees. Consider options such as hosting it at a local business owned by a supporter, or in front of a location symbolic to your platform (such as outside of a school, for a candidate running to support teachers). Be sure to research the permitting process for any public location in advance! One of the biggest things that you’ll need to consider for any location is its accessibility to your supporters. Is it easy to find with simple directions? Does it have adequate parking or transit access? Finally, consider the amount of people you expect to attend, and find a space that will be filled by the crowd. You want the event to look full of supporters, especially if press is there!
  • Sound system: For rally attendees, nothing kills the mood like not being able to hear what the speaker is saying. When looking to buy or borrow a sound system, make sure to consider not just the size of the crowd, but also any external noise sources that you’ll encounter, especially for outdoor events.
  • Visuals: Rallies are all about the public face of your campaign, so make sure that you’re ready for photos! Have campaign signs to pass out to attendees and hang up around the podium. Having a row of supporters with signs stand behind the speaker will not only provide an engaging backdrop, but will ensure that press photos of the speaker also capture the image of voter enthusiasm.
  • Speaking program: When writing a speech, remember that a rally is not the time to get into data and policy details. Make sure that your remarks are succinct and convey your campaign’s top-line messages; choose a few soundbites that you’ll repeat several times to make sure they sink in. You’ll also need to decide who else will speak at the rally, such as notable individuals from the community who can share why they endorse your candidacy, and an emcee to introduce speakers and keep the program running smoothly.

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3. Advertise the Event

Leading up to the day of the rally, invite as many people as you can. Print flyers that volunteers can hang on local bulletin boards, pass out at campaign booths, and distribute to their networks. Creating a facebook event and asking your contacts to RSVP and share with their friends is a great way to increase your exposure to new audiences. You can even call local radio stations and ask them to make an announcement on air - don’t be afraid to be creative with recruitment!

Be sure to let the media know that your rally is happening as well, by sending a out a press release a few days before the event. Remember to include newspapers, television stations, radio stations, and even smaller sources such as college newspapers and local news blogs. 

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4. Transform Supporter Energy to Grassroots Action

Once you’ve put in the work to plan and execute a rally, it’s critical to harness the energy and support that you have generated and funnel it toward actions that will push you toward a win on Election Day. Before the event, recruit volunteers who will sign-in attendees and capture their contact information, so that they can be emailed and phone banked after the rally for volunteer recruitment and GOTV. At the close of the event, your volunteers should canvass the crowd to sign attendees up for volunteer shifts in the coming days. Rallies are one of the easiest places to sign up new volunteers, because people are feeling exciting about your campaign and inspired to get involved. When you translate the enthusiasm of a rally into action for your campaign, you’ll be on your way to winning.

Topics: how to, Organizing, VAN