By Evan C. Miller, Social Media Manager, icitizen
It’s early December, which means two things. One, you’ve already grown tired of hearing the same 15 holiday carols. And two, the State of the Union is one month away. So I’ve got bad news and good news. The bad news is, those holiday carols are going to keep coming at you full force. The good news is, you’ve got plenty of time to plan (and throw) an awesome State of the Union Watch Party.
Now you’re probably saying to yourself, “Well, gee, Ev, do I really need to think about this a month beforehand?” And the answer is absolutely. This is an unprecedented opportunity to participate in a nationwide dialogue during the State of the Union. In fact, there’s a good chance your school will be one of over 400 joining the national watch party that icitizen and AASCU are hosting. We’ll host a live-stream of the address, have experts provide exclusive commentary and run multiple polls before, during and after the address so you can join the conversation too.
And let’s be real, this is the State of the Union (SOTU), not a college football game! People probably aren’t going to change their plans at the last minute for the SOTU. So I’ve put together this guide to help you get the ball moving on setting up and hosting an awesome watch party.
- Begin with the end in mind
Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “the journey is the destination.” Well, you don’t want that to be the case. You want a clear vision of what your watch party will look like. I’d suggest answering these questions first:
- How big do you want your group to be? (the bigger the better)
- How much space do you need?
- What does the approval process look like for reserving rooms at your school?
- What kind of budget do you have?
Some of these will be determined by how you tackle the next steps. Once you can answer these, it will make planning a whole lot easier.
- Get a professor/administrator on board
Getting an administrator and/or professor to sign off and help coordinate this event will make your life a lot easier. I’d suggest seeing if your campus is part of AASCU. Here’s their list of member schools. Since AASCU is all about engaging students with community issues and civic issues, they’ll probably be interested in helping organize the event.
If your school isn’t in AASCU, then I’d suggest reaching out to a poli-sci professor you know. Don’t know any poli-sci professors? Ask that friend who’s a poli-sci major. You know the one I’m talking about. He or she will be able to put you in touch with a professor who might be interested.
- Build out your guest list
There are two approaches you should take here. First, tap into your own network. Make sure your friends and classmates know about the event and have plenty of time to put it on their calendars.
Second, collaborate with other groups on your campus that would be interested in a SOTU Watch Party. Who might that be? Well, it depends on your school — but here’s a good starting list:
- American Democracy Project (AASCU)
- The Democracy Commitment (AASCU)
- Student Government Association
- College Democrats & College Republicans
- Civic engagement or volunteer clubs
- Political Science clubs
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but definitely a good starting point. Think of organizations on your campus that care about community issues. If you can rope in a few of these groups, then you’re on your way to having a successful watch party. I would start reaching out to these club leaders as soon as possible. Get on their radar because you’ve only got a month for them to sign off and market the watch party. Which leads to our next step…
- Spread the word
Getting the word out there is probably the most important part. Here are a few quick tips to make it a little easier:
- Create a Facebook event — this will make communication much easier and give you an estimate on the number of people to expect who will attend.
- If you have a page for your school/organization, then create the event there (here’s an easy guide).
- Keep the description pretty simple and invite your Facebook friends!
- Get help from the clubs you’re working with — make sure they’re spreading the word to their members.
- Invite your friends and classmates.
- Take advantage of icitizen’s marketing — we’ll be pushing the event out there, so feel free to jump on with us!
My biggest piece of advice would be this: Spread the word now. “Winter (Break) is coming” for most schools, so students will have some down-time. Take advantage and give them something fun to do their first week back. Which is why you need to…
- Make it fun
Let’s be honest, sometimes people need a little extra motivation to go out. And not all college students are enthusiastic about civic issues. So how can you compel the average college student to attend your watch party?
Make sure you’ve got an incentive for students to come. Remember that poli-sci professor you reached out to? There could be an opportunity for extra credit… . If that doesn’t work, then something as simple as having food and refreshments can go a long way. When I was a college student and heard there was free food at something, I was there. No questions asked. Then again, that’s how I got this weird tattoo. But I digress.
- Logistics, logistics, logistics
Think about those UPS commercials. Logistics are key to successful execution. Here are some of the basics:
- Projectors — have two of them. One for the SOTU live-stream and one that shows a Twitter stream so people can follow the #iSOTU16 hashtag and join the conversation with thousands of peers.
- Wifi — make sure your wifi network is prepared for a lot of users, and that guests can easily access the network during the event.
- Tweet-Up Guide — if you’re at an AASCU school, you’ll be getting Tweet-Up Guides for you and your guests. Distribute these guides so guests can easily jump into the Twitter conversation.
- Room reservations — don’t wait too long to find a good-sized room where you can host the party.
- Refreshments — once you have an idea on what the head count will be for the event, make sure to order enough refreshments.
As I said at the start, icitizen and AASCU will be hosting a national SOTU watch party — sign up today to get your spot. We’ll be sharing pre- and post-speech coverage, interactive polling and a Tweet-Up during the address. If you’re like me, then you know all about FOMO — and it hurts, a lot. So avoid the pain and fear of missing out, and join our watch party! Even if your school doesn’t host one, you can still tune in to icitizen for the live-stream!