During an election, there can be a lot of information for voters to absorb— candidate names, topical issues, and party positions may start to overwhelm you (and your social media feed) if you aren’t able to put everything in context. One way to make the issues more relevant to you and fellow constituents is by organizing an all-candidates’ meeting (ACM) in your community. Bringing candidates together under one roof will help provide awareness to local voters about where each candidate stands on the issues that matter most to your area.
Why are ACMs useful?
At an all-candidates’ meeting, candidates running for office will respond to questions from the event organizers as well as from the public audience. Encouraging this kind of political dialogue on a local level will give constituents a chance to engage with the individuals running for office on a deeper level; it also allows attendees to consider important issues and questions that may not have occurred to them previously.
How do I organize a meeting?
Organizing an all-candidates’ meeting doesn’t have to be difficult. To make things as easy as possible, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help you get the ball rolling.
Note that this planning template is intended as a guide only and is expected to require adaptation to meet the needs of your school board and community.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss potential adaptations to meet your needs, please contact BCSTA Media and Communications Specialist Glenda Ollero at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The working committee
Establish a working committee that will lead the planning and execution of the ACM. Consider assigning 1 or 2 trustees who are not candidates in the upcoming election to chair or co-chair the committee. Identify volunteers who can help during the event.
Purpose of the committee
To coordinate the logistics and communications involved in hosting an all-candidates’ meeting focused on public education issues.
Goals of the project
- Raise awareness of local and provincial issues in public education with the public and among candidates.
- Ensure information about local education issues is adequately and accurately represented during the campaign, thereby supporting informed voting.
- Help boards fulfill their democratic duty to the communities that elected them to represent the interests of local public schools and keep public education in BC strong.
Elections involve everyone in the community, but to raise awareness of issues in public education, this plan is targeted at the following audiences:
- Parents and students
- School district employees
- Community leaders
Sources of data to evaluate project effectiveness
- Attention to local education issues in media campaign coverage
- Attendance at the all-candidates’ meeting by candidates, parents, district employees, community leaders and media
- Feedback (exit survey, comments from candidates, etc.)
Before the writ is dropped (starting now)
- Plan meeting times for the working committee, ideally once a week.
- Discuss the purpose and goals of the all-candidates’ meeting and project evaluation strategies.
Local public education issues to be raised at the all-candidates’ meeting. Review BCSTA materials for suggested provincial issues and supplement with local implications.
- Meeting date – consider an evening in Week 2 of the campaign. Consider media deadlines, competing events and attendee convenience.
- Location – consider a familiar central location with sufficient space and parking.
- Moderator – consider the board chair. The moderator should not be affiliated with any political party.
- Event agenda and format, including timing.
- Technical requirements (stage set up, microphones, lighting, timer)
- Photographer/recorder to gather data for the school board. Make sure that you have the proper permissions to record and/or distribute third party materials, photos or videos gathered at the ACM.
- Post-meeting refreshments.
- Identify volunteers to meet, greet and serve at the meeting, collect surveys, etc.
- Meet with candidates to:
- Secure commitment
- Share meeting plans and any prepared materials, including the BCSTA resources
- Gather background material from candidates (suitable for introductions)
- Try to accommodate reasonable requests
- Community Relations
- Advance letter to employees, parents and community leaders (e.g., send to a key communicator group, district work experience sponsors, committee representatives, principals, union reps)
- Draft a preview announcement that can be read at community meetings (e.g., service clubs, council meetings, Chamber of Commerce, etc.)
- Draft invitations for community leaders and prepare a list of invitees
- Draft an exit survey to be collected from all-candidates meeting attendees
- Media Relations
- Meet with editors and/or the reporter(s) covering education/election. Outline your plans and ask what they require to maximize coverage.
- Explain BCSTA’s “Public Education is the Key” campaign.
- Provide media with an advance press release describing the plan for the event.
- Request live community television or radio coverage of the event.
- Draft a media release announcing the time, date and location of the event.
- Social Media
- Facebook: This is a great platform for creating and distributing event invites. Share the ACM invitation among your network and ask that your committee members share it with theirs as well.
- Twitter: Tweet at local politicians or community members to get people thinking about relevant topics and questions. This will also help attract attention to the event, increasing the list of engaged attendees.
Week 1: Campaign 2017
- Confirm date, time, location, moderator, candidate participation.
- Finalize meeting agenda and review with the moderator.
- Construct moderator’s notes which include information for introducing candidates and describe the meeting format (including timing).
- Review physical arrangements
- Ushers/greeters to welcome guests and to distribute and collect exit surveys
- Reserved seating for media at the front of the room
- Stage set up – microphones/podium and visible name plates
- Floor set up – microphones for asking questions, question box for written questions.
- Arrange for photographer/recorder.
- Community Relations
- Social media tactics (refer to previous page)
- Arrange for posters to be displayed on community bulletin boards. Download the ready-to-print “Public Education is the Key” election poster. Consider student and parent volunteers to help with distribution.
- Announce the event on the district web site.
- Finalize and photocopy exit survey.
- Media Relations
- Distribute a press release confirming the location, date and time – direct to education reporters whenever possible. Include student newspapers on your media list.
- Distribute public service announcements (PSAs) to the media.
- Arrange with local radio and/or tv for pre- and post-all-candidates’ meeting live chat.
- Confirm ad space bookings and approve final copy.
- Distribute PSAs to ad managers – even if you have already given them to editorial departments.
- Consider Election Act rules regarding election advertising.
Week 2: Campaign 2017
- The Day before the Meeting
- Confirm arrangements for:
- Audio visual
- Support materials (posters, buttons)
- Post-meeting media interviews
- The Day of the Meeting
- Post signage as required for parking, meeting room, reserved seats.
- Meet with volunteer ushers/greeters to go over instructions.
- Test the audiovisual system to ensure it is working.
- Review the meeting format, including arrangements for post-meeting media interviews, with the candidates/hosts.
- Community Relations – Finalize arrangements, as above.
- Media Relations
- Phone reporters the day before the meeting to remind them of the time/place.
- Contact radio/TV stations to confirm PSAs will run on the day of the event.
- Assign an individual to greet reporters. Have sufficient handouts set aside for the media. The media may require:
- media feeds, if possible
- a moment for photo ops
- identification of key individuals
- information on meeting timing and post-meeting interview opportunities.
Week 3: Campaign 2017
Debriefing meeting with committee.
- Review goals and results.
- Review media clips.
- Collate and summarize exit survey.
- Community Relations – Distribute summary article for inclusion in school newsletters.
- Media Relations
- Letter to the editor thanking community for participation in the all-candidates meeting and encouraging people to vote.
- Thank you notes to reporters for their support in promoting and covering the event.
- Follow up media release. If an exit survey was conducted, use this information as the basis for a final press release.
- Social Media – Run thank you posts on social media feeds
Submit report to the board.
- Community Relations
- Letter to all candidates congratulating them on their participation in the provincial election campaign.
- Letter to all volunteers that assisted with the ACM.
- Letter or website posting to employees, parents, community leaders discussing the feedback received on public education issues at the all-candidates meeting and describing how the board is working on addressing these issues.
- Consider ways of communicating with the MLAs in your area about education matters after the election.
- Media Relations – Keep media contacts updated on the status of key issues raised at the ACM.
Potential Cost Items
- Facility rental – if school facilities are not used
- Equipment rental – if school facilities are not used or if additional equipment is required
- Light refreshments – coffee, tea and snacks
- exit surveys
- Advertising (varies significantly locally)
- community newspaper display ads