Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The planning behind "An Audience with..."

One of the reasons I write and maintain this blog is I know how useful it is to many activists and organisers working in constituencies without an agent or regular access to professional support.  I probably receive 10-20 emails a week asking if a local Association can copy our ideas or thanking me for an idea which has been adapted for local use. I am always delighted to help and such positive feedback makes it worthwhile. 

One of the things I am asked most often is how we run our "An Audience with..." series of events, most recently this afternoon. I always reply fully - which can take some time. So to help others (and to help me in the future as rather than type out a reply each time someone emails I can simply direct them to this blog) here is my reply.  Click HERE to read previous blog posts about our "An Audience With" events.

"Thanks for your email and kind words about my blog. One of the reasons for keeping it going is I know many areas, particularly those without an agent, find it difficult to hear about new ideas and best practice. 
Our "Audience with..." events are super. They are simple to organise (no catering) cheap to sell (as apart from hall hire there is no cost) and the guests really like them as they don;'t have to sit through a two hour rubber chicken dinner then make a speech! 
Attendance varies depending on the guest, the venue and the time of year. So for Lord Trimble we had 130, Jacob Rees Mogg 180, Charles Moore 200, Sir Nicholas Soames 300, Baroness Trumpington 300 and for Boris Johnson almost 500.  
We aim to make £10 pp clear profit, so we charge usually charge £12 (£2 pp being the cost to hire the venue). We now advertise exclusively online and take electronic payments via PayPal, so there are no printing or postage costs. One of the guest coming next year is not a party member and has asked for a £500 contribution to his favourite charity. In this case I will add an additional £2 to the ticket price and inform members why. It is a very worthwhile charity and none will object. We also have a raffle (of course) which on average raises £3.80 pp.  
As well as inviting members, we also include registered supporters, donors and and any pledges we have an email address for within a 10 mile radius. If any of our local branches are delivering a newsletter, I try to include an advert and this can produce surprising results. About 20 tickets were sold for the Sir Nicholas Soames event to local residents via an ad in the branch In Touch!  Normally around 25% of sales are to non members.  I think these events are a great "entry point" for non members. Most are more than happy to pay £12 for an evening out but they wouldn't consider paying £40 for a dinner. Once they come and find out we are normal, pleasant and welcoming people, most come again. 
About 25% of attendees pay the additional £20 to attend the Champagne and Canape Reception. Some of our local members are uncomfortable with this as it can feel a bit exclusive, and I do appreciate their concerns. However, I would rather keep the basic ticket price low and allow people to "trade up" than have a higher entry price which would discourage attendance across the board. The reception is £20 extra for which guests receive two glasses of Champagne and canapes. I usually "sub contract" the reception to a local branch - the branch receives the full £20 pp and they buy the Champagne, make the canapes and serve / clear away. The branch also keeps the profit. If 50 attend the reception, this usually results in £500 profit for the branch, which is not a bad return given they are "piggy backing" on another event. 
I hope this is helpful and answers your questions. 
best wishes

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