Attending Party conferences with a stand or organising a fringe event has long been seen as an essential part of a public affairs strategy for many organisations. Although of late this view has been challenged and there is a tendency to question how much value organisations get from being represented at such events.
The traditional view was that fringe events highlighted the importance of issues and helped influence internal policy development. However with the natures of party conferences changing and open debate with different policy positions being the exception rather than the norm it is an approach increasingly being questioned.
So what’s the point of attending conferences if not for a fringe event or exhibition stall? There are good opportunities to attend party organised business days and network with key representatives. Such events offer a good cost effective alternative to organise your own event and worrying about who will turn up.
Or perhaps consider sponsorship of something the party itself has included in the agenda for delegates. Again this is often reasonably priced and presents a good platform for highlighting your organisation’s message or key priorities to a guaranteed audience.
If your plans for political engagement mean you have to meet with a number of different elected representatives in a short space of time then party conferences are a great way to do this. You also get a chance to hear debate and catch the party mood in ways which watching the highlights on TV or reading monitoring reports after the event can’t really match.
So party conference season? Don’t write it off. Depending on what your organisations is aiming to achieve it can still be a useful tool in the political engagement toolkit.