Bars, Bacon Rolls and Boris: How can you make the most of this year’s Conservative Party Conference?
Over four days, Conservative Party Conference attracts a wide array of people connected to and interested in the Conservative Party, including members, politicians, journalists, and lobbyists; and across the Main Hall, Exhibition zone, bars and Fringe Events, there’s always something happening. With so much going on in such a short space of time, how can you make sure you make the most of this year’s Party Conference?
Read the Fringe Guide
Navigating the hundreds of fringes can be a difficult process, particularly if you rely on winging it. The Party releases the handbook along with your ticket – so make sure you have a look and familiarise yourself with the events you’re keen to go to.
Download the App and follow #CPC21
As well as reading the fringe guide, it’s worth downloading the Conference app. There’s a handy scheduler, which will alert you before events start, speaker updates, venue maps and the option to submit questions for fringe events, as well as other features.
It’s also worth following the Conference hashtag #CPC21 across social media – some events aren’t on the app or handbook, and it’s a good way of checking out what’s popular with the membership and public affairs professionals.
Visit the Exhibition
The exhibition is always fun to walk around, see famous faces and grab freebies. Make sure you have a go at the interactive stalls, and photo opportunities, and if there’s a point during Conference you feel overwhelmed, find the Guide Dogs for a quick cuddle!
Don’t be afraid to start a conversation with a stranger
With the variety of attendees drawn to Conference, you could end up sat next to a councillor, lobbyist, or even an MP. Don’t be afraid to start a conversation with a stranger, you could end up with a new contact, or even a friend!
Finding that perfect MP
If there’s a key Secretary of State or Minister on your stakeholder list, you might think Conference is the perfect opportunity to corner them for a chat about your work. In reality, Conference is vast, and high-level politicians are often flagged by large security teams and won’t have time to stop for a chat. If you’re struggling to find who you’re looking for, try attending a fringe event where they are speaking on a panel, and raise your issue through a question instead.
Make yourself heard
Get your voice heard. Asking a question at a fringe event is a good way to raise the profile of your issue, and you’ll be surprised how many people will want to know more about your work post-fringe. However, during events, make sure you keep questions short and relevant, rather than making long statements that are difficult for speakers to respond to.
Factor in time between events
Make sure you leave plenty of time between events, factoring in bumping into people you know on the way. Don’t miss opportunities by having too tight a schedule and allow for flexibility!
Head to the Midland Bar
The Midland Bar is the hub of Party Conference in Manchester. As Manchester Central and the Exhibition close for the evening, everyone heads to the Midland Hotel for evening fringe events and networking at the bar. It’s the perfect place to spot MPs, meet new people and put the world to rights over a gin and tonic.
After a night in the Midland, you might not think there’s anything worse than heading into Conference early. However, there’s lots of early breakfast events, often with interesting speakers. Perhaps more importantly, you can grab that much needed bacon roll hangover cure!
Wear comfortable shoes!
Conference is a long four days, and opportunities to sit down are few and far between. Events run from early in the morning to late at night, and there’s lots of walking, so make sure you wear comfortable shoes!
Queue early for the Prime Minister’s Speech
If you want to go to the PM’s speech on Wednesday morning, make sure you’re up early. It’s the most popular speech at Conference and to be guaranteed a seat in the auditorium, you’ll need join the queue a few hours beforehand.
Keep an eye out for who you’re sitting with, MPs and Ministers are always present.
If you miss out on a seat, or want to snooze your alarm, don’t worry! There’s also an overflow room where the speech is screened.
Follow up with new contacts
Conference doesn’t end when you get the train home – make sure you follow up with the new contacts you’ve made via a quick email or LinkedIn request.
Alex Hancock is the Political Engagement Manager at Dods, leading on high-level media and political campaigns, including the hugely successful Woman in Westminster: The 100.
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