Cocktails and Convos Program in a Box

Use a Cocktails and Convos Happy Hour to Shake Things Up!

Looking for a great way to “mix” with potential members in a fun and casual setting where you can discuss women’s issues? Use this Program in a Box to host a Cocktails and Convos event. You’ll show how relevant AAUW is today — all while raising the profile of your branch in a low-pressure setting. Best of all, it costs your branch nothing!

This happy-hour event has been particularly successful for engaging recent college graduates, college faculty, young professionals, and mature executives who want to stay plugged in to what the younger segment of the workforce is thinking and the issues that are important to them. Branches have also seen a lot of success when they focus the event on a public policy issue that’s in the news.

Does it have to be cocktails? Absolutely not! Cocktails and Convos is often a happy hour, but you could easily substitute cocktails with coffee, tea, or any other beverage of your choice. The idea is simply to convey that it is a fun, casual, meet-and-mingle opportunity.

Here’s all you need to do to host your own Cocktails and Convos.

 

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Step 1: Pick a date.

Tuesdays usually work best since that’s a slow day for most bars. This means you can have them set aside space for you without charging an event fee or making you sign a minimum order contract. Remember, you are bringing them business on a day when their servers are standing around doing nothing!

Step 2: Select a restaurant or bar.

You want to be near places where people work so they can drop in on their way home. Stay near public transportation as well, if that’s an option in your community. Try and avoid private rooms for these events. It might be more conducive to conversation, but it’s a little too formal for such a casual event. It is also harder to get the ball rolling when the first few people walk in and only see three people sitting at a large table in the middle of an empty room. Would you stay? Instead, look for a bar or restaurant that has sections where you can take over a portion of the room.

Step 3: Pick a topic and guest speaker.

Is there a topic that has the women in your community talking? Then take advantage of the issue and invite them to discuss it at your Cocktails and Convos. Is it campus safety? Invite the Title IX coordinator, someone from campus security, or faculty from your local college or university. Pay equity? Invite a local elected official or someone who has personally experienced pay discrimination. Your guest speaker will talk for only a few minutes, maybe five at most, but it helps get the conversation started. That’s the “convo” part!

You’ll also want to ask a branch leader to introduce your speaker with a two-minute welcome statement.

Step 4: Create the invitation.

AAUW provides an exciting new tool called Salsa to help you set up an event web page and collect RSVPs online. Setting up your event in Salsa helps you

  • Make it easy for people to RSVP in a matter of seconds
  • Post the RSVP page on your website and share it on social media
  • Collect the e-mail addresses of everyone who RSVPs so you can send them reminders about the event and let them know about future events

It’s easy to set up an event page in Salsa: All you have to do is contact your state leaders or AAUW staff at advocacy@aauw.org.

Step 5: Get the word out.

Post the event RSVP on your website, have branch members send out the invitation to their network of friends, or post flyers in the bar or restaurant where you’ll be, the library, women’s center on campus, grocery store, gym, or anywhere women hang out. Invite other women’s groups in your area, professional as well as social. That way they’ll spread the news via their networks. And invite your local radio station. They love this kind of thing!

If your event is focused on public policy issues, don’t forget to invite elected officials, too. From city council members to your members of Congress, this type of event is a great opportunity to interact with leaders and inform them about AAUW and our policy priorities. AAUW can provide you with a sample e-mail invite that you can send to elected officials (e-mail advocacy@aauw.org).

Don’t worry about inviting too many people. Less than half of those you invite will say yes, and only about half of those who say yes will actually show up. The more people you invite, the better chance you’ll have a full event!

Step 6: Prepare your materials.

The needs for a Cocktails and Convos event are quite basic and depend on your priorities. In general, though, you’ll probably want to have the following:

  • Sign-in sheet (to collect contact information from all attendees for follow-up purposes)
  • Name tags
  • Pens or markers
  • AAUW policy guides (if you’re focusing on a specific public policy issue)
  • Directional signs (if finding the event location will be difficult)
  • Camera (you’ll want to post pictures on social media and maybe in your newsletter)

Those are the essentials, but here are some tips to give your event added pizazz!

Think about arranging for

  • Door prizes: Instead of having a sign-in sheet, attendees put their business cards into a bowl for a door prize. The goodies can be donated by area businesses that are interested in reaching new clientele, and you get to easily collect contact info for potential new members.
  • A special drink or appetizer: It makes things more fun! Call the house Cosmo an Equalizer, or see if the bar will give a 23 percent discount on their famous nachos as a nod to the pay gap.
  • A nice sign: A small banner can cost around $1

Step 7: Make attendees feel welcome.

Choose a few members who will greet people as they arrive and ask them to sign in. Make sure to have enough members on hand at the beginning of the event to talk with people and introduce them to others. Do not immediately corner people and tell them they need to join. Rather, show them why they would want to join.

To do this, you have to ask about what interests them. Find out what makes them tick, what they’re passionate about, and then connect their interests to what AAUW offers. Does she have a background in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM)? Invite her to attend the upcoming STEM program you’re hosting. Does she have experience raising money? Ask for her help with an upcoming AAUW fundraiser.

You’ll also want to have an “ask” for the whole group that has to do with your event topic. Are you discussing a public policy issue? Then circulate an advocacy petition and suggest that attendees sign up for the AAUW Action Network (an easy way to do this is to have an Action Network sign-up sheet at the event). You could also talk about your next mission-based program or meeting.

Step 8: Follow up!

Add any new names and e-mail addresses to your Listserv (that’s the technical term for your lists of e-mail addresses). If you don’t already have one, creating a Listserv is very useful. It lets you send out mass e-mails without displaying everyone’s e-mail addresses.

One to two days after the event, send a follow-up e-mail to thank everyone who attended and remind them of the ways to stay involved with AAUW, whether that’s by liking your branch’s Facebook page, signing up for the Action Network, or something else. This follow-up will help ensure that your next event is even more successful!

 

So, what are you waiting for? Schedule your first Cocktails and Convos now!

Need help? Contact us at program@aauw.org!

 

Related Resources

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Program in a Box Directory

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Program in a Box Tool Kit

Find forms, checklists, and templates that you can modify and adapt for your program or event.

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