Program in a Box: How to Host a Watch Party

Presidential debate watch party turnout and BINGO game board by AAUW Student Affiliate Group at Moravian College

Great watch party turnout by AAUW Student Affiliate Group-Moravian College! Plus, Bingo game boards ready!

Watch parties are a fun and informal way to bring together branch members, coalition partners, students, and the public to engage on topics of interest to AAUW. In addition to providing entertainment and education, they’re also an effective recruitment or advocacy tool. Here are just a few examples of what you might watch at a watch party.

  • An in-depth panel discussion with industry leaders and experts on our latest research report
  • A political debate, State of the Union address, or election night coverage
  • A movie screening on a topic related to AAUW’s mission

Looking for an excuse to reach out to your local college or university? Need to grow your local activist network or register more voters? Want to collaborate with other groups on campus? Hosting a watch party is a perfect opportunity to grow and invest in your AAUW community.

Here are a few key steps and best practices to make your watch party a big success.

 

STEP 1: Define Your Event, Pick Your Audience, and Determine Your Needs and Goals

 What are you watching, and why?

When your guests leave your event, what do you want them to do next? How can you channel their enthusiasm to serve your AAUW community’s needs?

Whether it’s engaging with fellow branch members, recruiting new members to your branch, gaining contacts and collaborators from other groups, taking action to advance AAUW’s policy priorities, or another worthy goal, that goal is just as important as what you actually watch. It’ll also inform your invite list!

When is your event?

We encourage you to start your event a half hour before the main presentation. That gives you plenty of time to meet and greet your guests. Welcome attendees to your event and give a brief (two- to three-minute) “AAUW pitch” about who we are, why we care about what you’ll be watching, and how they can get involved.

  • Don’t miss the previews! AAUW-hosted events, like our research report launches, begin a half hour before the event starts so that we can showcase the latest AAUW videos and other great content. They’re designed to be a great introduction to AAUW and can greatly enhance your pitch.

Who will you invite, and who can help plan the event?

Working in coalitions allows you to reach more people, increase AAUW membership, diversify your audience, and gain additional exposure. The extra hands will help you divide the work so that you can plan a bigger event, and each of those organizations has its own network that can publicize the event beyond the AAUW universe.

Where will your event take place?

Watch parties can be anywhere — classrooms, student centers, community spaces, or even living rooms. What you’re watching, how you’re watching it, and how many attendees you anticipate should help you determine your venue choice.

Use this guide to make sure that both your venue and your event are accessible.

What will your event look like?

Watching doesn’t have to be the only thing you do at a watch party. With minimal extra planning and preparation, they’re also perfect for tabling so that you can discuss, recruit, register, and even fundraise at these events.

Tabling can be a great way to increase visibility for AAUW and spread the word about AAUW’s work. Read more.

How will you watch it, and what do you need?

Make sure your venue can support your audiovisual needs, and find workaround solutions if it can’t.

  • Are you live-streaming a panel discussion? You’ll need a good Internet connection, a projector, speakers, and a screen.
  • Do you really need a cable subscription to watch that debate? Many cable channels stream their debates over the Internet for free. Check your channel’s website for details.
  • Extra TV speakers can come in handy — even small groups can make more noise than you might think. If you don’t have your own or they aren’t provided by your venue, ask your networks for a set you can borrow (and someone to help set it up, if needed).
  • For big events, a separate microphone and speaker might be helpful, too.

If you’re not providing the audiovisual needs yourself, it’s a best practice to confirm those needs up front with your provider — whether that’s the IT department, your host, or someone else you’re collaborating with.

Call in your all-star team.

Remember: The work doesn’t have to be on only your shoulders! As you’re planning, look to your own AAUW team. Recruit your best greeters, ambassadors, and tablers to pitch in. Delegating and defining those roles early on helps set expectations and makes for a smoother event on the big day.

STEP 2: Get the Word Out

Send out those invites.

Whether it’s a Facebook event, e-mails tracked by your membership vice president, or an easy-to-use invitation tracker, make sure to match your invite platform to your intended audience. Collaborating with another group? Make sure the invites work for them, too.

  • Round up more than just the usual suspects. Even if you’re collaborating with another group, your potential audiences don’t have to stop there.
  • Take advantage of all your platforms. Use your local newspaper, AAUW newsletter, and collaborators’ networks to fill up the event. And don’t forget social media! Sound like a big task? Delegate it to a member of your team.
  • Make sure to collect e-mail addresses and other contact information so that you can follow up with your attendees. Consider using AAUW’s Action Network subscription form as your sign-in sheet.

Reminder: Don’t forget to remind them!

Whether it’s by e-mail, phone, social media, or all of the above, remind your attendees in the way they want to be reminded and will respond to. Worried about overloading them? We’ve found that one reminder one week out, and another the day before, is a good combination.

Step 3: Do Your Prep Work

Get your materials together.

If you’re tabling, be sure to order everything far enough in advance so that it arrives on time. (Ask your designated tabler to help.)

Also, make sure to print anything your attendees will need before the event like discussion guides, bingo cards, etc. (Many people like to print everything in advance.)

Set the stage.

Show up a little early (an hour or more depending on your set-up needs) to make sure that everything’s in the right place. Is your room set up properly? Does your AAUW table put your best foot forward? Do your chairs have everything they need? If you need permission to access your venue early, make sure to arrange that early access up front.

Testing … 1, 2, 3.

Next, confirm the most important part: that your watch party can actually watch!

Streaming over the Internet? Make sure you check that the venue will have WiFi available. Check your connection speed to make sure that you won’t hit any snags. (If the webcast isn’t ready, you can test your connection by streaming one of your favorite shows or YouTube clips.) Make sure to check the speakers and set them to the right levels.

If you’re watching the event on TV, here’s one way to make everything easier: Find the channel and leave the TV on, but mute it. That way, you’re just one unmute away from being ready for showtime.

And make sure you have a back-up plan if the technology isn’t cooperating.

Step 4: Get Your Watch Party On!

Don’t forget to say hello.

Make sure you or your designated greeter is giving attendees a warm welcome as they come in. Ask them to sign in just in case you don’t have their contact information or they’re walk-ins. Include space for their e-mail address on the sign-in sheet.

Capture the memories.

Want to take your watch party to the next level? Designate a member of your team as your official photographer!

Take some time to let yourself enjoy the event.

Once the event starts, all your work, collaboration, and organizing will finally begin paying off. Take a moment to let that soak in — and don’t forget to actually watch your live stream, movie, or political event!

Step 5: Follow Up

Right away: Thank everyone for coming, and give your AAUW pitch one more time.

Try changing the way you phrase your pitch the second time around so it doesn’t sound too prepared. Don’t forget to direct people to your table for more info. You can also invite them to stay and chat for a bit. If you’ve already got your next event planned, here’s a captive audience.

Right after: Stay and chat.

The first half hour after an event is a perfect recruitment and engagement opportunity. Sticking around lets you explicitly encourage folks to take the next steps that you want them to take, often by visiting your table!

The next day: Send a thank you message or e-mail.

This is another great opportunity to plug any upcoming events, provide resources or next steps they should take, and give a special shout-out to your all-star team that helped make the event happen. It’s also one of your best opportunities to ask them to join your AAUW group for more great events like the one you just successfully hosted. You can always write this e-mail in advance to help save time.

 

Whew! There you have it: all of our best practices, tips, and advice for hosting a successful watch party. Want to brag a little about how great it was or report back with your results? Filling out this form is a good first step.

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