8 Things You Should and Shouldn’t Do At A Campaign Event

Posted: January 20, 2016 | By: Iowa Caucus Project Staff Tagged: Blog
Stage set for Donald Trump at a town hall in Des Moines. Photo by Katie Ramsey.

Stage set for Donald Trump at a town hall in Des Moines. Photo by Katie Ramsey.

With the caucus just a few weeks away, candidate appearances are going to start picking up in Iowa. Over the last few months writing for this blog, I’ve been to my fair share of campaign events. Sometimes you walk into a room and sit at a conference table with six other people for a conversation with Lindsey Graham and other times you walk into a conference center to sit amongst 3,000 roaring Trump supporters. Either way, here’s a few tips I’ve picked up along the way to make your next campaign event as interesting as can be.

  1. Don’t have any expectations for punctuality.

If an event is slated to start at 4:30, it won’t. It will start either 15 minutes early or 30 minutes late. When a campaign is blazing through an appearance schedule intended to put them in front of the maximum amount of potential voters in the least amount of time, the event starts when the candidate arrives.

  1. Don’t be late.

You see the fun stuff when you get there early and stick around after. It’s the diehards who show up early and the staff who stays late. Those are the two groups of people with stories you’ll want to hear.

  1. Do bring a book.

This is a continuation of #2. You’ll most likely have time to kill sitting around before and after an event, so be prepared to kill it ways that don’t zap your phone battery because…

  1. Do take pictures.

These events you are going to are cool. Be sure to pay attention to the remarks but snap a few photos for posterity.

  1. Don’t stand in the back of the room.

You’re there, so why not really be there. It’s different watching someone talk on TV versus watching them speak ten feet in front of you. You get a sense for who’s engaged, who’s reciting talking points, and who’s not even sure what city they are in anymore.

  1. Do play along.

A politics professor of mine has a rule of thumb for campaign events – even if you don’t support the candidate, just smile, wear the sticker, and clap when everybody else claps. There are ways to be critical of a candidate without being rude, so sometimes it’s best to just smile and wave (unless you’re at a Trump event and you just can’t).

  1. Don’t carry a bag.

You will be going through security at most events by this point in the election cycle so make it easier for yourself and leave your bag and coat in the car. Just put your phone or camera in your pocket but be sure they are charged. If you are bringing electronics through security they will always check that they are turned on and functioning, so a dead battery will be perceived as a threat. I’ve got a nice album of pictures of the floor at security checkpoints where I’ve had to actually take a photo and show it to the guard in order to prove my camera wasn’t a fancy looking bomb.

  1. Don’t ask stupid questions.

You are standing in front of a unique opportunity when you are handed the microphone at a town hall – you get to ask a question about something you care about to someone who could be the next leader of the free world. So please, I beg of you, don’t make the same mistake as an audience member at recent Hillary town hall I attended who asked, “So tell me, what exactly does a Secretary of State do?”




Katie Ramsey is a senior public relations major with a concentration in politics. She is a proud Iowan who watches too much SNL and is the only journalism student in recorded history without a coffee habit. Follow her on Twitter.