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First Impressions Matter

Posted: January 28, 2020 | By: Noah Schraut Tagged: Blog

DES MOINES, Iowa – The Brown and Black Forum, hosted and televised by Vice News, was an event that I was really looking forward to. However, from the second that I walked in the door, the event seemed disorganized and designed against the retail-politics that the Iowa caucuses command.

It all started at 3:34 am on the day of the event. I received an email that the registration time had been pushed back an hour for the event. This seemed weird to me, but I wasn’t too worried as I just assumed there was some oversight and it really didn’t inconvenience me that much. However, it was simply a sign of things to come.

When I arrived at the event, I found the registration area. It was designed to have lines of people organized by the first letter of their last name. You could not even tell that there were different lines. It was simply a herd of confused people. The signs that directed you to what lines you were supposed to be in, were not visible because they were placed in the front of the line and all of the people blocked it. When I asked a volunteer where I was supposed to be, they weren’t sure and simply gestured to half of the room. To make matters worse, it turns out that all rules went out the window before I showed up. The signs had no meaning anymore and they were checking people in anywhere despite which line you were “supposed to be in.”

While waiting in line for thirty minutes is annoying (especially when it seems like logistical issues and not because of how many people were in front of you), it should be expected that at an event as big as the Black and Brown Forum, there will be long lines and some logistical problems. It got worse when I got to the front of the line. I had brought my backpack so that I could take notes and because I needed it later in the day, but they weren’t allowing it because of safety issues. Once again, this is understandable. The event was hosted in the Iowa Convention Center and it’s not uncommon that bags aren’t allowed in venues of this type. I asked if it would be possible for me to leave my bag in the coat check and the volunteer that registered me told me that would be possible. After this, I was directed to go to the right to enter the event.

Since I am an adult who’s capable of following directions, I made my way to the right of the registration table. (This act isn’t as easy as it sounds because so many people were packed into the registration area.) When I got to the right of the table, I was told by a security guard that I can’t enter on this side and I needed to make my way to the left of the room. I then moved to the left of the room. I started waiting in line to check my coat and backpack (as this was required by the event.) After waiting for a few minutes, a security guard came up to me and told me I can’t have my backpack. At this point, I wasn’t super concerned as I had been told that I could leave my backpack in the coat check. I told the security personnel what I had been told, but he simply told me that my information was incorrect. As a result, I went back to my car to drop off my backpack so I could enter the event.

To be fair to the event, the set was amazing, and it got the audience very close to the candidates. If we are simply looking at the event, it was everything I wanted and more. Looking back though, the thing that stands out the most was how poorly it was run, and how it didn’t seem to prioritize the audience. I don’t believe this plays well for the political nature of Iowa. It’s important to cater to the caucus-goer. The problems only cost me a few minutes in my day, but after going to much larger events (that were organized much better) it makes me wonder what went wrong and how this aspect of the event could be improved.