A rooftop reception that ended with an introduction to a long-term client. That’s how Nick Daggers remembers Charlotte 2012, his first DNC.
The Illinois delegation event held after President Obama’s speech was the kind of only-in-person networking that isn’t happening this year.
“Conversations like that can rarely happen under normal circumstances,” said Daggers. “It’s impossible to network with others in the same way in 2020 that we've become accustomed to.”
From digital convention swag to Zoom happy hours, this year’s Democratic National Convention is, out of necessity, unlike any other.
In many ways, the virtual convention is just an extension of the virtual events that have become the norm this cycle — except on a much grander scale. Still, consultants say they’re finding ways to replicate the feel of a real convention.
But meeting someone on the “sidelines” of Milwaukee 2020? Well, that’s easier said than done.
“I’m not sure where the sidelines are to be honest. I'd doubt if anyone knows,” said Emily Gittleman, now a senior media buyer at Priorities USA.
Gittleman, who started the cycle on Cory Booker’s campaign, said she co-hosted a convention kickoff fundraiser for her former candidate that brought out current and former members of the New Jersey senator’s team.
“Besides that, I'm oddly relying on group chats with political friends that always seem to light back up again around events like this,” she said. “In some of those chats, I'm setting up Zoom happy hours and one-on-one calls to build on the excitement and ongoing conversations.
“I’m getting a sense of needs and openings in those conversations so that's making it easy to make connections.”
She recommends being hyper-responsive to every email, every text, and every phone call.
“Even if they seem innocuous and just in the interest of reconnecting,” she said. “They so, so often lead to bigger conversations.”
Other practitioners said going digital has made all the events around the convention accessible. No security perimeters to deal with, or sore feet from tramping from one venue to the next.
“So we’ll have the chance to get together with folks who might not have been able to meet at all,” said Josh Nanberg of Ampersand Strategies. “We’re still trying to figure out how to reach everybody we’d like to see, but the virtual networking we started in March continues.”
On Tuesday night, digital consultant and activist Laura Packard wasn’t thinking about networking. She was focused on getting through her television appearance with Joe Biden and “dealing with whatever repercussions there are with going on national television.
“Maybe good? Maybe bad? We'll find out!”