Door-to-door Canvassing Guide - Dry Training
A canvassing campaign is a complicated matter and a work of art. Conversely, individuals who believe they know everything about political canvassing without experiencing it in practice are undeniably wrong. Often, individuals underestimate the complexity of canvassing events. Moreover, political canvassing attempts require one to follow a certain sequence of events that must be organized before, during, and after the campaign, which is extremely important for the campaign’s success.
First, a good canvassing campaign must always begin with dry training. Different individuals find different ways to organize training, but normally it incorporates canvassing team meetings together in a spacious enough to-walk room where noise cannot reach from the outside. In case of good weather, the training can be arranged outdoors. As a rule, the meeting is led by a canvassing captain and/or campaign manager. In addition, the training normally takes no more than two hours.
Campaign Owner Involvement
Ordinarily, the first and one of the most important questions that arises before dry training is whether to invite the campaign owner to the occasion. In the case of a small-scale campaign, a campaign owner can join the team meeting at the beginning to give a short introductory speech, around 10 minutes or so. Consequently, in the case of a large campaign, it might be a good idea to record a video greeting from the campaign owner and then demonstrate it to the team members before the meeting.
Engagement of the campaign owner at the first step of the canvassing campaign, such as dry training, helps to lift the team spirit of the canvassing team. In his or her speech, the campaign owner should deliver a simple message focusing on certain aspects of the campaign, such as its importance, goals, and step-by-step approach to what will be happening during the campaign.
After the brief introductory announcement from the campaign owner, the team meeting must be led by the campaign manager, captain, or staff. Ordinarily, some team members will know each other from their participation in previous campaigns. Moreover, there will be many volunteers who join the team to support a candidate or a cause and do not know anything about political canvassing campaigns. The goal of the meeting leader is to ensure that everyone in the room is treated with equal respect. Otherwise, the newcomers or experienced canvassers might leave before the training is over and miss important details or, in the worst case, leave the canvassing team for good. As the leader of the meeting, the campaign manager, captain, or staff should pay close attention to their team members, listen to what they say, answer their questions, and engage them by giving detailed explanations of every step in a canvassing campaign and making sure they understand the information.
It will be a good idea for the leader of the meeting to draft the agenda ahead of time and follow it during the training session. While for experienced canvassers who are used to similar sessions, it will be easy to follow the discussion, new canvassers will find it helpful to be introduced to it step-by-step.
As a meeting leader, the campaign manager, captain, or staff should draft the topics to be covered at the meeting. These topics might include:
- Familiarity with the canvassers’ designated area
- Ability to answer questions from constituencies
- Knowledge of the steps to take when the canvasser is not sure what to do
- Ability to effectively split into teams
- Knowledge of where to place literature and where not
- Ability to keep notes
After the information is presented, the meeting should proceed to a practical part. The leader of the meeting should split the canvassing team into two halves, where the half part will represent the target constituencies and the other will represent the canvassers. If the canvassing team is comprised of a large group of people, the members with a lack of experience can be paired with skillful volunteers. Nevertheless, in any case, it is better to split the large group into pairs and not let a single individual canvass on their own. In future articles, we will cover the reasons why a single-individual approach is not an option.
After every team member has a pair, the leader can distribute the walking list documents to those members who play the role of canvassers. The documents may include paper-driven walk lists with or without geolocation and map markers. They may also include a sign, brochures for distribution, and a script of a brief speech that every canvasser can deliver once at a person’s door.
Having distributed the documents, the leader should give the team members time to briefly go over the details of the information presented in their packages. Once the canvassers are ready, they can begin “visiting” the other half of the team who plays the role of pretend households. It is better if the pairs will play out their roles one pair at a time, starting with the most experienced team members. In this case, the newbies will be able to watch them and prepare for their own execution of the task.
Ideally, a canvasser should not visit one residence for more than two minutes, allowing only one or two questions from the residents. The leader should make sure to give volunteers uncomfortable situations to prepare them for the difficult questions that people might ask. As an example, an individual pretending to be a registered voter can give the pretend canvassers a hard time if they ask to explain why their candidate supported bill XYZ.
After the practice of one-half of the team concludes, the leader should switch the halves and have the pretend voters play the roles of canvassers. It is important for every team member to try both roles at least once. There is a possibility that some volunteers will not show up for the training while some will arrive unnoticed at the training site. The leader should be prepared to assign some of the volunteers to those people and extend the training outside the main canvassing team.
After the exercises are finished, it is time to review the necessary security instructions, which we will discuss in future articles. During the practice, the leader must maintain control of the situations and resolve building conflicts on the spot without jeopardizing the training event. If a situation arises that cannot be resolved now, the leader should leave it for later.
All things considered, dry training is one of the most important steps of the preparations for the political canvassing campaign. During the event, team members bond and get to know each other on a more personal level. Dry training also shows the campaign captain or manager what personalities are present in his or her team, which in turn allows them to resolve conflicts faster and react quicker.
Do not forget that every canvassing door-to-door walk list starts with getting the latitude and longitude from address