Getting the most out of Conservative Party conference


The long Summer is drawing to a close. On the bright side, that means it’s not long until the Party Conference Season. Each conference has very different culture but all will involve candidates looking to improve their chances. Time is limited so how can you make the best use of it?



Conference Handbook – The preparation starts with the arrival of the conference handbook. It’s packed with events so you need to comb through it and decide which you are going to attend. For beginners, spending time in the Conference Hall will be attractive but more seasoned candidates will find lots of opportunities on the Fringe. Having a Political Brand will help as it enables you to pick out the subject areas that will reinforce it.

Business cards – You need something to hand out so that people will remember you after the conference. Cards should include your website, email and social media handles. Think twice before adding your phone number – do you really want lots of strangers ringing your mobile? You can always write it on the back of the card in special cases. It’s worth leaving the back of the card blank to add specific notes.

Hotel – Book ahead, of course. It’s worth throwing some money at this as your confidence will be improved if you have a good base to return to at the end of each day. You don’t need to include breakfast in the booking as city centres have lots of cafes you can drop into on the walk to the conference centre.

Map of City Centre – strange towns can be confusing so do your homework before you arrive. Manchester has surprisingly little under cover and it rains a lot, so take an umbrella.



One of the best ways to raise your profile is to speak at events. If you deliver a strong performance people will be drawn to you afterwards, saving you from awkward networking activities.

Fringe meetings – the best places to speak are the fringe meetings. You might strike gold and get a big audience attendance but even small meetings can be valuable steps towards building your reputation.

Conference floor – occasionally you may get an opportunity to address the full conference. Big audiences have some inertia and can be quite difficult to warm up so it is very important to prepare carefully. Like flying a plane, the most dangerous parts are take off and landing so have your opening and closing lines memorised before you reach the platform.

Asking questions – Don’t worry if nobody has invited you to speak. You can always ask a question from the floor at fringe meetings if not in the main hall. Keep it brief – remember it’s a Question, not a Speech – and make it memorable. It’s worth diving straight in when questions are invited as you will have more chance of being called at the start of the session.



Publicising Conference activities is a great way for candidates to raise their profile.

Media interviews – the place will be teaming with news hungry journalists. If you get the chance to do a TV or radio interview, you should grab it with both hands. However bear in mind that the journalist will be seeking stories of division and conflict, so take care not to be drawn into disloyal territory. Effectively you are trading editorial control for the wider reach that established media provides.

Blogging and websites – All potential candidates should have a website. Sometimes it is hard to keep it up to date with new stories but the Conference will provide a mine of material you can use. It’s worth writing something new every day if possible and you should carry a phone or a camera to get those all important pictures.



The Conference also provides opportunities to build your network.

Conference badge – Think carefully about how your conference badge describes you. It should be easy to read and consistent with your political brand. Lanyards have a habit of flipping your badge over so make sure it is always facing forwards.

Exhibition – The Conference exhibition is well worth a visit, and there’s a good chance of bumping into old friends or new contacts, so make sure you spend some time there.

CCHQ stands – Headquarters run a series of training and campaigning sessions. Keen candidates should always want to learn, so grasp the opportunity.

Evening receptions – every night there are big receptions and these create great networking opportunities so plan to attend some of them.



As always, there are some pitfalls to be avoided.

Over indulging – There is a good chance you might drink too much. Remember that you are always open to scrutiny and people can record your behaviour on their phones. If you feel like you have over indulged then it’s time to call it a day. There are good opportunities to network over breakfast so you don’t want a hangover. Behave professionally.

Provoking conflict – politics ignites strong passions and arguments can flare up easily but they are best avoided. You should use the week to build bridges, not barriers.

Protests – If you are in Government, you will attract protests. People have a right to make their views known so don’t over react. Arriving early each morning should help you to avoid the biggest demonstrations. Be patient and supportive of police officers and security staff.



Attend our fringe meeting – On Sunday at the Conservative Conference, Barndoor Strategy and the Tory Candidates’ Network are hosting a session on the essentials of public speaking and Political Advocacy. From 17:00 to 18:00 at a central location I will be presenting some of my best tips and taking lots of questions.  If you want to join us over a glass of gin please get in touch so that we can add you to the guest list.