What to Expect
What to Expect at Convention & How to Make the Most of Your Time
Advanced planning helps you get the most from your investment
Viewing our State Convention within a larger context, will help you better prepare for, and utilize convention. Although Convention is only one tool, it’s important in helping you strengthening your effectiveness as an organizer and advocate.
Our State Party conventions are not isolated events. While they may be an annual lynchpin event, many other important gatherings and collaborative efforts take place around the state throughout the year — including State Party Executive Board meetings (two are scheduled annually around the state), local County Central Committee meetings, State Party Caucus work, Regional meetings (scheduled prior to every Executive Board meeting) and all of the boots-on-the-ground work we all do every day. You can build your convention weekend to gather skills and training, and develop relationships that will help make the rest of the year more successful.
Our annual convention is a unique opportunity because:
1) it is the largest gathering of some of the most active Democrats from around the state;
2) often many Democratic and Legislative leaders are present and accessible; and
3) due to the social nature of the convention (caucus meetings, hospitality suites, breakfasts, off-site events, etc.) important networking opportunities are available.
Pick a few clear, realistic, and strategic convention goals, for instance: network with folks from another part of the state who are organizing around a similar issue in order to share best practices, take advantage of particular training so that you can bring it home and share it with your home team, or foster a mentor relationship.
Set firm times and locations in advance if there are specific people with whom you would like to spend time; making clear plans for the weekend beforehand increases your efficiency. Convention is large, and lots of things happen simultaneously. It’s easy to be overwhelmed or become distracted. Plan in advance.
Plan as a team to make sure you get the bases get covered. Have conversations with all of the local delegates in advance to make sure that of the desired training events, Caucus meetings and networking are covered by at least one person in your group who will be responsible for providing feedback to your group. Remember, one person can not be in all places at once.You will find yourself torn in different directions. [Sidenote: most Convention events are informal, and you can leave from one to go to another. That said, while it’s possible, it’s not always desirable to have to leave one event to attend another.]
Take this opportunity to engage with folks with whom you otherwise wouldn’t have face-to- face time. Remember, this is a large gathering of activists whom you may only see once every year or two. Use this networking opportunity wisely. Step outside of your social comfort zone and use the weekend to build a new alliance, increase your network or discover a different (and perhaps more successful approach) in order to increase your local productivity.
CONVENTION: DAY BY DAY
The annual Democratic Party State Convention can be fun and productive, but daunting and chaotic as well. The following information will help you know what to expect and plan your convention weekend.
Registering in advance using the online registration form is the best option; it allows you to save both money and time by bypassing onsite registration/payment lines. Hyperlinks for this will be available several weeks before Convention. We'll send out an email letting folks know that things are open.
VERY IMPORTANT: You must still sign in and pick up your credential during registration hours. You must be credentialed in order to vote and enter general session. Registration closes before voting begins. If you do not have proper credentials, you can not vote — there are no exceptions.
Credentialing and registration begins Friday afternoon. Please check the schedule to make sure you are in line before credentialing/registration closes for the day. Lines in the early afternoon tend to be longer, so you want to enjoy other convention activities until the lines are more manageable. An online schedule will be available closer to Convention.
Caucus dues, which are set by each individual caucus can also be paid in advance online. This will help avoid otherwise long (time-consuming) lines prior to meetings. Click here to pay your Caucus dues now.
Credentials / General Session Seating
While there are several different types of credentials, for delegates and the public at large there are three:
Delegate: An elected or appointed member of the State Central Committee
Proxy: A person representing an elected or appointed Delegate. A Proxy may be chosen from a specific pool of people, depending on the method by which the Delegate was elected or appointed. (Click here for more information). A Proxy is expected to vote in a manner consistent with the Delegate they are representing.
Observer: A “guest” of an elected or appointed Delegate. An Observer may participate in workshops and Caucus meetings, social events and general session — but may not vote. There is a special seating section for Observers, distinct from the voting delegation.
Delegate credentials are labeled with the delegate’s name, legislative and congressional districts and region, and include a space for the delegate’s signature. (Note that Proxy delegates will have the delegate’s information, not the Proxy’s, and include a “Proxy” sticker. A Proxy, however, signs the credential using their own signature.)
Credentials are issued in a whole rainbow of colors, each indicating a different category: staff, volunteers, press, exhibitors, honored guests, candidates and campaign staff. You must have a credential in order to get into the general session or to vote so take care not to leave it at home or at your hotel. Registration is closed prior to voting. You must be registered and credentialed BEFORE VOTING OPENS.
Workshops / Caucus Meetings
Workshops and caucus meetings take place both Friday and Saturday and often run concurrently. Sometimes there may also be workshops scheduled, and if so they often are repeated in order to give greater availability. But again, many events run simultaneously. If a workshop interests you but conflicts with a caucus meeting, check the full agenda to see if it’s repeated. And remember your delegation will work best as a team to cover all of the events — and take notes. A schedule will be posted online closer to the Convention time, and an agenda is provided onsite.
REMINDER: pre-register for your Caucuses online to save time. The lines are often very long and you're likely to miss a part of the Caucus meeting waiting to get through registration.
As a delegate, part of your responsibility is to bring home what you’ve learned. Plan a post-convention presentation to your local club, County Committee or sub-committee. In fact, pre-planning will help your focus during convention and make you a better delegate. The delegate is responsible to represent their local organizations as well as to keep their local activists appraised of information, direction and education. Your role as a delegate is vital to building and stronger and more effective Party.
Friday and Saturday evenings include late-evening hospitality suites by hosted candidates and groups. The host determines what is available. There’s usually some kind of nosh and beverage provided, and these are good opportunities to network and socialize. They generally run from 10pm until midnight and delegates are welcome to visit many if not all of the suites. All Suites are listed on the agenda, which will be posted online prior to Convention and provided onsite.
Delegate seating for General Session is divided into 21 regions. Each region is designated by tall signs, with the region’s number. Delegates and proxy delegates sit in their respective regions; this is important for vote counting. (Reminder: proxies are expected to vote according to the wishes of their delegate.) Observers and media have a clearly designated separate seating section.
Volunteer ushers work throughout the general session to ensure that people are sitting in the correct section, to direct people as needed and to make sure the aisles remain clear at all times. (The Fire Marshall takes keeping the aisles clearly pretty seriously. If you want to have a conversation, you will need to do so away from the region seating section.)
General Sessions have many purposes. The Saturday session “opens” Convention and is likely to be inspirational and educational. The Sunday session includes Committee reports and votes and once concluded, formally concludes Convention. While the format follows Robert's Rules of Order, sessions can also be impassioned and enthusiastic.
California Democratic Party Elections
Every four years, the California Democratic Party holds officer elections. Officers include the Party Chair, two Vice Chairs, Secretary, Controller, and Regional Directors. Elections are held on Saturday afternoons. More details will be available online once the agenda is finalized, and onsite.
NOTE: REGISTRATION CLOSES PRIOR TO VOTING. YOU MUST BE PROPERLY REGISTERED AND CREDENTIALED BEFORE REGISTRATION CLOSES IN ORDER TO VOTE. THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS. PLEASE CHECK THE AGENDA AND MAKE SURE YOU ARE REGISTERED IN TIME TO VOTE.
Saturday Guest Dinner
The State Party hosts an annual dinner Saturday evening, usually with a very interesting keynote speaker. This year there is also no-host bar. The dinner often sells out so it’s best to purchase your ticket when you register online or early at Convention. (A link for tickets will be posted prior to the Convention)
More Hospitality Suites
Saturday night often includes additional Hospitality Suites. All Suites are listed on the agenda, which will be posted online prior to Convention and provided onsite.
More Workshops / Caucus Meetings
Saturday will offer additional workshops and caucus meetings. All events are listed on the agenda, which will be posted online prior to Convention and provided onsite. REMINDER: pre-register for your Caucuses online to save time. The lines are often very long and you're likely to miss a part of the Caucus meeting waiting to get through registration.
The Sunday General Session closes Convention, and no events are scheduled beyond it. Session usually ends around midday — however that is never guaranteed, especially if there are contentious votes, debate, and discussion.
REMINDER: You cannot get into general session and you cannot vote without a credential, even if you're pre-registered. You must be wearing a credential in order to get into general session or to vote.
NOTE: REGISTRATION CLOSES PRIOR TO VOTING. YOU MUST BE REGISTERED AND CREDENTIALED BEFORE REGISTRATION CLOSES. THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS.
PLANNING SUGGESTIONS & TIPS
Most convention centers are located within convenient distances of many eateries and the building is designed with many entrance/exits, so getting in and out is fairly easy. Review a map of the region and the Convention Center before you arrive. There are often places within and around many convention centers for gathering, or holding an off-site meeting.
What to Have With You
However, it is still a large venue and taking a detour may not be especially convenient if you have two competing events (often the case). A convention is very tightly scheduled, temperatures are variable throughout, and you’ll want to plan for spontaneity; so, travel like a turtle...
• Water / thermos drink
• Snacks (apple, string cheese, nuts)
• Comfortable shoes — you’ll do a lot of walking!
• Pad of paper / pen
• Business cards / pre-written contact information
• Your group’s contact information on a 3x5 card
• Cell phone (make sure your group has phone numbers for one-another)
• Scarf, vest or sweater (dress in layers; room temperatures vary widely)
• A method for comfortably carrying stuff (backpack or small rolling cart); you will acquire stuff during the day, as well as what you bring with you
• Plan on having a preset reunion location among your group. (Getting separated is easy.)
We hope this quick overview of what to expect at this year’s convention is helpful. Keep an eye out for email updates and notices to give you better ideas of what to expect as well as any late announcements regarding speakers or events.