Support and Inspiration Found at the Heartlands Regional RESULTS Conference
Dragging our overnight bags, coats, and pillows, my partners and I headed north for the second annual Heartlands Regional Conference in Evanston, IL. Friday evening was spent in fellowship at First United Methodist Church in Evanston. We discussed the recent elections and how the outcome will affect our advocacy, and we watched clips from “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” a timeless film about hope and the political process.
We reconvened bright and early Saturday morning. It was wonderful to see partners from Indianapolis, IN; Ann Arbor, MI; Bloomington, IN; Madison, WI; Cleveland, OH; Minneapolis, MN; and the Chicagoland area. All of our activists showed great dedication in planning or attending the event, including chasing trains and riding the Megabus all night!
We began the conference by sharing the events that have most excited/inspired us this year and what we would like to improve for the future. Grassroots coordinator Lisa Marchal led a discussion of RESULTS structure and outreach. We also brainstormed coalition building and shared some of our experiences, including some ideas on how to best pinpoint the areas where we can mesh with other groups and use our collective voices.
Leslie Combs, district director for Rep. Jan Schakowsky, gave us useful insights on beginning and maintaining professional relationships with members of Congress. David Levin, presentation coach and founder of 11 Communications (and supportive husband of Cindy!), facilitated a session on polishing our laser talks. Several people tailored their laser talks to audiences that are generally considered a “tough sell” for our issues. David gave some great hints on how to best polish our presentations.
Chris Slivon, a communications specialist, helped us bounce around ideas on group dynamics and how to keep a group healthy and growing. We talked about our triumphs and frustrations within our groups and how we can improve relations among members.
All too soon it was time to go. I believe that everyone left feeling more energized and supported in their work, ready to take on the challenges of our important advocacy.