ASPS Fly-In, Advocacy Go Virtual
As state stay-at-home orders proliferated in mid-March, ASPS leadership was faced with a difficult choice: cancel the June Northeast/Midwest Regional Fly-In and lose a precious opportunity to meet face-to-face with congressional offices, or keep it in place and risk a disruptive, costly last-minute cancellation. In the interest of ASPS member safety and recognizing the epidemiological reality more-and-more with each passing day, the in-person event was officially canceled on April 1. With that, planning immediately began for a "virtual" experience.
The structure of the event – slated for September 15-16, 2020 – strives to offer an experience as similar as possible to the typical Regional Fly-In. It will have training for inexperienced fly-in participants and a briefing on the issues. It will have a congressional guest speaker, two if you are in the PlastyPAC Member Benefits Program at the Chairman's Club level or higher. And it will have face-to-face interaction, albeit through Zoom, with members of Congress and the healthcare staff that help them make decisions. Experiences to-date operationally at ASPS have shown that this can absolutely produce high-quality interactions.
As noted in another piece in this month's Advocacy Matters, PlastyPAC launched a new Zoom-based member benefit that has been phenomenally successful. In addition to that, ASPS staff have been conducting a substantial number of remote video "face-to-face" meetings with congressional staffers to push for improvements to the Paycheck Protection Program and PPE availability, and a cultural norm has developed to conduct these meetings with participants on video. There is discernable improvement in engagement and responsiveness when faces can be seen, and the medium allows for more people to smoothly contribute to conversations than is otherwise possible with a simple conference call. Additionally – and critically for our ability to generate a substantial simultaneous collective presence on Capitol Hill – it has allowed people in Illinois, North Carolina, California, Virginia and Tennessee to come together in one meeting with a person in Washington.
Leveraging this technology in our congressional meetings during the Northeast/Midwest Regional Fly-In will allow us to achieve our business goals while keeping safe and staying close to our practices.