You are on page 1of 3
Taking Root Communicating the College- and Career-Ready Agenda Hosting a College- and Career-Ready Roundtable A college-
Taking Root
Communicating the College- and Career-Ready Agenda
Hosting a College- and Career-Ready Roundtable
A college- and career-ready roundtable – also commonly called a forum,
town hall or community meeting – is an event where featured speakers dis-
cuss the college- and career ready agenda, to which you invite key stake-
holders to attend and ask questions. Roundtables are commonly held to
kick-start a campaign for the college- and career-ready agenda – right after
a bill is introduced, for example – to build support on the ground level and,
ideally, to cultivate local champions for the reform. Roundtables may also
be useful after the reforms have been implemented, almost as a “check-in”
to maintain and sustain local support.
Roundtables can become truly effective outreach strategies, especially
when you host a series of them, for example, once a month or even more
frequently. To get started, plan one a quarter, each in different parts of the
state and/or targeting different audiences. If you find them effective and
successful, you can always increase the frequency.
PreParing for a roundtable
The topic. The first thing you should do is identify a timely topic on which
you would like to hold a roundtable. Roundtables are particularly useful
when first launching the college- and career-ready agenda in your state
to begin to inform and reach out to key audiences. A simple topic is the
proposed reforms in your state or, even more basic, “College and Career
Readiness in State.”
The audience. Roundtables can be invite-only (i.e. targeted at one group,
such as district superintendents) or open to the public. It really depends on
what you are trying to achieve and who you are trying to reach. Generally,
if you are planning a series of roundtables, it makes sense to have a mix of
invite-only and open roundtables to ensure you target your key audiences to
garner their support and provide the public with an opportunity to learn about
the reforms first-hand, as communicated by you, rather than from another –
and potentially less favorable – source.
1775 Eye Street NW, Suite 410 • Washington, DC 20006 • P 202.419.1540 • www.achieve.org
1
The speaker(s). After you identify the topic and the audience, choose a speaker(s) who has knowledge
The speaker(s). After you identify the topic and the audience, choose a
speaker(s) who has knowledge on the subject and influence in the state. The
Governor is an ideal speaker as he/she will guarantee a solid turnout and
likely attract the media. Respected business leaders, such as CEOs, and key
legislators also can be effective speakers and endorsers of the agenda. If you
host a roundtable on a new piece of legislation, for example, invite the legisla-
tor who sponsored the bill to speak at your event. You can also ask outside
experts to act as guest speakers, but you need to be sure they have credibility
with individuals in the state. Another option is to ask students to give their
take on the college- and career-ready agenda.
The advisory. You should put out an advisory in state and local newspapers
a week before the event to inform the public of the topic, day, time and loca-
tion. A reminder advisory should be sent the day before the roundtable. Make
sure to collect RSVPs so that you can plan accordingly.
The set up and timing. Choose a location that is convenient for your audi-
ence. Often states hold regional forums to bring the roundtable to the people.
Using local schools, community centers or other public buildings can be con-
venient locations.
As for the day, Mondays are generally a bad day because it is the first day
back in the office after the weekend. Night time is preferable, if you want to
engage broader audiences who probably can’t take the day off from work to
attend a day time roundtable. Serving food always helps to attract a crowd.
Materials. It will often be necessary to have relevant materials available at
the event (which you will want to distribute to those who could not make it –
see below). Consider what will be helpful and compelling to your targeted
audiences as they learn about the college- and career-ready agenda for po-
tentially the first time. If you are hosting a roundtable on a new piece of legis-
lation, a summary of the bill that you prepare will be more helpful than a copy
of the actual legislation. Fact sheets on the value of a college- and career-
ready diploma may be persuasive if there are a lot of parents in the audience.
This is your chance to deliver your message – think about the materials that
will do that most effectively.
Setting expectations. Sometimes you might have 150+ participants attend;
at other times, you might only have ten. That’s okay. This is about relation-
ship building. The key is to provide interesting information and find new cham-
pions at the local level.
Again, these events are meant to be informal. However, though informal, ev-
erything you say will be on the record and can very well end up in a newspa-
per by the end of the day. Make sure to refer to “Talking to the Media 101” for
adequate preparation techniques.
1775 Eye Street NW, Suite 410 • Washington, DC 20006 • P 202.419.1540 • www.achieve.org
2
at the roundtable As stated above, the first rule is to make sure all speakers are
at the roundtable
As stated above, the first rule is to make sure all speakers are adequately pre-
pared. Anything and everything you say is on the record – don’t say anything
you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of The New York Times.
Roundtables generally last about an hour. The typical format is to begin with
remarks from the featured speaker(s). These should take up no more than
15-20 minutes of the agenda. The event should then be opened up to ques-
tions from the audience about the intended reform. Providing participants with
an opportunity to provide feedback to the reform agenda can go a long way
towards winning their support.
following uP
After the roundtable, make sure to respond to any requests for additional in-
formation from the audience. This is very common, and a timely response will
help you build relationships.
You should also send any materials that you made available at the event to
invited parties who were not able to attend. For example, if the roundtable
was focused on district superintendents, take note of who was unable to at-
tend and send them a packet of relevant materials with a note expressing that
you’re sorry they weren’t able to join. Again, this is crucial for relationship-
building and spreading the word about the college- and career-ready agenda.
It is also important that you make sure to scan the news for any articles that
appear about your roundtable(s). You will want to capture these for your
earned media tracking (see “Measuring a Communications Strategy’s Suc-
cess”).
College- and career-ready roundtables are easy and effective ways to develop
relationships with broad and diverse audiences, for your benefit and theirs.
Start with one and build from there. Over time, you will find them to be an in-
valuable tool for communicating your messages.
1775 Eye Street NW, Suite 410 • Washington, DC 20006 • P 202.419.1540 • www.achieve.org
Copyright © September 2009 Achieve, Inc.
3