Adam Honeysett-Watts is Executive Director at Conservatives in Communications, Co-Chair of the PRCA Corporate Group and Founder & Director at do Different.
Non politicos are always baffled about party conferences. “Why bother with them?” they ask. Whether it’s for fun, work, to learn, to advance your political career, a combination of these or all the above, party conferences are essentially about networking and relationships – as well as generating a handsome profit and hopefully some positive headlines for the political parties (I’m not sure Labour got the memo, however). With that in mind, don’t forget to dig out and pack your business cards. If you don’t have any work ones, consider having some personal ones made up – it makes a difference. I can recommend Moo, but there are many others online that offer express delivery.
With just a few days until the Conservative Party Conference gets underway, we thought we’d share our recommendations on how to make the most of your time in Manchester as well as a checklist of essential items not to forget.
Enjoy the debates, make new friends, and have some fun!
Book early. It’s a bit late to be thinking about this year, however as soon as Manchester is out of the way start planning for Birmingham in 2022. Booking early means cheaper tickets, cheaper (and closer) accommodation, and cheaper travel – saving you sometimes hundreds of pounds. Most hotels offer up free cancellation with late notice periods, so it’s worth booking and cancelling if your circumstances or preferences change.
Figure out your purpose for going. As I said in the introduction, it might seem silly but be clear about why you are attending. This may change year to year. Once determined, this will help you to manage your expectations and focus your efforts.
Work up a plan. Trawl through the guide and #CPC21 on Twitter and make a note of which speeches, fringes, and receptions interest you. Most events are free to attend, though for those that are “invitation only” (like our Welcome to Manchester Midnight Reception within the secure zone*) be proactive and email the organisers. *Essentially a ring of steel around The Midland Hotel and Manchester Central to keep you safe and any protesters out – it has nothing to do with Covid-19! After confirming their lists, most organisers factor in a buffer/ waiting list to account for last minute dropouts. Remember, they want the room to be busy. Sunday is all about settling in, Monday is business day, Tuesday night is the big evening and Wednesday is quiet unless you’re queuing up for the PM’s speech. Remember this: you can keep a track of most things that happen via POLITICO and ConHome and if you’ve got access to them then the Telegraph and Dods. Seasoned pros know that most networking is done in the lobby area of the main hotel, which has undergone a £14m refurb and has a lovely champagne bar. FLAG: be aware of your surroundings as you may become part of the story. You can walk-in to most hotel restaurants, however booking is advised; especially this year because people haven’t seen friends for months. Think about who you want to meet and make some drink and meal plans. AND PHOTOGRAPH YOUR RECEIPTS OR UPLOAD THEM IN REAL-TIME.
Remember to eat well and take time out. You’ve packed your bag(s), watched Andrew Marr interview the Prime Minister while you’re in a black cab to Euston Station, finalised your conference plan en route, queued for a taxi, checked in and made your way through security into The Midland Hotel. Before you know it, you’ve had three gin and slimline tonics while bumping into colleagues, friends, and exes without so much as eating a piece of toast. Oh, and it’s only 4pm and our drinks aren’t for another SEVEN hours yet. Eat well (see below) and regularly, and have a nap (most of us do, but don’t admit it). With a two-year absence even those with the strongest of stamina’s need to pace themselves.
Try to see Manchester and the surrounding areas. Manchester is a great UK city, with some fantastic restaurants (20 Stories, Adam Reid at The French and Gaucho Manchester are my favourites) and things to do. Of note: the Coronation Street tour is unavailable. Sadly, the same is also true for the BBC and ITV tours due to Covid-19.
- Train ticket and your conference pass (if not collecting from The Edwardian)
- Business cards, so you can follow-up/ connect on LinkedIn
- Hand gel – shaking hands is inevitable
- Download the conference app, as you will lose the guide. And try out Zipabout
- Phone charger(s)
- Electric toothbrush and decent whitening toothpaste
- Both paracetamol and Berocca (or equivalent)
- Umbrella – it is Manchester after all
- Scholl Party Gel Pads, if wearing new shoes
- More clothes than needed. And you don’t need to sport a dickie bow tie or blue Maggie dress, unless you’d like to…
If you have ideas for the group or would like to get involved, please email us.
This piece was written for our website.