By Amanda Benizzi
“I want you to plan a debate party, for around 300 people, in under a week. Go.”
On October 19, Robert Zimmerman hosted a debate party, co-hosted by the Hillary Clinton campaign with special guest Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, for the third and final presidential debate of the 2016 cycle at the Paramount in Huntington, NY. In under a week, he invited more than 300 Long Island community members and local elected officials to watch history in the making. I was fortunate enough to work on the debate party in multiple ways, from inviting guests to preparing the room, all the way through the entire event and debate.
Public Relations is a fast-paced, ever-moving industry; practitioners have to be skilled in creating events swiftly to keep up with our 24/7 news cycle and generally fast-paced world. As an intern, working on the debate party gave me a real-life look at what work goes into planning an event in a small amount of time with a large amount of pressure. It made me realize that even the smallest things—like creating the actual invite, to mailing each individual letter, to the arrangement of the decorations in the room—make such a difference and can change the success of an event.
I don’t think we could have had a better night, to be honest. We arrived at the venue just two hours before the debate was set to start and just one hour before the guests were set to arrive. We decked out the room with games, posters, buttons and stickers. We assembled more than 50 Clinton-Kaine lawn signs, which to my surprise turned out to be the takeaway that guests were most interested in—some people even took them home for their friends and family.
Watching a debate with friends is an event in itself, but watching a debate among passionate members of a community next to their own elected officials is an electric feeling, not to mention a great opportunity for networking. It gives you the chance to meet other members of your field—those who influence the public relations world—and to build relationships with your coworkers outside of the office.
As an intern, if you haven’t had the chance to work on an organization or client event, ASK! It’s a very rewarding feeling to see the results of your hard work, and it shows your employer that you are engaged in the events your firm is holding and you’re willing to work on things beyond what you are assigned to do.
Working this event definitely put the perfect ending to a crazy debate cycle, one that’s been completely different than anything we’ve experienced. I’m grateful that I was able to take the opportunity to learn about event planning and combine them with my interest in politics. It’s true that you get out of something what you put into it, and if you put your time and effort you will come out with amazing experiences that will last beyond your time as an intern.