“New Year, New You”—right? If one of those resolutions includes getting involved, look no further. Your own state’s GOP is a great place to start. I have been a fully voting delegate to the California Republican Party for years now, and a visiting guest for even longer. Some of my closest friendships and professional opportunities have come from CAGOP conventions. If you want some tips and tricks in making the most of your potential delegate position, look no further. 

With personal friend and Pasadena Mayoral Candidate Major Williams and #WalkAway founder Brandon Straka, where we shared a fantastic happenstance breakfast this February at Sacramento convention

You’ll have to go to convention to get noticed

This part takes some time and some shoe leather. Generally speaking, delegates are the only ones allowed at many events during convention. I have found a loophole for this by gaining press credentials through my college newspaper. Press are allowed practically everywhere delegates are, and potential network connections will be more interested in talking to you with that added credential on your lanyard. If that does not work, most College Republicans chapters set up a booth or two at convention proper. Check out your own campus chapter and offer to volunteer at convention, oftentimes there are scholarships available. Most importantly, ensure that you are actually a registered Republican first! You cannot receive any appointments if you do not have that “R” next to your name on the voter rolls.

Find an appointer if he or she doesn’t find you

Appointers are everywhere, if you know where to look. County Party Chairs, office holders and former candidates all have the ability to appoint delegates. In my case, I reached out to current Republican National Committeewoman and high-profile lawyer Harmeet Dhillon directly to ask for a delegate appointment. Do not expect to be rewarded or noticed automatically. I reached out to the CAGOP office beforehand to see which appointers had unused appointments and contacted several appointers before ultimately being granted one from the National Committeewoman. Stay diligent and perseverant, it will pay off. 

With Harmeet in San Francisco at a Republican Women’s Federated dinner in 2018

You have been appointed—now what?

This step is equal parts exciting and frustrating. At this point, you ought to be able to register with your State Party’s website and receive emails concerning upcoming conventions and your expected responsibilities and duties therein. It can be overwhelming. Here is where I would recommend putting as much early work as possible. Hotel room blocks can book out quickly and plane tickets get more expensive the closer to a travel date. Notify professors or employers, get your dry cleaning in, and get your planner in order with the online itinerary of events. Voting as a delegate cannot happen if you are not in the room on time or have a pre-established and signed off proxy; you have a duty to ensure you make it on time and in a professional manner. As a representative of a State Party and particularly as a young woman, it is important to maintain professionalism. Showing up late, not having a place to stay or suitable business casual (or better) attire does not reflect well on keeping an appointed delegate position beyond your established term. In California, this is every 2 years or so, working around election years.

Dues, registration fees, travel costs, oh my! 

By this point, you should be granted access to the sanctified online delegates-only account page. This may come as a surprise, but there are dues to be paid and registration for each separate convention to be paid in order to get one of those shiny laminated lanyard badges. If you’re a college student or just short on funds, there are creative ways to get help. In California, there is something called the Lorelei Kinder award, named after our late Executive Director. The applicant must be an exemplary Party volunteer 25 years of age or younger and be nominated by someone who is not the nominee. While I did become a final nominee for this award which includes a full scholarship to convention, it ultimately went to someone else who is incredibly deserving. Many states have something similar. If not, reach out to family members who are proud Republicans, College Republican chapters, or candidates who have purchased room blocks for convention already. Oftentimes, they can offer rooms to delegates. You can also room with a girlfriend to split the costs of the hotel.

Create a game plan

Once you have paved and paid your way to convention, it is incredibly important to have a game plan for the weekend. This will obviously differ from convention to convention—it might be networking for your first convention or assisting a candidate for State Party Chair another. Either way, it is not wise going into a convention blind. Reach out to friends or Leadership for their plans or to offer help if you are not sure where to start. Finally, go through the delegate page on your State Party site to find specifics like dress codes and locations for events on the itinerary. Take this information and write it out in your planner to commit it to memory beforehand so you don’t get too lost.

Thou shalt not wear uncomfortable (but adorable) shoes

This lesson should hopefully come from this article and not from your own blisters after the first welcome reception of the weekend. True, I had to make this mistake on my own several times before I finally threw in the towel, but it was learned nonetheless. No pair of shoes is cute enough to suffer through three days of blisters and sharp pains. I’ve worn this exact pair of charming genuine leather flats to convention without any trouble and would highly recommend doing the same. Most networking events do not have tables and chairs, there is lots of standing and walking during convention weekend.

Network, network, network!

Networking, or convening, is the real goal of convention. I have met so many fantastic and inspiring people over the years—without convention, those opportunities would have passed me by. Get business cards printed well beforehand so you can pass them out to the people you meet. You will be collecting plenty of cards over the course of the weekend, I like to keep mine in the standard C-SPAN tote that delegates get upon check-in and review them at the end of the weekend. 

It is the “Grand ‘Ole Party,” not the “Grand ‘Ole Night In”

That being said, use discretion. If you are under 21, do not drink period. If you legally can drink, that does not necessarily mean that you should drink to excess. Remember #3, professionalism and showing up on time on Sunday morning to vote is imperative. You also do not want to embarrass yourself in front of potential employers and network connections by imbibing irresponsibly. People let loose at convention–particularly us on the right–but that doesn’t necessarily give room for debauchery. Many hospitality suites and Saturday night receptions offer open bars; use this generous opportunity wisely. Do not let anyone push anything on you that you do not want to do, drinks or otherwise. It is best to stay at these parties for a while to network, but not so long you lose sleep and cannot fulfill your delegate duties.

Convention is a marathon, not a sprint.

Convention weekend is full of events and the days go from early in the morning to late at night. Budget your time and energy wisely as directed in #5. Do not expect to attend everything all the time. You will have to miss some events and some speakers. It is much better to do 75% of the things at 100% than vice-versa. I do my best to also get in some gym time and at least six to seven hours of sleep. Stay well-hydrated and try not to wear out your voice networking at loud receptions. Be sure to bring pain management and digestive aids for when you feel unwell.

Don’t just make friends, keep them.

Networking doesn’t end at noon on Sunday when voting ends and delegates check out of the hotel. Find your new connections and friends on Facebook, Twitter, and text message. You never know what the future may bring, and those new networking connections can be incredibly useful moving forward. Some of my best friends have been made at CAGOP conventions. If you are not at convention, you will be preparing for the next one! The energy is infectious. Even if you are dog-tired and weary with no voice, I know I always end up anticipating the next one even when convention has just ended

I hope to see you at the next convention!

Jasmine Skye M