Tips for Libertarian Activists

Supper Clubs

Last updated 1994-05-17 by Tom Isenberg

Someone recently posted the criticism that LP meetings have speakers who "preach to the converted" as opposed to " talk about effective communications, history, etc." As someone who helps run the Patrick Henry Lecture Series here in the Seattle area ("supper club" sounds too dowdy to me), I have some ideas on this.

I have nothing against "preaching to the converted" as long as the converted are eager to pay the entrance fee and are encouraged to bring newcomers as well. This definitely has its place. But variety is the spice of life, so we try something different every time.

We ask a $2 donation at the door and we keep track of attendance, so we have a sense of what the "market" wants. Our best attended lectures (we average 20) have been given by people who are fighting the government in high-profile cases (e.g., Dr. Jonathan Wright vs FDA). Also, representatives of well-known organizations draw a lot of people. (We also try to invite politicians who support our position on a particular bill. This is more for them to get to know us than vice versa.)

For activist-oriented topics (e.g., effective communications, campaigning, etc.) we hold separate LP workshops, since these topics have limited interest.

If people in my area have ideas for topics or speakers, they get in touch, and I'm glad they do. So, if you want to improve your local supper club, let the organizer know what you want.

Another problem we occasionally face is, how shall I put it, weirdos. People who are either kooks or druggies or very unpleasant. I've been to supper clubs where I would feel embarrassed to bring newcomers (because of the weirdos.) Frankly, I give weirdos the cold shoulder, because they scare off the normal people who contribute time and money. If he's really obnoxious, I'll ask him to "find another group that would suit your style more." If he's really detrimental, I'll ask him to "help our cause by joining the Young Democrats instead." (Hey, it works.)

By the way, I always dress in suit and jacket at these events, and I go out of my way to make newcomers feel welcome. I strongly encourage others to do the same. It's really improved our image to both guests and speakers, and it's also improved our morale and attendance. A big part of that was moving to a nicer restaurant with a private banquet room.