Listening to America:
Democratic Platform for Change Host Guide

Host a Platform Meeting in your community. You have the opportunity to help write the Democratic platform for change.

This guide will provide you with all the tools and resources you need to host a successful Platform for Change event and bring your community together.

The guide is organized into three sections -- Before, During, and After your Event – to help you prepare. You should read all sections so that you know what is expected of you.

Step 1: Register your Event

Take a moment to register your event online. Be sure to select "Platform Meeting" for the event type. Registering your event online means you’ll get your own page for your event, be able to send an invite to your friends, track who is planning on attending, and send details and reminders to your attendees.

Here are some things to keep in mind while creating your event:

Think about where you want to host your event. Many people choose to host these events in their homes, but you can also think about community centers, churches or synagogues, or other larger gathering places. A helpful planning guide is here.

Registering your event is the only way the campaign will know you’re hosting. You have the power to contribute directly to the Democratic platform, but in order for your thoughts to be incorporated, your event must be registered in our system.

Make your event searchable if you'd like to allow supporters in My.BarackObama to RSVP. Make your event unsearchable if you wish only to invite friends and family.

Consider providing light refreshments or asking a friend to pitch in and bring cookies and drinks.

And don't worry, we'll help you - our campaign will be contacting you about your event shortly and answer any questions you have.

Step 2: Invite Friends, Neighbors, and Colleagues.

Start with people you know. Think about friends, family, colleagues and neighbors, despite their political affiliation or past political involvement. This is a chance to bring people together to discuss what the content of the Democratic platform for the next four years should be. Aim to invite a few dozen people to your event, but try to ensure you have at least 15-20 people in attendance.

You may also want to reach out to your larger community. You can find your local My.BarackObama group and invite members to attend by emailing the group’s listserv. You can create your own event flyers and post them at your local coffee shop, grocery store, or library.

Encourage all of your attendees to RSVP for your event so you know how many people to expect. Also, don’t forget to send an email to all of your attendees using the Email Attendees link on the Manage Your Events page a day or two before the event to remind everyone of the event’s details.

Step 3: Get your Materials in Order

There are some things you should have ready before your Platform Meeting.

Meeting Agenda
This includes extra resources for planning your event.
Suggested Agenda.

Event Flyers
Create a personalized event flyer.

Copy of 2004 Platform
Have a copy of the 2004 platform handy to refer to.

Sheets
This is the form that you will want to have all your attendees use to sign in.
Download the form.

Issue Flyers
Think about printing out flyers detailing Barack’s positions on important issues.

Other materials you may want to have on hand:
Obama Merchandise. If you’d like to provide your guests with buttons or show your pride with an Obama t-shirt, you can find these items and others in the Obama Store.
Camera. Don’t forget to take pictures and share them with us after the event.

Note about Press:

In this era of citizen journalism and ever-shrinking recording devices, you should assume that the event is being recorded and that your audience is potentially wider than those in the room with you.

If the event is being held in a private home, you certainly have the right to ask reporters not to enter the event if participants would rather that you do so. You may wish to ask the reporter to wait outside while you ask the participants whether they're comfortable appearing in a news story, being photographed, having their last names used, etc. In our experience it should be possible to reach an accommodation with the media outlet to follow the ground rules that participants agree to—or to wait outside the event and speak to participants afterward.

If you have any difficulties with press, or are unsure what to do, please contact our press office at 312-819-2423.

Dos and Don'ts – if approached by press

  • DON'T feel obligated to be interviewed in the first place, or to stop the interview at any time
  • DO find out what outlet the reporter works for
  • DO make it clear that you do not speak on behalf of the campaign—but as a participant in this historic process
  • DON'T hesitate to decline to comment on something you're not familiar with
  • DO let the Obama press office know if you participate in an interview by emailing or calling 312-819-2423.


Dealing with disruptive attendees

In any open forum, it's possible that a guest will behave inappropriately or disruptively. We welcome everyone to be part of this process—no matter where on the ideological spectrum they fall. In the unlikely event that there is a disturbance at your meeting, we ask that you do your best to keep discussion moving, and to enjoin the other guests to shift the conversation away from the confrontational individual.

Sample Agenda:

Welcome from Host

Introduce yourself and ask your guests to sign-in.

Ask each attendee to briefly introduce themselves.

Explain the Purpose
Define the “Democratic Platform” for your attendees and talk about the importance of these meetings. Here’s a short paragraph that you may choose to read:

“The platform is an official statement of the Democratic Party’s position on issues. Each statement of policy is called a ‘plank’ in the platform. Traditionally, the process of developing this platform is run by political insiders in Washington. This time we’re doing it differently. These Platform Meetings all across America are the bottoms-up process to generate ideas and information that may be directly incorporated into the platform. Reports from these meetings will be reviewed by the team responsible for the Democratic Platform. Some will be incorporated into the final platform, ratified at the Democratic National Convention.”

Establish the Ground Rules
The Platform Meeting is an exercise in civility and debate. At the outset, it’s important that everyone in the group agree to basic principles: mutual respect for the opinions of other meeting attendees and a desire to come together as a group and form consensus around the issues that are most important to the people in the group.

Choose a Topic
Because you will not be able to discuss every plank of the Democratic Platform in a single meeting, it’s important to focus in on a few, or perhaps just one, particular topic.

Here are a few issues ideas for you to choose from.

Develop a specific position, recommendation, or policy that you believe needs to be addressed.
When we say a “position, policy, or recommendation” we generally mean the same thing. The only difference is how it is phrased. For example:

“The capital of California is Monterey.” is a position.

“We believe in the right to choose the beverage of your choice, regardless of carbonation, on an airline that gives you an aisle seat on demand” is a policy.

“The capital of California should be in Monterey and be reachable by an airline that serves the beverage of your choice and which provides aisle seats on demand” is a recommendation.

The language should also be straightforward and easy to understand. Don’t use double negatives, and don’t use 50 words when one will do. We want to be able to understand it when we review your group and everyone else’s positions on the issues. In the end, if we can’t understand what you are saying then it’s a good bet the American people won’t either.

Your language can be broad and sweeping (i.e., promote renewable widgets) to specific (promote renewable widgets through expansion of tax credits and ending windfall subsidies to wadget companies, for example). But don’t get too specific (i.e., repeal section 232 of the Tax Code and replace it with a 30% graduated deduction off Schedule X receipts beginning in 2010). You have to strike a balance between the general and generic and the specific and esoteric.

Sometimes you may not agree, or cannot propose, a solution to a particular problem. That's ok. Identifying the problem and why it's important for the Obama Campaign and the Democratic Party to address is still an important contribution to the national dialogue.

Write it
The consensus language should be put in a sentence or two, at most, a short paragraph. Platforms are not known for their brevity but this year we’re trying to change that.

Platforms are expressions of general policy and general direction, not specific legislative vehicles. The ideas can be broad and visionary. But keep the language simple, in a style that can communicate to all Americans.

Wrap Up
Review the consensus that you have come to. Inform your group that you will submit this information directly to the campaign.

Please ensure that all members of your Platform Meeting have signed in and registered so that we know who was in attendance.

This agenda is meant only to be a suggestion to guide you in your activities. Feel free to organize your Listening to America Platform Meeting according to your preferences. If you need, a more detailed agenda and meeting guidelines can be found here

Submit your position
Take the time to submit the position paper your group drafted to our Platform Committee.

Capture Information
Enter your sign-in sheets online.

If you’d prefer, you can mail sign-in sheets to:
Obama for America Attn: New Media
233 N. Michigan Ave, Suite 1100
Chicago, IL 60601

Thank your guests.
Send thank you emails to all of your guests and let them know once you’ve submitted the rest of your information.

Share Your Feedback
How was your Platform Meeting? What worked best? Share your ideas for future hosts. Write a blog and send your photos to

You just helped Barack get one step closer to victory! It’s people like you that make this campaign for change possible.