How to host a regional event

karencheunglariveeBy Karen Cheung-Larivee, JAWS Board Member

One of the most exciting things to come from the Conference and Mentoring Project (CAMP) is the connection members made! I’m so happy to hear that CAMPers wanted to keep the conversation going beyond CAMP weekend with members in their own cities throughout the year.

The Journalism & Women Symposium (JAWS) has active chapters in DC, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, and Boston. Keep in mind we have members around the country and even around the world that you can connect with.

Just because we might not have current board members in your city doesn’t mean we can’t have a regional chapter there! You can spearhead one!

There’s no strict program you have to follow when hosting a JAWS event. The main goal is to connect with existing members, while recruiting new ones. Some members make these events very casual. Some have quite a bit of structure with a speaker.

There’s not a huge amount of work involved, aside from picking a date that works for you and other members, a location, getting the word out, and promoting the good work JAWS does and the impact the organization has on you.

What and where to host:
Educational events are always a hit. Reach out to your colleagues for trainings and colleges and universities for space. Women journalism students and professors welcome. Line up a speaker that could be an academic, author, or a journalist to talk about her career or something topical, followed by a question-and-answer session. We’ve also had panel discussions on freelancing and training about salary negotiation as a few examples.

You might want to consider the ever-popular happy hour for a low-key networking event. Reach out to local restaurants and bars for “free space,” in which they can reserve a room or a number of tables. For example, the DC chapter often hosts gatherings at The National Press Club.

For social events, consider a potluck. Although most events are typically held near public transportation, potlucks sometimes take place outside the city.

You can go as simple as cheese and crackers and snacks with wine, beer, and soda or make it an organized potluck. Ask for people to tell what they are bringing in the reply. Do not be shy about telling people what you need, such as paper plates and napkins. Feel free to ask other members to come early to set up or stay late and help clean up. Alternatively, meet at a restaurant for drinks and hors d’oeuvres or a meal.

When to host:
Some chapters host monthly gatherings, while other cities meet quarterly. This really depends on who is available and member interest in the area.

We try to mix it up for people with children or those who teach nights by meeting at a variety of days and times so not always weeknights and not always weekends. However, past experience would tell us to avoid meeting on Friday nights to attract the most people.

How to spread the word:
Remember to let members know you are hosting. Send a message on the listserv, e-newsletter, social media (tweet @womenjournos #jawsevents), and your own networks by word of mouth. Send a reminder the day prior. Here’s a sample invite:

We want to meet you!

Please join us for a gathering of women journalists in (insert city name).

Saturday, April 14
6:30 p.m.

123 Main Street
Philadelphia, PA
Phone: (555) 555-5555

RSVP: by April 10

TO: Name, phone, and email

Directions with link to map and public transportation, if possible.

Feel free to invite women journalists who aren’t a part of JAWS yet but should be. If you have friends who you think can benefit from JAWS, they are always welcome to join the regional event and apply for membership.

Reach out to other media organizations if you don’t have many JAWS members in your area. Please be careful to stress the JAWS membership requirements.

Reach out to regional media by finding some key women players and ask them to pass the invitation to others. One way to do this is through Evites with maps to the location.

There’s a special regional gathering discount of $35 if they join on the spot, but they must be present at the regional gathering to receive the discounted rate. This rate does not apply to existing members. Students can always join at a student rate of $30.

What to do as hostess:
Have members sign in and ask for addresses and emails.

Name tags also help.

Take a note from CAMP introductions. If the space and attendee numbers allow for it, you might want to consider doing introductions, where everyone at the happy hour introduces themselves with name, organization, role, and a little bit about themselves. It’s a great way to know who’s in the room and with whom you share interests.

Regional events are a great way to let them know about the awesome events and service offerings.

Have a veteran JAWS member (or board member) describe the organization. Show the JAWS video. Spread the word that CAMP 2014 will take place in Palm Springs, Calif., Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, 2014.

You might also want to ask local business for gift cards to raffle offer, or you can ask Becky Day for some awesome JAWS fare to raffle.

How to follow up:
Reach out to newbies as a hello and ask if they have any questions.

You can send the sign-up list to Becky Day and a follow-up on the national (or local) listserv about how the event went. Encourage others to follow in your footsteps.

Hopefully, some of these items will help you to organize more events to bring JAWS to your neighborhood.

Looking to connect with members in your area or looking for ideas of events to host? Follow our regional chapters:

JAWS National


JAWS Bay Area

JAWS Southern California


JAWS Boston

Interested in becoming a regional captain and hosting more events? Contact board member Jen DePaul.