Last night I was joined by hard-working Health Activist Jen Pettit to discuss her experiences with offline activism and to hear her tips for others who may want to do their own in-person events or education sessions. She offered great advice that was encouraging and so applicable to everyone – no matter how far along in your Health Activism journeys you may be. Here are my favorite points that Jen made during the webinar:
- Get your feet wet by joining people who are already in the IRL scene. Look for events already in the works for your first offline project. There are so many awesome non-profits or orgs dedicated to your condition and they have events across the country for you to join in. Start your offline activism by being an observer or participant and take a more active role if you’re so inspired (by organizing a team, gathering donations, etc).
- If your condition is lesser-known, look for an umbrella organization (like the American College of Rheumatology for example) to work with and represent your community that way. If you’re interested in being a part of a bigger event, this is a great way to start out.
- Volunteer! Whether you walk or offer to organize some aspect of the event – take on a role that feels right to you – it will be a great way to make you feel especially connected to the event or project. Also look for online events like webinars or panels – these certainly “count” as events and are perfect for those for whom traveling isn’t an easy option.
- Piggyback onto other events when you plan your own. This is the best way to get people in the room – join up with another event or cause that people are more familiar with and find a way to share your agenda with that captive audience. It’s also a great way to incorporate your information for a new group of people.
- “Reach out to every contact you have. Even if you’re uncomfortable – never feel guilty to ask them to at least spread the word.” Great advice from Jen. It’s ok to ask your friends, family, co-workers, and others to participate with you. Jen suggests emailing people you know because, if they choose, they can opt-out of responding – but still can be in-the-loop if they want. Jen encourages you to keep talking about your event and getting the attention of your audience however you can.
- Use the network you’ve built online to help promote (or get ideas for) your projects. Connect with people on other networks (across conditions) and share what you’re working on. Asking them to spread the word is for everyone – everyone has a community even if it’s not a health community.
- Make connections to get people to care. If someone says – well I’m not effected by that [condition] you can say – you know me. So you’re effected by this. You can also link other related conditions – invisible illness is a great example – because almost everyone knows someone going through this. Great advice from Jen for anyone who may feel timid about asking others to pay attention.
- When choosing your team of presenters or offline event allies – remember your audience. Whether your message is geared toward a certain age group or to inform on a certain level – comprise a team of people who will be able to hit all the aspects of your goal and help you really communicate the message best to those who show up to the event.
- Bring it back online! Share it – get people excited. Jump back into your community with take-aways (Jen suggests posting pictures or photos) and telling people what you’ve been doing. This is a great opportunity for feedback and support!
- Awareness opportunities await you! Here at WEGO Health especially we love to offer ways for you to share your story or get involved. Here are a few ways you can do that right now if you’re interested (blog in our community sharing your work, put an upcoming online or offline event on our Event Page, suggest an idea for a webinar you’d like to star in by emailing the Editorial team, join our Speaker’s Bureau for upcoming media opportunities or events!)
- Give yourself breaks. If you’re heart is not in it – it won’t be that your best anyway. Worry more about letting yourself have breaks, breathe, and when your passion kicks back in – go with that. Don’t disconnect completely from your community because sometimes they can really inspire you to get back into the game. All important thoughts from Jen.
- Sit yourself down, have a good talking to with yourself, and decide how much of yourself you want to share. You could be contacted by people nearby if you share events and offline things your attending. Decide before you share – and once you know what you can handle, Jen says “don’t stray from it.”
- Bundle and combine efforts. Jen compiled her efforts will Sjogrens with the more overarching Invisible Illness efforts. “Have you heard about Lupus? Maybe you’d like to hear something about Sjogren’s.” For example.
- There are pros and cons to deciding which condition or community to support. If you pick an lesser known or outlying event or organization – you may have the opportunity to have a bigger role and really make a huge impact personally but it may be harder to get lots of people on board. (That’s a great one for people who can’t help but go after a challenge!) If you choose something more familar, you may not have a leadership role but you will have more opportunities to get lots of people interested and be a part of something on the participant/attendee level. Both are great and, if you can, do a combination of the two!
Thanks so much to Jen for joining me and offering such great wisdom – I learned a lot and I know you probably did as well. I look forward to seeing where Jen takes her creativity and drive next – she’s going to do more incredible things.
If you didn’t have the chance to join us live – here is a link to the archive where you can listen to our webinar and share with your community!