Returning to work is hard in any regular year, but at least there’s usually not much going on and you can ease back in with a few long lunches.

Not in 2019.

On March 23rd, New South Wales goes to the polls for a State election, which means the three-week campaign will start at the end of February. It’s the last East Coast State held by the Coalition and the outcome will have huge ramifications for the Federal election likely in May.

‘Welcome back’ events have become an increasingly common tool in advocacy strategies, however events planned for 2019 will take on a whole new fervour as they will likely be the last central gatherings before politicians and staff find out whether or not they keep their jobs.

Welcome back to Canberra

With a little more time until the Federal election in May, a ‘welcome back to Canberra’ event allows for more flexibility.

A Canberra event should preferably be held in one of the hireable rooms in Parliament House, or in a venue very close by, for example in Barton, Deakin or Manuka, to make it as easy as possible for politicians and their staff to attend.

Wednesday night is the ideal night for an off-site venue as Parliament rises early. Tuesday night however, when Parliament stays late, is the perfect time to host an event in one of the gallery rooms during the dinner break.

Remember that there will only be a few sitting weeks in Canberra before the April Budget, so it’s important to have your date locked in as quickly as possible in the New Year.

Drinks or dinner?

The answer to the conundrum of whether to hold a dinner or a cocktail reception is simple: who are your primary targets and how many of them are there?

Rather than hosting a large event, it may be more appropriate and strategic to invite one to three relevant Ministers and key staff to a sit-down dinner with your clients or organisational heads. The same can be done with Shadow Ministers and their staff.

Welcome back to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane

If your targets include State governments, then cost notwithstanding, there is no reason not to hold a welcome back event in State capitals using the same model as Canberra.

NSW is the obvious priority for any organisations that deal with State jurisdictions. There won’t be any sitting weeks before the NSW State election so any event should be focused on Ministers and their staff rather than backbenchers as they will be focused on campaigning in their local electorates, especially those in marginal seats.

Add a fundraising component

Some organisations host their welcome back events as bipartisan affairs, which obviously has its advantages. However, by holding two smaller events, one for the Coalition and one for Labor, you have the ability to add a fundraising element to the event, for example an auction or tickets sold to clients to attend. There are a range of possible fundraising options, which also help further your organisation’s relationship with both major parties.