What to Expect at the Shot@Life Champion Summit
The 2024 Shot@Life Champion Summit is just three weeks away! In this post, one of our long-time Champions, Katie Lesser, gives a day-by-day breakdown of what to expect at Summit, from arriving in D.C. to congressional meetings on Capitol Hill!
So, you’ve been accepted to the Shot@Life Champion Summit and don’t know what to expect. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there before, and I remember feeling the same way back in 2018 when I first attended. Let’s start with this—you’re going to have a blast! The speakers are amazing, the champions are enthusiastic, and the Shot@Life staff is incredible, so you can rest assured you will be well-supported!
Let’s break it down.
What’s the deal? You’ll be fed some delicious breakfast with a never-ending coffee station for a day full of information and fascinating speakers. It WILL be a lot of information, BUT the Shot@Life team pulls together some truly incredible industry speakers—they’ll also station themselves and other experienced Champions around the room to assist with whatever concerns or questions you might have.
The most important thing to remember is that you do NOT need to memorize a ton of facts to be an effective champion for childhood vaccines. A good Champion is someone who can establish a connection and build a solid rapport with congressional offices and their staff. Your enthusiasm and passion for ensuring “vaccines for all” is what makes the biggest difference.
Throughout day one, the schedule allows for a lot of collaboration with other Champions, especially the group you will spend Hill Day with. This allows everyone to practice their pitch to the congressional offices and get comfortable speaking as a group to different offices.
Some of the skills you’ll pick up during the Summit include tailoring your message to appropriate offices. Each congressional office cares about different issues, and you can make the message of Shot@Life fit pretty much any situation, because public health and infectious diseases can affect quite literally every aspect of our lives (see: the global COVID-19 pandemic.)
Following all the cool conversations and networking on day one, the Shot@Life team feeds us a super tasty meal and provides an opportunity for further networking outside of the conference room setting, helping everyone loosen up and feel more confident to tackle Hill Day the next day.
Make sure you rest up, we’ve got a long and exciting day ahead!
The Big one. It can sound a lot more intimidating than it actually is. When you see the gigantic marble rotunda of the Capitol building, it can feel a bit ominous, but I promise you that it’s genuinely not as scary as you think.
The biggest thing I tell students and Champions that I train is that these offices are elected by YOU. You, as a constituent and voter, are the reason that they are sitting in an office on Capitol Hill, which means it is their job to listen to what you have to say. Many people find this point reassuring because, at the end of the day, they’re just people sitting in an office who are there to listen.
As you prepare for your meetings, here are some of the things I find are the most important and most effective in a meeting:
- Staff members are there to listen to you and what you have to say. YOU are the expert in this situation, so they will want to hear from you.
- Personal connections to the cause in addition to basic facts and figures make the most successful pitch. You want to illustrate why this cause is important to you and why it matters while peppering in small facts to emphasize your point. As I mentioned earlier, you do NOT need to memorize all the facts. Pick one that really resonates with you and use that one during your meetings.
- The Shot@Life team is there to assist if you have a difficult question. If you get asked something that you don’t know the answer to, refer the staff to the Shot@Life team whose information is in the packets provided to staffers during each meeting.
Remember that you are not alone in this! There is a whole team of Champions and staff around you to help meetings go smoothly and to support you during the jaunt around Capitol Hill.
Some other (important!) things to keep in mind for Hill Day:
- Bring an empty water bottle with you to fill up throughout the day. You’ll be talking and walking a lot, so it’ll be good to keep a vessel with you for proper hydration.
- If you wear metal accessories, make sure they’re easy to take off when you go through Capitol security checkpoints. Often, meetings are packed into a tight schedule all across the Capitol complex, so being able to breeze through the security checkpoint is a necessity! Don’t wear complicated metal accessories if you can avoid it.
- Comfortable (possibly waterproof/resistant) shoes are a must. D.C. weather is unpredictable, with rain or snow always possible at this time of year. You want to keep your feet dry to remain comfortable throughout the day.
- Be patient and flexible. Meetings can and will change at the drop of a hat, so it’s important that we remain flexible and amenable to the schedules of each office. You may even take meetings in the hallway. Be cool, be calm. Live, laugh, love, vaccines.
Follow these tips for a guaranteed successful Hill Day full of new adventures and experiences.
The debrief. Day three is the most chill of the three days, with another delicious breakfast and more cool conversation. You’ll get the time to debrief with your Hill groups and plan for the Advocate2Vaccinate activation in the spring. It can feel like a lot, with lots of information while you’re processing the experiences of the previous two days, but the goal is to prepare you further in your advocacy journey and help you be a confident Champion ready to take on the world!
The Summit is three days of fun and truly one of my favorite events of the year; I am always looking forward to spending time in D.C. with the Shot@Life crew. I am confident that you will leave D.C. feeling absolutely jazzed and ready to eradicate polio with your friends. I truly hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do, and I can’t wait to see everyone in DC in a few weeks!
Let’s do this thing. Join the call, vaccines for all!