On the suggestion of Wick Allison, my boss and D Magazine’s chairman and CEO, we at Preston Hollow People decided to host a debate between Councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates and former Dallas mayor Laura Miller.
Naively, I thought this would be simple. In theory, it was: Bring Gates and Miller together so voters in District 13, which is a good portion of our readership, could hear from the candidates first hand.
The event would be good visibility for the paper and an extension of the coverage we have been providing on the subjects at the forefront of the district race: Preston Center, Northwest Highway, and Preston intersection development. It’s no secret these topics have become a bit contentious.
Through some counsel I sought from the events and marketing team at our sister publication D Magazine (they have loads of experience with events and more specifically this type of event), we determined it would be best to use an online registration so we could track and manage our numbers. We chose a venue based on location (a church in Preston Hollow) and on what we estimated would be plenty of capacity.
How wrong could we have been?
In less than 48 hours the event was sold out, so I reached out to the church about adding more chairs in wings of the sanctuary to increase our number from the original 180. It turns out WAY more than 250 people wanted to attend.
We received panicked urgent messages from folks saying, “We can’t RSVP; we NEED to be there.” And of course, I had a conversation or two with the candidates who had heard from constituents that weren’t able to get tickets. I even heard a rumor that the “Free” tickets were being offered for sale at $50 each on Nextdoor, the neighborhood social media platform.
At press time we were a little over a week out from the event and were working to secure a much larger venue with more than twice the capacity, and my hope is everyone that wants to attend can.
The lesson for me here, don’t underestimate our communities’ level of engagement. Then again, maybe readers just want to witness a good fight.