This room size game is one that political campaigns have played forever. Back in ‘96 I had a meeting room booked at the Holiday Inn in Mt Pleasant, Michigan for a business presentation for 30 or so people. The room was a good size for my meeting, which I preferred to have set up with tables in a U-shape.
The afternoon before the meeting the hotel called, pleading for me to accept the ballroom instead, which had room for hundreds. The hotel even offered to waive my meeting room renta, saying they had a client who wanted desperately to have my smaller room. I of course agreed.
The next morning after setting up my presentation I wondered down the hall to check out who had wanted my meeting room. Turned out it was Steve Forbes’ campaign. When I strolled back during a break later that morning, a crowd spilled out into the hall, all the chairs we taken, and people stood all around the outside walls of the room as Forbes himself addressed the rally from the front.
If that mob had been in the ballroom, the news that night would have undoubtedly been along the lines of “The struggling Forbes campaign could barely fill half the space in their meeting room this morning in Mt Pleasant”. As it was, the news report I watched went along the lines of “While the Forbes campaign struggles in the polls, you wouldn’t know it from the large, standing room only crowd enthusiastically cheering their candidate at a rally at a Mt Pleasant hotel today”.
It’s all about managing perceptions.